It was a bit precarious, and we had to use some blocks of wood to raise it a little and so it wouldn’t scratch the stainless steel. Also, one person had to hold it steady, while another person worked the crusher.
We also taped some plastic ‘curtains’ around the opening at the bottom of the crusher, so that all the grapes would fall into the press, and not skite out onto the floor.
The press is completely automatic, and we programmed the cycle to be as long and gentle as possible, ie very low pressure so as not to break the pips or stems that were mixed in with the grapes.
2.A. Crushing only (no pressing) and pouring into a stainless steel tank for fermentation with skin contact
Next we crushed (only crushed, no pressing) another lot of 700 kg. We moved the manual crusher off the press, onto to top of an empty stainless steel tank:
In the photo above, two people (Juan and Raquel) are scooping grapes out of the tank in the foreground; passing a bucket to Jacobo (holding a bucket) who pours it into the manual crushed (blue machine in the background, sitting on top of an open tank), while Sonia is working the crusher. The women on the right are stomping grapes with their feet (equivalent to crushing):
We’re going to leave this juice in contact with the skins for at least 1 week, which is what we did last year; but depending on tastings during this week, we may leave it for 2 weeks. Then we’ll press the wine off the skins and leave it to settle over the winter (the cold dark harsh Castillian winter).
2.B. Crushing only (again no pressing) and pouring into a clay amphora for fermentation with skin contact
This was more or less the same as above, but instead of using stainless steel, we used a clay amphora, which we found in a corner of the patio of the bodega. It was a lot of extra work to do this, but I think it will be well worth the effort. First we had to wash it thoroughly:
Insert Washing amphora photo here
The owner of the amphora was a bit worried about us using it, as it has nostalgic sentimental value for him. He remembers it being used in this parent’s house when he was little. We reckon that it’s about 60-80 years old at least. It was made in Colmenar de Oreja (by a company called ‘González’ (photo pending). Back in the post-war period Colmenar de Oreja was famous for its clay amphorae, because it was close to a major clay deposit; and not just for little ones, like the one we’re using. They used to actually make the big ones ‘in situ’ in the bodegas with capacities of up to 20,000 liters. All the ‘tinajeros’ (amphora-makers) went out of business in the 60’s; which is how we know that it’s at least 60 years old.
The base consists of a concrete ring, which is what the amphora actually rests on. This is inside a plastic ‘capazo’ with the top few inches, including the handles, sawn off. There are two bricks in there too (only one visible) just in case.
Note the corks (above): there are actually three openings: one at the top (what for?), one at the bottom and another one (not visible) even lower. It was quite a task to find corks for those openings and Juan had to spend all Saturday morning traipsing round Madrid looking for some. He had thought to go to Castellana de Corchos, a traditional old cork product shop in the centre of the old part of town, but it seems that it’s gone out of business.
We taped a piece of plastic around the edge (above) to protect the amphora from spills of juice, but to no avail, as it was too short; we should have covered it all. But no matter, we washed it down when we finished filling it.
We intend to leave this lot of wine in contact with the skins for a lot longer than 2 weeks – maybe even over the whole winter! This is an experiment. I can’t let a year go by without doing at least one experiment! So we’ll just keep checking on it and see how it goes. Any suggestions most welcome!
In the photo above are the grapes and the must at the bottom of the tank, tipped over at an angle – so we could reach in to scoop them out. I thought it was a nice combination/contrast between the natural organic world (grapes and must) and the geometrical, mathematical, technological, manmade world (stainless steel, perfect circles, straight lines).
And lastly, this is what was left over after the pressing:
We usually throw all these skins and pips (and stems) back into the vineyard. There, they decompose and break down into little pieces over time, and improve the structure of the soil.
But this year we’ve kept some back, because we’re going to make some ‘orujo’ (grappa or marc, or 'pomace brandy' even). A neighbor has a still (alambique, alambicco, alambic), and we have the raw materials, so one day in the not too distant future we’re going to join forces and distill some liquor. I don’t know how to do this (but the neighbor does!) so I intend to just sit around, watch the still, and do some quality control work!
And even more lastly, thanks to Cristina (@GazpachoGirl) and friends Adriana and Jenny, and to Richard (@voorschot) and family for coming out to visit and help.