During fermentation of red wines, the grape skins & seeds float to the top of the bin. How you manage that cap of skins has ...
a big impact on the style of wine that comes from that fermentation. Crushpad CEO Michael Brill explains cap management.
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Here we are in the CRUSHPAD Wine rooms and today we are going to talk a little bit about cap management. Unlike a white wine which really deferment the juice without skin, red wine really, really need the skins in order to get color, tannin, additional flavor, and aromatics that can makes some very, very complex red wines.
If you fermented red wine without skins, you are going to put something very, very pink something really approximating a white wine. So when you are fermenting a red wine what happens is the yeast basically eat up the sugar, create alcohol and some flavor compounds. They also create a lot of CO2 and that CO2 tends to push up the skins and seeds that flowed up to the top of the fermentation and if you just left it in there, what you will find is that very, very little of the fermenting wine is in contact with the skins at again in one time, so you are going to end up with a very under extracted wine, almost like rose wine, a very, very light red wine.
If you want more extraction in your wine, it is very important to re-introduce the cap, the skin and seeds back into the juice and mix that up and there are few different techniques of doing this. The traditional technique for small up fermentation and this are very, very small lots one and two barrel lots fermentations; it is usually cut to punch down. So, when your cap rises up to the top of the juice line, what you do is anywhere from twice a day to up to six times a day, you come in with a tool like this which is a punch down tool there is a lot of different forms. And what you do is you actually physically push the cap back into the wine. Mix it up really well, typically a two, three, to five in an operation that you do against up to several times a day.
And now really starts to help extract some of the color and tannin from the skins and that is really, it is often use for thicker skin varietals, as you see we are also such a varietals, but it tends to do very, very well a thicker skin in varietals. We have a lot of structure of the grapes and you do not want to over extract the wine.
Another popular technique, one that we are using with increasing frequency is a submerged cap. In a submerged cap basically hold the entire cap down beneath the fermenting juice line, so that the grapes are in close in contact with the fermenting wine.
The advantage of that is sort like when you put a tea bag in a cup of hot water if you leave it in there for let say 24 hours and the key that is once a day you will mix it up and you go back 24-hour later. You are going to find a lot of extraction, contrast that is pretty a tea bag into the glass for five minutes taking it out coming back 12 hours later putting back in for five minutes. Generally that you will find that submerged cap approach can be more extracted. It is great for thinner skin varietals such as a Dornfelder, which is where it is really pioneered, a lot of people use it in a pinot noir. We actually do use it for thicker skin varietals, as well you can get for once few line huge amount of extraction especially very ripe styles of wines for this is not a huge amount of tannins in the skins, you can use a search submerged cap to get great effect.
One of the chances that we have in using a submerged cap in such a small fermentation is ensuring that there is a constant flow or there is actually a flow each day of the juice because if you just leave a submerged cap by itself after a couple of days it will be very, very compressed. And so in a larger fermentation wineries will often do what is called a rack-and-return or delestage or a pump over to take the juice from the bottom, take it out of the tank and then put it back on top of the cap and that will help break it up.
What we will do instead is because we are working with such small ferment, we will actually take the cap out that they try to plate that holds the cap down and once a day, we will do a traditional punch down to break up the cap and put the plate back in.
The final technique is used for cap management is called a pump-over. Again in a large winery doing large fermentations, it is not really feasible to do a punch down or to do a submerged cap. So what they do is they have a very, very large tanks to take wine from the bottom of that tank in they pump it to the top of the tank and then use a distributor basically that is like a sprinkler that drops wine back on top of the cap. And the wine basically as it is going through the cap, it starts to get extraction from the cap as it goes back down of the fermenting wine.
It is not really necessary the most extractive technique, you often have channels that develop in the cap, but for us we often do pump-overs not by themselves but in conjunction with the submerged cap. We often called a combo model where we keep the submerged cap in their for most of the day we do the one today punch down to break up the cap and then we will come also once or twice a day and do a pump-over where we basically move the entire volume of the fermenter, which is primarily for two reasons, one is oxygen contact, yeast really need oxygen to procreate, especially in the first half of fermentation, it is very important to get a lot of oxygen in and a punch down you can actually get a quite a bit of oxygen in just through the mechanics of the punch down operation and submerged cap there is no oxygen getting in so we will bring it in through a pump. Another reason why we do a pump over in a submerged cap is to cool down the fermentation. We do not always need to do it but after your fermentations get quite warm, it is actually an excellent technique to pump-over the entire volume of the fermentation and it could lower your fermentation temperature by five or ten degrees. But really it is primarily around getting oxygen into that ferment.
So your choice of cap management technique is really a function of the style of wine you want to create. If you want to create a very, very highly extracted wine, very, very dense with significant tannins, great color, submerged cap or a combination technique is often a good choice. If you are looking for more reserve, more traditional style of wine, a punch down is off in the right choice.
For certain varietals such as let say a pinot noir, it is traditionally a punch down technique to get extraction because the skins are so thin in pinot noir you can actually get a comfortable extraction with the punch down as a submerged cap so there is really no right answer. There are other variables such as what you use enzymes in a level of heat in your fermentation. That also has a huge impact on your ultimate extraction. So let us get back to become a tricky issue, a philosophical issue and something you should always talk about with when your winemaker is involved.