Why Do We “Punch” Our Grapes? Winemaking Behind the Scenes.

What is Punching Down Grape Must?

Some of the work we do at the vineyard and winery just sounds so mean! Things like pinching our plants or tossing baby grape clusters might make us sound cruel. But, we promise none of it is as bad as it sounds. We’re quite peaceful around here!

Punching down refers to pushing grape solids down into a container of fermenting grape juice. Watch the video below or read on to learn more.

What is Must?

You may remember from our last post that after we crush grapes we have a large container of juice, pulp, skins, seeds, and stems. That mixture is called “grape must.”

As the must settles, yeast produces carbon dioxide that pushes the solids to the top and forms a cap. This cap can be anywhere from 6 to 8 inches deep. Sometimes it’s even deeper.

Why We “Must” Punch

The carbon dioxide naturally provides a protective coating on top of the must. With high containers like these, oxygen can sneak in and push some of that coating away. That can cause bacteria to form.

We need to mix that floating material throughout the container to eliminate bacteria. By pushing the skins, stems, and seeds back into the liquid, we kill any bacteria that might be hanging around. The grape juice is so acidic at this point that bacteria cannot survive in it.

The Best Wine Flavor

We also want to ensure the solids get plenty of contact with the liquid to extract every last bit of goodness from them. They help give us a rich red wine color and optimum flavor. The stems, skins, and seeds contain tannins, a natural micronutrient that adds a wonderful complexity to your wine.

A Toast to Your Health

Tannins are naturally occurring polyphenols that many scientists believe contribute to good heart and cardiovascular health. So, we want to make sure the juice gets good contact with the skin, seeds, and stems to give you an extra polyphenol boost.

Hurray for another reason to uncork the red wine tonight!

A Labor of Love

For the best results, we need to punch down the grape must at least twice a day for a few weeks. We have many of these 600-liter containers (Each contains the same amount of liquid as 300 family-size soda bottles!) plus lots of tanks to punch down daily.

It’s a lot of work. But like everything we do here at our vineyard, we love it. There’s nothing like opening a bottle of wine and knowing how much love went into it. We think it tastes even better that way!

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