Take one whiff in the cellar and it is evident that harvest is upon us! The fermenting grapes give off a distinct, fruity, hot smell (that’s actually Co2, so don’t whiff too hard). With all the activity in the winery, we thought we’d take the time to describe what exactly is going on. Here are some definitions to terms used in red wine making!
The cap, or as the French call it “chapeau”, is grape matter that rise and settle on top of the juice. As the juice ferments into wine, carbon dioxide is released, pushing the grape skins to the top of the tank, creating a semi solid layer. During fermentation, the cellar staff will break up the cap several times a day to extract color and flavor from the skins. A great comparison to the process: making tea. A tea bag must be dunked and fully submerged, and then steeped for a while, to reach its full potential.
A pump over:
One way to extract all those colors and flavors is through a pump over. By using a pump and hose, we take the fermenting juice (must) from the bottom of the tanks and spray it over the top of the cap.
A punch down:
Another method is called a punch down. Here at the winery we have semi- automated technology that makes doing punch downs three times a day a snap! Using a large, flat plunger, the cap is broken and pushed back down into the fermenting wine.
As the juice becomes wine, the cap gets less dense, eventually becoming liquid itself with a few seeds and skin bits left over. We’ve extracted all the flavor, aroma, and tannin from the grapes. Now, the wine can be sent to tanks and barrels for the second step of the process: aging!