As we wind down winemaking lane, it’s funny the things you catch yourself missing once harvest is officially over and wine tasks dwindle down to small or random things. I find myself dealing with withdrawals of daily manual tasks, of being in direct contact with the support of a living substance (meaning, wine). Daily tasks really do give people a sense of purpose, reconnecting us with our innate need to help, support, guide and truly connect with something alive outside ourselves.
Happy End of Harvest, Everyone! While wine work continues, the bringing in of fruit is officially over at our winery. So, in light of that, and given that I’m working on this post days after the fact, I decided to combine the celebration of the last day that we received fruit in at the winery and the last day of pressing fruit along with few post-harvest tasks we’ve been chipping away at – all par for the course, and what an exciting course it’s been!
So,…I went into my first harvest a bit starry-eyed, thinking I would be able to secure a ½ ton of Aglianico fruit for my first barrel. Well, while I did get the thumbs up from two growers, neither worked out for reasons I’ll explain, but more importantly, I realized that securing fruit is really just the first step. Making sure you have the means to physically get it via a truck and then afford to have it custom crushed or partially so (if I help out with it myself) AND then find a temperature controlled space to store 30 or so cases is another deal entirely. Therefore, in the hunt for this great late-ripening red in October, I realized that I need to get my duckies in a row. And while I can now say I know how to make wine, there are still many decisions to make in the course of making wine that warrants another year’s worth of harvest experience.
I’m a sensitive person; I admit it – emotionally, but also physically, although the latter shines through immediately, while the former is somewhat hidden from others. Wine has been an amazing outlet for me in the physical sense. I recently realized, similar to the way the shape of a glass can affect the aromatic side of a wine, that this chemical reaction is actually applicable as an analogy for what an object absorbs and then either changes or immediately converts to emit something that is a product of its environment.
Whenever I get to learn a new winemaking task, I get really excited; I know, it sounds a little ridiculous, but you have to remember that all winemaking is like a story. There are no chapters you can skip. This week I finally got to learn about topping up barrels.
I remember thinking in my high school chem class that a person had to have that special bond with science in order to understand what was going on. In short, I thought they had to have “chemistry” with chemistry. What I’ve been slowly learning at the winery is the impact that everything can have on how that bin of juice becomes a healthy and ageable wine. It’s all connected like a story. It’s easier now for me to see how chemistry and the concept of “terroir” are similar, only one has more tangible, anticipated results while the other’s results have been described as being based on variables that may or may not be there year after year. One is more definable than the other. Here are some chemistry highlights that I’ve found fascinating so far during my internship.
When a bin of fruit has gone dry (ie; it has reached the negative range on the hydrometer during a Brix reading), it is essentially ready to be pressed. But to ready a bin for pressing, you must first ready a barrel or two.
On a physical level, when I first started this harvest internship, I knew it was going to be mind over matter. Now that we are about halfway through, I have to admit that I cannot tell in what ways my body is getting stronger exactly because there’s so much labor each day, that it seems a new muscle is getting worked and is then sore the next morning! Don’t get me wrong, I love all of this. I know that sounds weird, but this post is not about any complaints – it’s just a check-in with my body. Harvest is obviously temporary, so my body won’t always get the workout it is getting right now, but it’s so interesting to experience what a body can do – what its stamina is and how, really when it comes right down to it, it’s all about your attitude and pace.
While I knew that punchdowns were performed to keep the cap moist before and during fermentation, here are some other things I learned and experienced doing these on a daily basis.