The Journey of a Virginia Wine Grape
By Henri, our French intern –We started our fall harvest 2014 a week ago, and this is really awesome! I will describe the journey of a grape at Doukénie Winery during harvest.
When we are harvesting at Doukénie Winery, we want the best quality of clusters to produce the best quality of wine. So all the grapes are hand-picked. At the same time, we remove the grapes with the most rot. The grapes go into small crates to avoid getting crushed or damaged. The crates go directly to the crusher-de-stemmer.
When the crates of grapes get put on the conveyer, this gives us another opportunity to remove any additional rot and leaves. The grapes then go in the de-stemmer; the berries are separated from the stems. The stems go to the compost while the berries go to the crusher. Now the berries burst with juice.
We now have two choices: 1) to put the berries in the press if it is for a white wine, or 2) to put the berries in a tank if it is a red wine. One of the distinguishing features of Doukénie Winery is to have the press and the tank downstairs. Gravity allows the berries go in either the tank or the press without having to use a pump.
During the crushing, we sterilize the ‘must’ with SO2. This prevents the developments of undesirable pathogens. We also add yeast to the must. We can choose the type of yeast that we want for the type of must that we have. The yeast will transform the sugar (glucose) of the juice into alcohol (ethanol). This also produces CO2 and heat. We have to be careful with the temperature of the tank: if it goes too high, the yeast can die. With the level of sugar, we can see the evolution of the fermentation.
For a red wine, the berries go into a tank. They will stay in this tank around 2-3 weeks. During that time, the alcoholic fermentation will start. The red must has pieces of berries, and during the fermentation, the yeast produces gas. These gases will create solid particles on the surface. We punch down the top to keep the berries in contact with the juice. In fact, it is the skins, the seeds and the pulp of the berries that will create the tannins, acid, polyphenols. In addition, we do some pump over. This involves pumping the juice down and sprinkling the top. When the fermentation is done, we empty the tank of the juice. We do one more press to get any juice from the particles. Every drop counts. The wine can then go inside a barrel.
For a white wine, the berries go into a press. We extract the juice and then it goes into a tank. The tank stays cold with a system of glycolic refrigeration. Enzymes are added to the juice to destroy any particles and facilitate the sedimentation. The larger particles and the lees fall to the bottom of the tank. The juice is then decanted into another tank. We rack the bottom of the first tank to clean it and throw away the lees. After, the fermentation takes place, the wine stays in a stainless steel tank or goes in a French Oak barrel (for the Chardonnay, for example).
The next step is the vinification! See you next week for other blog post full of facts and winery terms about the Harvest 2014 at Doukénie Winery!