The Punchdown!

The fruit is picked and now the cellar crew takes over from the harvest crew. The winery is filled with fermenters filled with Pinot noir grapes slowly turning into wine. Some grapes have been destemmed and others are left “whole cluster” as they go into the fermenters. Careful records are kept about which block of grapes and how those grapes have been processed as they go into the fermenters. When guests come into the winery these days they smell the fermenting wine and see several rows of “fermenters”.

Pinot noir in fermenters.

The question is always asked what happens in the fermenters? Why the sheets and covers? Fruit flies! We do everything possible to keep the ‘must’ free of them. Fold back the sheet and you have the wonderful aroma of fermenting grapes.

Fermentation does not just happen however. The juice must stay in constant touch with the skins and seeds if the flavors from the skins and seeds are to extracted. To do this, twice a day we do what is called a “punchdown”. Otherwise carbon dioxide forms

and lifts the fruit up out of the juice.

The punchdown is done with plungers forcibly pushing the fruit down into the juice. It is hard work given the number of fermenters. The fermentation process takes about 10 days.



These fermenters have plastic liners which contain the wine. These punchdowns are vigorous during the early days of fermentation. It is critical that all fermentation is complete i.e. that the yeast has converted all the sugar in the grapes before the wine is pressed!

Since all the fermenters were not filled on the same day they will not all complete fermentation on the same day. As completion nears the punchdown becomes more gentle so those fermenters are identified.

The final punchdown is done and the wine is ready for the press.

It is only after the wine is pressed that it goes into barrel to age for at least a year.

Emily About Emily

Emily founded Winter's Hill Estate with her husband Peter in 1990.

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