After the clusters of both red and white grapes are plucked from the vines, (actually they are shook by a large machine until they fall!) they all go through the de-stemmer and that’s where the similarities end between crushing these two grapes. White grapes are pressed with a large bladder and pumped into tanks for fermentation while red grapes must first undergo their punch-down phase before making their way to a fermentation vessel.
Punching down red grapes gives the juice, which later becomes wine, it’s red color. When placed in a vessel like a T-bin (see picture), the skins, seeds and pulp naturally rise to the surface while leaving the juice underneath. The juice is naturally a light green color when detached from the skin. In order to integrate those rich flavors and colors found in the skin of the grape, they must be punched down back into the juice. This will be done several time a day for several days in a row. Once the juice has absorbed the color and richness of the skin and pulp, then the juice is ready to find it’s final resting place inside a barrel or tank for fermentation. Most red wines will age in an oak barrel, but in some cases red wine will age in a stainless steel tank, such as Steepleview and Ridgeview (unoaked red blends). Punching down is a necessary and integral step in the post-harvest winemaking process….and some may argue it is kind of fun to do! Well, that is if you are not doing it everyday like the winemaker….popping in for a quick punch down experience is quite different than flexing your muscles every few hours for days!