Once all my cold-climate varieties are picked, it's time to process the grapes. Everyone does their best to clean the bunches of any diseased berries as they pick. Luckily, by keeping up with the spray schedule and proper vineyard maintenance, this is kept to a minimum. I always start with my white variety – Vidal Blanc. The picked grapes are brought in to the processing area of my garage and weighed. As I noted in my last blog, I like to keep an annual tally of production so I have an idea if I am properly pruning and balancing the vines from year to year.
We then process the grapes through my crusher/destemmer. I added an electric motor to the hand-operated version of this unit that I originally purchased, to make the work a bit easier. It makes quick work of my home vineyard production and does an excellent job of removing the bulk of the stems. It is important to remove the stems, as it can add significant bitterness to your finished wines.
As quickly as the white grape is crushed and destemmed, I bucket it directly into my ratchet basket press. I have a size 45 basket press. It works out perfectly to hold all my white grape production, to this point, in one full press load. I always make sure to have a catch bucket and strainer set up to receive the free run juice, as I bucket it all into the press. I don't want to lose a precious drop! I have a cleaned processing tank ready to receive the juice. This tank is filled with the free run and all the pressed juice, as well. Pressing is done a bit at a time. As pressure drops, because juice has been extracted, I press a bit harder. As I'm pressing, I regularly taste the press juice. You want to be careful not to over press the must as you can end up with bitterness. When I feel comfortable that I have extracted what I should, I treat the juice with pectic enzyme and yeast nutrients. I add the nutrients as cold-climate varieties can sometimes be limited in nutrients and I want to ensure a proper and complete fermentation. The pectic enzyme helps to reduce pectin haze and minimizes, if not eliminates, my need to fine my white wine.
The juice is allowed to settle overnight. The next day, I rack off the somewhat clarified juice into multiple carboys, filling them so to allow enough head space for any foaming that may occur during fermentation. I check the °Brix, pH, and TA. I typically do not have to adjust anything with regards to the acidity; but without fail, I have to add sugar (chaptalize) to the juice to ensure my target of 12% alcohol. I then take all my white grape juice-filled carboys down to my basement — wine cellar. At this time of year, the wine cellar is between 55 °F and 60 °F (13-16 °C). I'll talk about the importance of this temperature in my next blog....