Journal | October 2, 2016
Smell, Feel, Taste
Pump-overs and punch downs are at a critical stage now, as the reds are at their peak of fermentation. Every twelve hours decisions are made as to what level of extraction each bin requires. By shear necessity these decisions are made quickly and intuitively.
Early on in the fermentation, our sense of smell dictates what we do. This begins as soon as we enter the fermentation room. If carbon dioxide and sweet fruity aromas fill the air, we know all is well. If we smell off,” gluey”, or eggy odors, we find the wayward bin and address the problem. Air or lack of air to the fermentation tank is usually the solution. During pump-overs we become more intimate with each bin. If it smell good, all is well.
Feel enters in the picture after about three or four days into the fermentation. The mass goes from pulpy and homogeneous to less viscous and more vinous as the cap forms. At this time we may choose to include punch downs in the mix. The cap of skins needs to be pushed down and incorporated back into the fermenting juice.
In the beginning, taste is not important. It all tastes like fizzy, concentrated grape juice. But after a few days the extraction begins and each bin is evaluated for tannin extraction. This is down with a small plastic cup. We collect a sample as we are working the bin, pass it around for all to taste, talk about it, and make the decision. If the tannins seem drying and aggressive, we back off: less movement (shorter times of pump-overs and little or no punch downs) and cooler temperatures (the bins are moved to a cooler room, or outside at night). As the fermentation loses its sweetness and becomes wine, we may or may not decide to cease any movement and ‘button-up’ the bin, and prepare to drain the wines off of the skins. We have already made that decision with a few bins of Cabernet Franc that were starting to pick up some green tannins. Some wines will stay in the fermenters for only seven of ten days, but others can go up to three or four weeks.