The rewards and frustrations of home winemaking

Pressing 2011 Syrah

Our syrah finished fermenting in about 7 days.  Average fermentation temperatures were 80 to 82 degrees, though the bucket with Pasteur Red got up to 88 degrees on day 2 of fermentation.  It was progressing smoothly so we did not add Fermaid K this time.  Now it’s time to press out our wine!

We decided to keep the four yeast fermentations separate, and one batch we will keep the free run and press run separate.  We started with a little 4-gallon #25 wood basket press to press batch #1, which was fermented with ICV-D80.  The wine was terrific, though surprisingly spicy!

This basket has a racket to push the followers down over the must to press out the wine.

With the basket press, after the first press we “fluff up” the must to get the most efficient pressing.  The second press is not as much pressure as the first, though.  As we loaded the bottom of the fermenting barrel, we were careful to keep out as many seeds that were at the bottom as possible.  Crushed seeds can add bitter flavors to the wine that we don’t really want.

We decided just to do the first batch with the basket press, and do the rest with the bladder press.  Needless to say, the bladder press was much more efficient.  We also decided to keep the free run and press run for batch #2 separate.  This wine was fermented with Pasteur red.  The color of all of the wine is a beautiful dark purple, though the second batch was the deepest, darkest color.  It just happened to also be the one that had the most vigorous fermentation, with lots of foaming and the highest temperature.  The wine had a wonderful fruity flavor, without much spice, in sharp contrast to batch #1.

We loaded the must into the press, and gathered 6 gallons of free run juice first:

After 6 gallons of free run wine (the wine that comes off before pressure is applied) was collected, we loaded the rest of the must into the press, again being careful to leave as many seeds as possible in the can.  The lid was secured and the water turned on until the flow of pressed wine slowed, then we turned the water back off and released the pressure.  We dumped out the pressed pomace and moved on to the next batches.


Lots of seeds left behind

The next 2 batches went fairly quickly.  Batch #3, fermented with ICV-D254, was everyone’s favorite.  It had a perfect balance of fruit and spice with solid mid-palate and notes of cedar.  Batch #4 was fermented with CLOS, and was somewhat unimpressive after the first three.  It wasn’t bad at all, but lacked any bold, special character.  It was very nicely balanced with good fruit and light spice, and will definitely benefit from oak addition.

We finished pressing in about 2 hours, but it was a messy process.  We spent another half hour or so cleaning up the presses and most of the cans, and covered the top of the pressed wine with plastic wrap to settle out overnight.  Tomorrow we’ll pump off the settled, cleared wine into carboys and start MLF.


Everyone's hands will probably be purple for a few days!

A toast to the mess!


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