12.5 hours on this shift. And winemaker Dave says that’s quite normal.
This here is a 6800 litre tank. A massive, slightly terrifying, 6800 litre tank.
I thoroughly enjoyed it though. Today my shoulders ache a touch, and I can’t say I’m ungrateful for the day off. But I can’t wait for the next shift.
This one started with pump overs—and ended with them, too. I wish I’d taken a photo of the process but I was too busy standing over a 4000 litre tank to take one.
Basically, atop a ladder leaned against the stainless and with a three inch hose in my hand, I rehydrated something called a “cap.” See, when the red wine is fermenting in the tank among its seeds and grape skins, the CO2 coming off of the ferment pushes all the pieces that are not liquid up to the top, forming a thick cap. It’s almost a foot thick! So here’s where the pump overs come in.
A big hose is attached to the bottom of the tank, run through a pump (which I mentioned here before) and then back up through the hose in my hand. The half-fermented wine flows through the hose and I direct it to the top of the tank, saturating all the wine debris and reconstituting it. This happens twice a day at the winery, each tank getting this treatment for twenty minutes or so each. That was part of my job yesterday.
It reminded me very much of baking bread, when you do long ferments. The bread rises slowly and then gets punched down or folded down or in some way “put back into itself.” Much like the wine here.
The rest of the day was mostly spent pressing. I’ve posted before about how I got sprayed with Precoce. Well, yesterday, I got to help press nearly 6000 litres of it into a tank.
I’ve posted an example photo of a press before but this is the actual one we use.
Trying to put this in simplest terms is quite difficult. There were two 4000 litre tanks filled with Precoce and its wine debris (that’s not an actual term, by the way, but I like it and will continue to use it!). One tank at a time, we siphoned the wine through the press and, using another hose, sent it into the large 6800 litre tank. Wait, you say, how can 4000 + 4000 = less than 6800 litres?
You end up with less volume after pressing the grapes. Winemaker Dave says that, on average, you have 75% recovery. So if you started with 1000 litres, you can hope/expect to get 750 litres from it after you’re done pressing. I can’t remember what the grand total of litres it was that we got after pressing this Precoce, but we did calculate the recovery rate and it was 83%, which is definitely better than average.
It sounds like a simple—and maybe even fast—process, but in practice the pressing takes a long time. You’re playing a game with liquid and solids, trying to fill the press as efficiently as possible without overloading it. You’re also trying not to press the grapes too hard, keeping the deflation and pressure of the bladder inside stable, and—one of my main jobs—watching the basin under the press to make sure it didn’t overflow, pump through the wine into the tank when needed, and turning off the pump when wine wasn’t pressing quickly.
Winemaker Dave even left me with the press a couple of times, citing that I knew what I was doing (do I?!) and he’d be back shortly.
Just me and the press and the gorgeous Annapolis Valley.
Plus the cleaning. Did I mention the cleaning? All day, all the time, always wet with water from cleaning. Rubber boots are a godsend.
The day started at 7:15am and ended at 8:45pm.
I never thought I’d look so forward to such an intense day of work!
Grape waste: this is what the grapes look like after they’ve been intensely squeezed and pressed, getting every last bit of grapey goodness out of them. Off to the compost pile.