The fermentation stopped on 6th September, we harvested and put into the tank on the 26th August, so that’s a 10 day fermentation. Now is the time to barrel and press the wine. When the cap has sunk and lots of seeds are on the surface its a good sign that the first stage of storing the wine has been reached. Whether to go into wooden barrels or stainless steel containers is a matter of personal choice. We have access to two-year old french oak barrels that have 5 or so years left in them which gives extra flavours to the wine, so for now we use them.
The press is cleaned and washed down ready for use. In fact all the buckets, tubes, colanders, funnels, utensils etc are sterilised and cleaned. First we transfer the free liquid using tubes into the barrels. This method is slow even with three tubes so next year we will get a pump. The fine tubes avoid too many pips and bits of skin getting into the barrel, although they do add flavour. Also a fine muslin is used to filter out any bits.
It is a slow process but on a sunny day with an occasional taste check not a bad job to be doing. As the tank empties the pips and pulp and skins are put into the press and squeezed as tight as we can. We only fill the press up to the half way mark and after two pressings we put the whole batch of skins through again and even more juice comes out.
Presses like this have not changed in centuries and it is a tried and sure way for small winemakers to squeeze the last drop out of the grapes. The creaking of the wood blocks, in the press, as they take the strain is alarming but as long as they are placed square to each other and do not slip there is no chance of a sudden collapse. There is a lot of alcohol and flavour in the pressed wine, it has a thicker consistency than the free run juice.
As the last of the wine is taken from the main tank and the last pressing made the dry skins and pips are put into separate containers to be distributed around the vineyard. We place them around each vine rather than just throw down in the lines. There maybe some side products, like soap, we could make from the skins but so far we just use it for mulch. Lifting the cake from the press becomes a game to see who can lift the most entire piece.
Once all the wine is in the barrels we added diluted campden tablets at the rate of 1 tab per 5 litres. So each barrel of 225 litres has 45 tablets added to control any bacterial action. As we have no cellar our barrels sit outside on the covered terrace against the house wall, not ideal but as temperatures drop now, we should average down to 14C through the winter, we will see how that works out. We do get air frost in January down to -5C but other winter months can be in the 20C’s so some variance.