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Piéage-à-Pied

Cabernet Sauvignon Harvest

The Red Hen Vineyard in the Oak Knoll District of Napa Valley gives us our Cabernet Sauvignon. We harvested October 12, the beginning of the Napa and Sonoma fires. Because of logistics, a challenging week, and making wine at a cooperative, they gave us a tank too big for our needs; the tank was too broad, and our small lot of three tons only filled it about 18 inches.

The juice needs to have contact with the skins to extract color, tannins, and aromatics. These compounds reside in the grape skins. Usually, we do a pump over; pumping juice from the bottom of the tank and spraying it over the top of the cap where the skins are floating.

However, our fermentation was in a shallow-filled tank with a lot of surface area on top that didn’t easily allow for the juice to be pumped over.

So we punched the cap down, submerging it into the liquid. A different approach, same results. Top-punched-down vs. bottom-sprayed-over.

Knee-Deep, Literally

There are tools for this but working with a small lot of three tons of fruit in this one tank, we took a play out of an older book; piéage-à-pied, or punch down by foot.

Color extraction starts first, before fermentation. Anthocyanins are responsible for color in wine and they are water soluble. Tannins pick up speed later as they solubilize in alcohol. Thus my treading spanned pre- and though-fermentation with some heady whiffs of CO2 along the way (potentially dangerous stuff, not to be taken lightly).

 

Thus, I spent a few days jumping into the tank, twice a day. The wine is now in barrel, spending another 24 months in quiet transformation.

Time for a pedicure.

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