Sunday, November 2, 2008

Grape pressing basics

How do you press them grapes? Well, after you stomp them real hard and you have decided that they are ready to press (which depends on lots of factors such as tannin, extraction, fruit versus depth, complexity, etc.) you:set up the old "Idropress", the Italian standby used the world over. It relies on a rubber bladder in the middle the fills with water, gently pressing outward toward the wood staves of the basket, which are held together in two separate parts by metal brackets. The press wine is then caught in a sloping moat, allowing it to gently cascade away into the catch basin from where it is pumped to another tank (or drum/barrel for fining before being mixed in with free-run).The clips are holding a plastic mesh screen just inside the staves.The next step is to find a shovel monkey, preferably one with an ethnicity that tastefully frames your wine within its varietal paradigm. We can call this guy Lucca, say he is from Lucca since he is shoveling Sangiovese - and boy does he eat a lot of pasta. (Actually his name is Brett, we hates wine, loves guacamole burgers and only drinks Tecate).The press is loaded to the top, with some gentle tamping down, the lid is screwed down, the hose turned on, and slowly it rises to about 40 psi in our case, tasting all the way to make sure the press wine is desirable - it can be very tannic, sometimes seedy tasting, but good for colloidal stability and adding some earthiness to the wine. We fined the Primitivo this year but have left the others alone as they were plenty tasty. After 15-20 minutes, when it slows to a dribble and we grow impatient, the two haves are separated, and you are left with the press cakeor pommace that is broken down into a bin, and later taken back out into the field for reincorporation into the soil. The press holds approximately three to four barrels worth of skins, so a 12-barrel batch would take three press loads. Nice, simple, contollable, gentle, and basic. Perfect for our size. And here is the press naked, ready for more work,unlike Brett, I mean Lucca, who seems to disappear on numerous lunch breaks throughout the day.