After picking the grapes we have to crush the grapes to allow the liquid to escape from the skins and also to separate the stems from the grapes. Many years ago the whole process was done by hand or by foot. The grapes were put into a big container and they were crushed underfoot. This would be a lot of work for even a small vineyard like ours. For this reason we use a detemming and crushing machine. Our machine uses about 600 watts so as long as the sun is shining we can use the solar panels of the house to power it.
It is at this moment that we have to measure the sugar content of the must. This is the best way of knowing what the final alcohol percentage will be. We use a refractometer to do the measurement. It works a bit like a prism which reacts differently to light (by giving a reading on a scale) depending upon the amount of sugar that is available in the sample.
When the must (grape juice) comes out of the machine it drops into buckets. We then carry the must to the 200 litre plastic drums. After a couple of days the yeast from the skins of the grapes will start to ferment the sugars. This is called initial fermentation which lasts a few weeks depending on temperature and other factors. It is in the initial fermentation that the wine gets the color from the skins. In the wine made in the video below we allowed the wine to stay with the skins for about 4 weeks. This is probably a little too long and the wine picked up a bit too much tannin from the skins. This year we will press the wine (separate the skins from the liquid) sooner.