Wednesday, 19 November 2014

Red Wine Stains

Many people have a morning ritual. For the past two weeks, mine has looked something like this:



At one point, we had around forty 1-tonne Open Fermenters (OFs) that I was required to 'massage' each morning. The idea is that the grape skins which have risen to the surface need to be gently put back in contact with the fermenting grape juice to encourage tannin and flavour extraction. 

Sometimes you can be lucky. If the juice has been fermenting for a while, the grape skins have broken down somewhat and a metal plunger can be used to push down the cap. However, in the earlier stages of fermentation, the cap is quite tough to get through and a more manual technique (ie. arms up to your armpits) is required.

Let me tell you, no one will ever think that you have not been working hard after conducting plunge downs for a few hours each morning! Your hands and arms will very quickly stain a lovely dirty-red colour and you will find that skin dryness to the point of cracking and bleeding will occur after only a few days of this practice.

The best part about looking after the OFs every day is watching the ferment progress. Each OF has its own unique flavour profile and every day I have discovered new flavours developing and transforming. For example, one morning there was an OF of Cabernet France that smelt exactly like Vegemite. I contacted the Assistant Winemaker, as I was concerned this might be detrimental, he said it should 'blow-off' over time and, true to his word, two days later, the ferment was smelling like the fruit from a cherry pie straight from the oven. Yum.

We are now at the point of draining and pressing off many OFs and putting them into barrels. It is very exciting to taste each pressed wine as it goes into barrel, where it will remain for months at a time to complete fermentation, both of sugar and malic acid.