It feels like it all happens in a blink of an eye. The importance of timing is everything when it comes to harvest. The team at Traynor has 5.5 acres of vines to pick and it can sometimes happen within a few days. This year, as soon as late September hit, the wineries in Prince Edward County were all on a timer to get the grapes off the vines before pending rainstorms and potential frost.
Harvest — and the wine making process — can be complicated, so we decided to break down the first few steps in a way that might stick: picking, punching and pressing.
The first step in wine making is of course picking those grapes off of the vines. All the grapes at Traynor are picked by hand, and it is truly a family affair. The small but mighty Traynor team joined forces with some of Mike’s closest relatives, to work together to make Harvest 2020 a reality. All of the fruit at Traynor stays at the winery, so there is no need to worry about packing it up for transport, but the timing after picking is just as important for the grapes’ destiny to becoming wine.
Once the grapes have been picked and taken off the vineyard, they will be sorted and have their stems removed and then be crushed to get the juices flowing. Some skins might be removed at this point depending on the winemaker’s style, but we all know the wines at Traynor enjoy a bit of skin contact.
Now that the grapes have been crushed they can begin to ferment. When this process begins the grape skins and any other solids float to the top from the carbon dioxide gas that fermentation creates and that’s when you’ll hear the term “punch down”. This is when a winemaker will break up the cap of skins at the top by submerging it back into the juice. This can be done by hand, but you will often see some kind of paddle, shovel or rake-like instrument being used to literally punch down on the wine.
This process makes sure the cap doesn’t dry out, but also makes sure the juice gets the skin contact needed for the desired flavour and colour from the winemaker. Punch downs happen a few times a day and the frequency is dependent on the winemaker’s style.
This is the part after fermentation where winemakers use a winepress to extract the juice from the crushed grapes by applying pressure. The process is pretty straightforward — you fill up the tank with the crushed grapes and then let the pressure do the work to push out the juice. Clean out the barrel and repeat. At this point you are able to try some of the wine, and although it is still not finished, it will be delicious!
Stay tuned for what happens next at Traynor, how this funky looking juice transforms into the wine you pour from your bottle, and the first wine to be bottled from Harvest 2020! For real time updates be sure to follow along @traynorvineyard.