Wine by its very nature is a personal thing. How we taste, what we like, and in contrast what we detest, varies between people and changes a little over time too. Many people start getting into wine with big oaky reds or easy going pinot grigio, but over time the majority of real wine freaks move into different, more subtle or interesting styles of plonk. It seems that Jess and I are very fortunate to have almost identical tastes when it comes to wines, and white wines in particular. We don’t want fruit bombs, we don’t want oak bombs, we do want acidity, we do want lees-related complexity and we do want a personality in a wine that reflects both where it was made and the season in which it ripened.
This is fortunate, because all the decisions we make in both the vineyard and winery will reflect directly into the wine itself. Take the subject of this post – the wine press. The choice of press type, press size, and how we use it will directly and radically change the quality, quantity and flavour of the wine, and will also impact on how much we can make in total. Therefore its pretty important that we get the decision right in the first place, because these things, as we quickly found out, are seriously expensive.
But, buying expensive machinery is one of my favourite hobbies – a quick inspection of just our kitchen stuff would confirm that my name is Jamie and I have a gadget problem. Some of it, like the sous vide machine, kamado oven and meat slicer I use regularly. Some of it, like the burger press, the spherification tank and the wi-fi meat thermometer perhaps not quite so often. But you have to get your feet wet before you go swimming eh?
3 kitchen items I am currently considering buying, the butter knife with built in heater to make it more spreadable, the combined pizza wheel and fork, and the hot dog slicer. Not long until Christmas folks!
So, lets just say that I was under strict instructions not to buy anything stupid before I began my research.
So, what are the options?
- An inflatable bag press. These revolutionised the wine industry in the mid-late 20th century by being gentle, easy to control, easy to prevent oxidation, and reasonably fast too. But, they do release quite a lot of solids into the juice, and are we really sure we want to prevent oxidation before fermentation? and do we need it to be quick?
- A potato masher and big bucket. This would certainly be slow and we would be able to oxidise the juice quite thoroughly prior to fermentation. However, when we tried this with grapes from our back garden, it almost killed me just squashing 50 litres of grapes, and it almost killed our family when they tried to taste the finished wine.
- A vertical basket press. These have been largely replaced by bag presses being slow, hard to clean, oxidative, and expensive relative to their size. But they do press the juice really well if you can be bothered with them…..
So, that decision was relatively easy – lets buy a vertical basket press. But hang on. As every committed gadget lover knows, I have merely described the family of product, not the maker, size, specification or even control method. So, after almost 6 months of research, (and who knew that asking what seemed like half of the world’s winemakers about how to specify and size a basket press would result in, well, zero helpful responses?) we decided on the following:
- It needs to be big and shiny and make lots of hissing whirring and beeping noises. Jess disagrees on this point, but I reckon its critical.
- It needs to have 2 or more cages (baskets), so that whilst its pressing one load of grapes, we can be loading another.
- Those cages need to be in steel or plastic, not in wood if we want to press both white and red in it.
- It needs to be able to press about 1000kg of grapes in each squeeze (after they have been crushed, so say 500kg of squished up grapes and juice)
- We need to use scourtins or we will never get the juice out from the flesh (a scourtin is a bit like a lace doily – who knew such things existed?!)
- It needs to be hydraulically controlled or we run the risk of extracting too many phenolics.
So, minor heart-attack time followed when we got the quotes from some French winery suppliers. Holy moly mother of god, you can’t half spend some cash buying things like this can you? OK, plan B. Buy it direct from the maker. Plan C was to revert to the potato masher, so thank goodness we made some progress with plan B.
Nice. Half the price. Its from an Italian engineering company though so goodness knows which year it will arrive in. But ooh it looks pretty:
So it ticks the shiny, whirry, beepy test. Lets hope it can squeeze grapes too.
So, deposit paid, local gadget buyer content.
Then, a little thought.
How tall and wide is it?
And how tall and wide are the doors to the winery?
Hmm – perhaps the next post should be about how I selected the machinery required to cut and extend the winery doors. Tech overload!