Grape harvest is the most exciting time of year for us – it is the culmination of the year’s work! When the mechanized harvest is complete, most of the grapes are gone; but not all. During harvest with our Pellenc grape harvester, the first and last plants of each row are partially missed as the shakers are turned on and off. Thus, a few clusters of grapes are normally left on those vines. Also, every now and then, an arm of the cordon hangs lower than planned (usually because it is loaded with fruit) and gets missed by the shaker bars (positioned to pick the bulk of the fruit at 3-5 feet off the ground).
So, since all the family enjoys drinking our wine and John enjoys making it, once we are finished harvesting a variety, everyone has to tote a 5 gallon bucket and with clippers in hand, off we go.
That is exactly what we did after the last Montepulciano grape harvest – we gleaned grapes!
And boy did we glean! When John finally agreed that we had enough, we had picked 28 very full buckets of Montepulciano grapes. They are one of our Italian red varieties and make a dry full-bodied red wine – full of antioxidants! 😉
Making red wine is a bit different from white wine – and I mean more than just the color! Red wine gets most of its flavor, color and character from the skins of the grapes. So, the juice is left in contact with the skins during fermentation and separated before aging. Whereas, white wines have the skins removed as soon as possible to minimize the extraction of harsher flavors from them. With both types of wine the green stems are removed since they will impart a vegetative-to-grassy taste to the wine.
As with the Roussanne grapes that we gleaned for wine making, we put them through our crusher-destemmer. As the name implies, it crushes the berries to release the juice and separates the stems and leaves. The Montepulciano juice and skins (and seeds) will be left slowly fermenting together for 3-4 weeks to maximize the color and flavor potential of the wine.
The grapes are dumped into the top of the crusher-destemmer. Skins and juice come out the front while the green stems are forced out the side which you can see in the photo below – the white bucket in the right bottom corner.
Looking into the top of the crusher-destemmer, you can see the auger which feeds the grapes into the crusher.
You can see below, the juicy mass coming out of the crusher-destemmer. On the right, you can see that some small pieces of stems make it through, but we grab out most of these before they fall into the receiving barrel..
We ended up with 2 barrels of Montepulciano to go along with 2 barrels of Aglianico juice from a few days before. John added yeast to these and they are now fermenting in our shed. Once every day or so, we “punch down” the cap of foam and skins floating on the top. This is to increase contact of the juice on the skins for a better extraction of flavor and color.
If the aroma of the shed is any indication, we will be enjoying some fine wine from the 2014 vintage!