Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Making wine spo-dee-o-dee

I've been intending to post about my evening pressing grapes, but honestly I've had a hard time figuring out what to say. I don't know much about the wine-making process. Probably anyone who stayed even a little sober through a vineyard tour would know far more than I do, even though I asked all sorts of questions at my grape-pressing evening. Perhaps if I hadn't been doing so much tasting - of the newly fermented juice or of last year's grappa - I would remember some of the answers better. But I'll try to list my somewhat incoherent impressions.


1) If you can marry your way into a nice Italian-American family, with a gentlemanly patriarch and three strapping sons who together make four barrels of wine each year in the garage and converted-basement-wine-cellar, do so. It's worked out very well for my friend. If you are unable to get married at the moment, get a friend make the match. You will get invited to press grapes, which will make you feel ubercool. And you will be given wine.

2) To make wine in New England, first you order grapes from California, though you can supplement with some local Concords. You break up the grapes a bit in a scary-looking machine that would surely take your fingers right off. That's called the crushing (not of your fingers, of the grapes). Then the grapes sit around in a barrel and ferment for a week or two before you press the grapes and put fermented juice in beautiful huge bottles called carboys with special seals on the top that let gas out. That's the pressing. And that's what I got to help with. And I don't know much about the process after that point, except that there's no filtering, but lots of decanting, and then some aging, and then presumably bottling, or maybe the bottling first, then the aging, and finally the drinking, at which point I'm on solid ground again.

3) Instead of rowing machines, there should be pressing machines. Same motion, more fun.

4) At the pressing stage, the wine is already, well, wine, of a sort. But the character of wine at this stage (I'm sure there's a real name for it; I'll just called it wine-in-process) is to finished wine what a jug of cider left to ferment on your porch is to an aged cider in a bottle. This stuff is fruity, a little fizzy, a little harsh, somewhere between fruit juice and wine. Which is what it is, of course. It's also pretty tasty, though my friend's three-year-old son, already a bit of a connoisseur, disagreed. He kept tasting and saying, "Not done yet!"

5) Pressing grapes will make you feel all connected to ancient rhythms of the seasons and all that good stuff EVEN if you're doing it in a garage.

Some pictures:

It's not easy to get the last grapes out from the bottom of the barrel. Posted by Picasa

The grapes waiting to be pressed. Posted by Picasa

The results of the pressing. Looks like melted black raspberry ice cream, doesn't it? Posted by Picasa

By the way, if this wine is as good as the stuff they made in 2003, it will be very good wine indeed. I am endlessly impressed.


mzn said...

Wow, the color is really wild. I would never have guessed that something that color would be wine.

Pyewacket said...

It will be, eventually. I guess the solids that haven't settled yet make the color opaque and lighter, but it's amazing to consider that it will end up a rich, dark red.