So here is our de rigueur pressing documentary for the season. This is the Tocai Friulano mentioned a couple of weeks ago. We picked it up early in the morning and set up the equipment to go. Our equipment is not exactly streamlined, but it all makes sense. It is a little dry, but I will dive right in. The big, boxy grey thibg that looks like a Volvo is our crusher and destemmer. The crushed and destemmed grapes are moved by the blue pump directly in front into the basket press in the foreground. In the basket press the grapes are gently squeezed by a water filled bladder inside. This juice is then caught by the little stainless steel box which sieves out the large bits that might make it through the cloth inside the press. From there the juice is pumped by the small diaphragm pump to a tank. Pretty easy.This picture is from a reverse angle (we are using the picking tubs for shade, sorry for the ghetto aesthetic), and the half-ton bin is simple picked up by the forklift to the height of the hopper, and grapes are ever so gently laid into the hopper of the crusher to be destemmed.But wait, I want to press these grapes, but they look like crap! There are several rants waiting to post on this blog, so this one will be short. We asked the grower about sunburn when we walked the field. When we picked them up they were, well, not up to par. See all the brown, sunburned grapes in the bin? Shoddy, hack work. Poor picking.
People, we live in a three dimensional world. Growers, your trellisses and growing patterns should respect the fact that the earth revolves, the sun turns, and your static two-dimensional trellis is garbage. Vertical shoot positioning (VSP for short) was all the rage for a while, but it does not work if the entire vineyard is not properly laid out. Growers, do it right, we try to, you can too! Position those canes, shade the fruit!Oh yeah, look at this beauty. The trellis is North-South on a flat vertical plane, but the sun roles over the trellis from East to West, and the afternoon sun just toasts everything because it has no foliage protection. Rookie junk here.Anyway, after spending HOURS picking and shaving all of the sunburned berries, the press is loaded to the top, with some rice hulls to facilaitae pressing. The bladder is slowly filled to fourty pounds psi, dripped ry, and then remixed and repressed, three times in this case. Eventually, all one ton is compressed into the press, and called the "cake".The leftover grape skins are then takien out to the field and worked into the soil. The juice then settles for two days and is pumped into another tank and starts fermenting with a bit of yeast. These Sauvignon Blanc-type varietals produce a ton of nasty junk that produces off flavors. We had a good fifteen gallons of gross sludge at the bottom of the tank, a loss of about 10%!So, now, the Tocai is sitting inside the winery in front of the air conditioner, sitting at about 62F, fermenting away about one degree of sugar a day, right on track. I float two frozen milk jugs each morning and each evening in the tank. Right now, at eighteen brix, it tatses like iced tea - this is good but anxiety inducing.
Saturday, September 26, 2009
Tuesday, September 15, 2009
Tocai Friulano - another confusing grape with a juicy Italian name and an nefarious French connection. Tocai seems to be related to Sauvignon Blanc, and by extension possibly identical to Sauvignon Vert, which is the supposedly shameful clone that has caused Chile to reexamine all of its Sauv Blanc. Others believe that it is related to Hungary's Furmint, hence that confusing conflation of Hungarian Tokaji and Tokai names, and the TTB issuing new labeling guidelines in that vein. If it is considered a "lesser" form of Sauvignon Blanc, the Italian Tocai provides a nice white, relatively low in acid but with some of Sauvignon green melon and passion fruit flavors minus the cat pee and asparagus. I also find a bit of Pinot Blanc-ish light-in-the-loafersness plus some honeyedness depending on how it is fermented that I go crazy for (in the right hands). It can take a touch of oak in fermentation. Sounds like a winner right? I thought so too as I sampled random grapes from Lowell Stone's vineyard in Napa. The decision maker was a bottle of Larkmead's Tocai from their own plot of 100-year-old vines, a nicely balanced, elegant Napa take on Ital/French white that I just can't argue with. Long story short, we get a ton on Friday!
Incidentally, there are three VCR clones now, meaning that if it is just Sauvignon Vert, the Italians are taking it awfully seriously. It is the white complement to Refosco in Friuli, insert shameless plug for a varietal we make when we can, and by the way, our 200 newly planted Refosco vines are doing quite well, don't think we lost a single one. An ironic twist is that generally the red Refosco is higher in acid than than the white Tocai, supporting the notion that understanding Italian wine is for those with too much time on their hands.