It was a very happy day when this giant piece of steel arrived at the Bodega. At first glance it may not scream TERROIR! but soon, it will.
It is another completed step towards our unwavering goal to make terroir-driven wines in Argentina. Perhaps not a glamorous looking accomplishment, but an exciting one. This piece of steel is the backbone of a new gravity-fed winemaking system. This addition adds to a growing list of changes happening in the Bodega to complement the work we’ve been doing in the vineyards.
Over the past two years we’ve completed trials comparing gravity vs. non-gravity fed winemaking. The difference is significant.
The desire for natural, gentle handling is the main reason we use gravity. We talked a little bit about the benefits of gentle handling in our previous post on the new fancy destemmer, but in summary- it leaves more of the fruit intact, and therefore results in extended fermentation time and the retention of color, flavor and aromas in the wine.
The problem is, most wineries are built on a flat piece of land, so moving the grapes from a receiving area to a fermenting tank requires some sort of conveyor – often a large pump that sucks (whoosh!) the grapes along with the juice to get from one place to the next. Not exactly gentle…
Instead, some wineries were built to use gravity to move the grapes from one step the the next. This is not only logical, it is natural. In our case, it was not possible to rebuild the winery on a sloping hill, so we devised a system that we affectionately call “the spider.”
The Spider lifts the berries to a small 10,000 liter tank to begin their long, slow fermentation. The skins will break on their own, and the juice will flow by natural gravity. As needed, we will perform pigeage– or a gentle punch down. Which ultimately means: the wine tastes more like where it came from.
The truth is, even if we find the most interesting sites, hand harvest earlier, use gentle small bins, feed the vines organic nutrients, plant the vine rows at an optimal angle and use only native yeasts, if our winemaking practices don’t follow this terroir philosophy, we might as well scrap it all.
Small victories are more effective than big promises. We will persevere!