After we have decided that the grapes are ripe and that the sugar level is ideal, we can plan the harvest.
Ideally it’s in the morning, but if there’s no other way to organise it you can also do it in the afternoon. We usually do it in the early afternoon (because we work in the morning) and it’s like a small family reunion and one of our traditional family “peasant jobs”. :)))
Preparing for the Harvest
First of all, the basement needs to be cleaned and prepared.
We use big plastic barrels and wash them thoroughly before the harvest.
If you use wooden barrels, a little more maintenance is needed. They have to be washed with cold water until the water coming out from the barrel is clean. Then with hot water. It is recommended to add wine acid in the last washing water (50 g on 30 liters of water). When the wooden barrel is dry it should be sulphurised.
Before the harvest, make sure you have enough small buckets and garden scissors for all friends helping you.
How to Pick the Grapes
It’s rather easy. Hold a cluster of grapes in one hand and snip the whole cluster off the vine with sharp garden pruners or scissors. Breaking off the cluster is difficult and will damage the plant, it’s best to use a sharp cutting tool.
Gently place each bunch in a bucket. You should only pick red or white grapes in one bucket because you need to put them in separate barrels. And also different sorts if you have more than one and preparing separate wines.
Winemakers are usually very careful with their grapes and they handpick every berry (well not really every) that drops on the ground. In our case, Pepa, our weimaraner, takes care of the dropped berries 🙂 yummy
Crushing and Fermentation
Right after the grapes are picked they need to be pressed. This can be done by hand or with the aid of a wine press. In the past, it was traditionally trodden by feet, but today most of the grapes are sent through a crusher / destemmer.
Crushing is the process of squeezing the berries and breaking the skins to start to liberate the contents of the berries. Destemming is the process of removing the grapes from the rachis (the stem which holds the grapes).
All together the squeezed juice, berries and rachises are placed in plastic barrels to start the fermentation. In this mix we add potassium metabisulfite to slow down the aging, or the oxidation, of wine by removing free oxygen suspended in the wine. Potassium metabisulfite serves to prevent spoilage of wine, but also to preserve its flavor and color. When red wine is oxidized it turns orange and eventually brown, while white wines turn a golden brown color.
This additive is usually sold in agriculture shops in a powdered form as well as in tablets. Read carefully the instructions on how to add it.
Gently blend all together with a stick or something and cover with plastic foil, to protect air contact (oxygen).
Now the grapes (and you) can go to sleep 🙂 This is the end of Day 1.
This post is a part of Homemade Wine serial: