Musings on the upcoming Harvest


Burgundy is filled with wine makers. Feel free to count those who claim to actually make the wine, and you may get but a small handful. Wine is made in the vineyards. This is not only a cliche, but something that is ingrained in the Burgundian culture. Further stated, I personally feel that I would prefer to have the wine be a result of actions (or the lack thereof) in the vineyards rather than decisions I make in the cellar. With the harvest quickly approaching, I am forced to break away from the romance of letting the wine make itself and figure out what needs to be in my facility to make this happen the right way.

I’ve made up my mind on general style approaches, and the best thing I can settle on is to leave as little imprint on the wine as possible. Here is the thing. Ideas are great to have. When it comes to executing, you see what flies and what was totally impractical. That said, I have started with a few general ideas that I’m shooting for.

I am looking to harvest quite early, most likely before 8am. Berries are going to be sorted by 8 people on a sorting table, de-stemming by hand (this is going to be a pain in the ___). With my small scale, the effort should be great, but the length of time short. Wooden foudre is preferred for fermentation. Also, the cold soak should last a decent amount of time, with pigeage (these size 14 feet should work) starting just before I am getting readings of around 2.5-3.5 Brix. No extended maceration post fermentation. No bleed offs. I am grabbing barrels to a ratio of 4 old barrels for every 1 new. So, 20% new, at most. One cooper will be used. Filling barrels by gravity. No racking until bottling. Being a small operation, the wine will rest for as long as it needs in barrel, no need to rush things. Neighbors bottling/releasing earlier won’t be of consequence. No fining, no filtering. Bottling will be done by hand, using gravity.

Alright, I’m off of my soapbox. Now, this is my first vintage in Burgundy. So, the ‘plan’ is just that. Someone doing something different is fine with me. My plan may be the opposite of some successful producers out there. However, this is a blueprint if you will of what I plan to do. I feel truly awkward setting there parameters up, but that is exactly what needs to happen to set up equipment, estimated time tables, material, manual help, etc.

It’s getting exciting over here…..even if I am just mentally tinkering. It’ll be interesting to see the results.


Getting close to wine

The feeling of doing punchdowns is a great one. The grapes below you, punchdown in hand, and physically working these grapes into submission. It just feels so much like you are really making wine. For me, there is a closer feeling, a more intimate moment with wine. The tanks you typically see don’t always come off as cozy places you might want to spend some time in. Stainless steel is cold, hard, and nothing at all resembling something you’d call intimate. But, you dump some grapes in there that you sorted, punched down and watched after and getting in a steel tank filled with pomace can be a beautiful thing. The fermentation warmed the skins, and the graps skins and stems couldn’t be softer or more inviting. Barefoot and cozy. Why rush it? I just really loved this job. Diving in, and cleaning out these tanks was a memorable and pleasurable experience.Eric is seen here with a punchdown tool pulling pomace from the bottom to make the job inside manageable. The person inside shovelling relies on the people outside to move bins to the front of the door, forklift them away when full as well as to make sure you are not tossing shovelfuls of pomace everywhere.

Here is a look at the action inside. After the pomace is out. There is still a bunch of work to be done. You play in your mess, then clean it up. Scrubbing, rinsing and draining leave the tank smelling great with the air filled with pinot noir.

The general process of punchdowns and tracking soaks

There are so many steps in winemaking. Before I started, I would’ve (and most likely did) told everyone that I knew what went on in making wine. The cleaning, prepping, calculations, there are so many things going on that at times you feel like you are working around wine, not with wine. We sort when fruit arrives, it gets destemmed, dropped into a bin and off to a tank to cold soak. During this time, we are watching ph levels, but the most attention goes to tracking brix and temps. Each day while the grapes are fresh looking, we punch down once a day. And, slowly, the brix will creep up as the grapes settle in. Slowly, the temp settles at hopefully a nice and cold temp, and then the brix level off at their peak. The grapes begin to look less fresh, with more of a worn look to them. (Wouldn’t you be tired if you had been through the journey and eventual beatdown that they do?) The cap begins to form more on top of the juice below. A massive pile of skins and stems which make it more and more difficult to punchdown. At this point, we move to punch downs twice a day. Around this time, a shift, energy is sparked! Yeast attacks the sugary grape juice and begins to produce heat (which can peak in the low 90*F range), CO2, alcohol while dropping brix numbers (well, the sugar is in fact being eaten up). These measurements are tracked as I showed in an earlier post. Once the brix drops to around -2. Close to this time, punchdowns have become easier to do, requiring less punchdown times.

At Freeman, this is where we start getting ready to barrel down this Free Run (juice that isn’t the result of pressing the skins). Next, we have to drain more juce from the tanks main door and remove the pomace before pressing.