After harvest, several things must happen before the yeast can start partying (by consuming the sugars, aka. primary fermentation). The first thing Mr. B and his friend Mr. S told me when we arrived at the destemming location was “winemaking is mostly about cleaning.” Yay. But, if cleaning will protect my wine and help me avoid wine faults, let’s clean, let’s clean with gusto! So, in goes Potassium Metabisulfite into a bucket and the cleaning commenced. Next up, destemming!
So, destemming was a bit of a challenge with the sizes of the destemmer and tank being a bit mismatched. But, the three of us managed to only make a small mess (see the stems and random grapes all over the ground in the picture above). Once the grapes were destemmed and in the tank, it was time to use this massive tool to crush the grapes. I failed to get a picture of this thing, because I was busy using it to crush the grapes and get some juice flowing.
You may notice some oak chips in the tank with the grapes and a small amount of stems. This has a variety of benefits including reducing vegetal components and improving mouthfeel of the finished wine. Yay for having an amazing mentor who knows these things!
Once we had some juice, Mr. S took a sample to test various important aspects of the must such as pH and Brix (the Brix reading is the sugar content of the must that ultimately determines how much alcohol potential the wine has — fermented to dryness, mine would have ~14.4% abv). We then added acid (typically done in warm wine regions) and the yeast (so it could start partying). Then punch punch punch with the large metal rod-crusher-device-thing, and the wine was ready to sleep. But first! More cleaning! We took a spray bottle of Everclear and a rag to clean off skins and stuff stuck to the side of the tank above the must. Winemaking is mostly cleaning.
Goodnight grape must! Yeast, please start your party! No vinegar smells are invited.