Destemming Petit Verdot by hand

Destemming platform with back-ache relieving stool and paper stem bags in the kitchen.
Destemming platform with back-ache relieving stool and paper stem bags in the kitchen.

My family loves me – they have not only put up with my crazy notion to return to school to make wine, they have opted into the dream and spent countless hours pulling each grape from its stem, removing any variety of multi-legged and winged creatures from the bins and standing for hours with sticky cold grape juice clear up to their elbows.  I hope they know how much I love them too.

Pulling Petit Verdot grapes from their stems, one-by-one.
Pulling Petit Verdot grapes from their stems, one-by-one.
The stems, we had three full bags of stems when we were done.
The stems, we had three full bags of stems when we were done.

This took two long nights of music and laughter to accomplish.  It was about 120 pounds of fruit; 20 of which was stem when we were done.

 

We crushed the grapes by hand, stained fingers and nails abound in our house this week.
We crushed the grapes by hand, stained fingers and nails abound in our house this week.

The original blue bin was cleaned out and we began the last step in the preparation process: crushing the grapes!  I was all for foot-stomping, but my loving family was not into it.  Second up was squeezing the grapes by hand.  Six hands took about an hour to make Petit Verdot grape juice in the blue bin.

At the end our hands were so cramped my husband used a glass to roll and crush the last few pounds of grapes.
At the end our hands were so cramped my husband used a glass to roll and crush the last few pounds of grapes.
Right away we had bright red juice. 25 degrees Brix, this might be some potent wine!
Right away we had bright red juice. 25 degrees Brix, this might be some potent wine!

Before we brought the bin out to the garage I inoculated it with yeast.  It is fun to watch the dehydrated bits of yeast sink and swell before suddenly erupting at the surface again.  To adjust the temperature I pulled some juice off of the grape skins into the yeast and we waited for the yeast to readjust and bloom again.  Shortly after the second addition of juice the yeast was happily consuming the sugars in the juice and ready to be added to the bin.

This was quite the experience – I have a tremendous appreciation for any piece of equipment that makes this process easier.  Besides our arms needing to be scrubbed and a load of laundry, the kitchen floor and the folding table were incredibly sticky.

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