La Vendange, Part 2: The Red….and who scrubs the stink bugs?

Press As I was picking the grapes, in the lovely autumn sunshine, I was thinking about all of the scrubbing, washing and sterilizing we did to get ready.  I thought about all the books on wine-making I had read (and had read to me), all emphasizing that "everything must be scrupulously clean".  And I wondered "Who scrubs the stink bugs?  And the daddy long-legs? And the ladybugs?"  These are just among the few non-grape things that make up the "je ne sais quoi" of the vintage.  Not to mention all the shit stuff that is on the actual grape.  Even at the absolute top "we pick every individual berry carefully by hand" vineyard they don't wash the grapes – that's where the yeast is.  The majority of vineyards do what we do:  put the grapes through the crusher, picking out the obvious leaves, stems, sticks and other stuff, hope the bugs that can fly away do so, and let it sit a bit before the actual pressing.  (Warning: icky info ahead)  The stems and leaves get strained out before it gets put into the fermentation barrel; bug body parts will come out at the racking, after the fermenting is finished. 
Our old-fashioned process is as follows:  After the berries are crushed they go into the press (1st photo) which is a concrete basin with a drain-pi.jpgpe in one corner for draining the juice.  The cave is under the press.  Mon mari hooks a hose up to the pipe and the juice goes from the press directly into the fermentation barrel.  After crushing we let the grapes sit overnight.  (you can see the first problem with the 'scrupulously clean' theory – no way to cover the grapes!)  Next we take a clean, aluminum shovel and mound the grapes up under the crusher.  To even out the pressure, boards are lain across the grapes and stacked up to the crusher mechanism.  You can see they are dyed purple from years of use.  Next, using a hand crank, we lower the weight and press the grapes.  My job is to crouch in the corner (lower left) and, using my hands and a strainer, keep the juice moving and the Dogs200 berries out as it flows into the barrel.  There is a strainer cap over the barrel as well to catch the big pieces, but everything moves so fast a lot gets missed.  It will ferment in that barrel until December or January, then get racked off into another barrel, the dregs left behind.  We'll taste it in March and hope it's good drinkable.  The last photo is our ever-faithful wine dogs, my Emma (left) and her brother, Wellington, who has come, with his human, to help.  As I am tapping on my keyboard the boys are out washing, scrubbing, and cleaning all the equipment to be stored for another year.  As to the stink bugs…..

4 thoughts on “La Vendange, Part 2: The Red….and who scrubs the stink bugs?”

  1. Katie,
    Your mention of the bugs on the grapes reminds me why I don’t eat partridgeberries anymore. My wife and I picked some a few years ago and put them in a bowl of water and went back awhile later to find a horde of tiny worms swimming for their lives. Apparently these berries shouldn’t be picked until after the first frost. I never found out if the worms vacate the berries before the frost or they die in the berry adding protein to whatever desert they find themselves in.
    Mike

  2. Mike,
    I’m a bit the same about picking mushrooms. A friend was teaching me which ones to pick and said to make sure the cap was mostly closed and the frills a bright pink….’cause when they turn brown the maggots are about to hatch….

  3. All of this just blows me away……there is so much work involved! Makes me want to take very long pauses between the sips of wine……just to enjoy every drop ………

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