This is how we roll with the reds…

The big difference between white wine and red wine is the time on the skins. Whites spend very little or no time on the skins, and fermentation takes place with juice only. Reds, on the other hand, ferment with the skins, which is where they get their color and tannic structure. To extract this color and structure (among other things) you have to mix up the juice and skins, which separate dramatically during fermentation:
Masceration In this photo, you can see the skins have risen to the top, pushed up by the CO2 of fermentation. The only part of the skins that is “mixing” with the juice here is the TOP surface of the juice and the BOTTOM surface of the layer of skins, called the “cap”. Not too much chance for extraction. So we have to mix things up from time to time. There are a couple of ways of doing this. One is called “pumping-over” where the juice on the bottom is, well, pumped-over the top of the cap. The juice mixes with the skins and extraction takes place. If you are working with a large tank, this may be your only option.
Another way is called “punch-down” where the cap is forced down into the juice and mixed up:
Follatura (BTW, the aromas coming from this tonneau and a few nearby were beautiful: all cocoa and chocolate with some black cherry and vanilla mixed in…yum)
There are a few advantages to this: The extraction is gentler, the mixing of the wine and skins is more complete and homogeneous and the wine doesn’t need to go through a pump (which is best to avoid, if you can).
We can afford to do this because the vast majority of our reds are made in these open tonneaux of 500 liters (double the size of a normal barrique). It a technique I hear they use at Ch. Petrus, and it obviously works for them.
Martin That’s Martin, our intern from Argentina doing the follatura (punch-down in Italiano). You’d be surprised how difficult it is to break through the cap when you start each tonneau. That’s why he’s up there, for the leverage. (When I did it, I stood on the floor, needing more strength in the shoulders, but without the risk of actually falling into the must.)
This operation must be performed 3 times a day on each tonneau. There are currently 36 tonneaux in the cellar fermenting.
Now you know how I got my “Schwarzenegger shoulders” when I worked in the cellar…

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