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The life of a winemaker - let's do the magic!

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If you wonder, yes, that's my hand. I always loved the texture and the smell of fresh marc, especially that from red grapes.

The life of a winemaker - part 4

The time of making wine has come... the cellar is where you do the magic and turn a silly fruit into a mystic liquid that can enliven your day, or your life

Let's start from a point: my method of making wine it's really mine, in the sense that it's a mix of old traditions and modern techniques, with the total exclusion of chemistry. As I mentioned in the previous chapter about the vineyard, I've had some hard discussions with professionals of the wine industry, mostly because even if I understand why they do what they do (business wise I mean), I still don't like how it is done and I'm firmly convinced that the real wine is the Bio one... there's a saying I like to use often when talking about this.. I make my wine, I don't manufacture it.

However, by now I'm sure you got how much I'm proud of what I do and how I do it, because as a matter of fact the feed from the people that had the chance to taste my wine (I should be saying wines, considering the huge difference between red and white wine) was generally positive.. sure, the Bio wine always has a slightly acid taste (it's a result of the fermentation process) but it's nothing excessive and usually people got used to the taste just after a half glass of it.. best proof of its success is that people come back to drink it again . Besides, there's an important restaurant close to where I live which is a 2 Stars Michelin and that's focused on bio/natural products.. well they have been pushing me like during the last 5 years to make Bio wine for them, but even if I'm tempted, there's more behind that than the mere adventure and running a business is different from doing it as a hobby (maybe I'll talk more about this in a future chapter).

The cellar.. it's a bit messy these days...

Now.. how does the Dude makes his own wines, then? First, the basics: no chemistry, only mechanical treatment, mostly filtering. The logic is that of sticking with the traditional method, but also taking into account the modern knowledge; mostly I'm referring to the fact that the wine is a "living thing" and because of that it interacts with the environment, basically with oxygen and light. Exposing non-sulfurized wine to such agents in the wrong moment or too often can ruin it permanently and so my logic is to reduce such moments to the minimum.. but let's put down some facts.

RED WINE - In general red wine is stronger than the white one, in the sense that it suffers less from the action of external factors, therefore it's actually easier to make it... there's plenty of "amateur" winemakers that make a reasonably good red wine, and very few that make a passable white one.

A closeup of red grapes marc

Listen to the must "boiling"...

Making of red wine is pretty straight, one has to squeeze the grapes and take the must (essentially the marc together with the "flower", the liquid part of the must that later becomes wine via fermentation) and put them into a fermentation vat. The alcoholic fermentation usually takes 7 to 15 days, depending mostly on ambient and external temperature; after all the sugar has turned into alcohol (there are simple tools to measure the sugar concentration of liquids, manual "meters" similar to thermometers but that actually measure the density of the liquid, the less the density the more alcohol there's inside).
After the alcoholic fermentation the flower is taken and put into a stainless steel barrel, while the marc is further squeezed using a press, to take out the part of the flower that has remained inside (how much one actually squeezes the marc is an important point on the final quality of the wine, and it's less easy than what it might look.. let's say that moderation is the key here). The combined liquid is left inside the stainless steel barrel for about 5-6 weeks, during which the second fermentation (lactic acids) takes place.. this fermentation actually brings the wine to maturity, at the least from the alcoholic point of view.

Once the second fermentation is over, the wine (yes, now it's wine) is filtered using a simple paper filter pump (you can see it in the picture of the cellar) and during the process it is moved to a wooden barrel (american oak, again you can see it in the pic above), where it will remain for about 5-6 months, ageing and receiving extra flavor from the wood. Once this phase is over the wine is taken out and partly put into a stainless steel container which is designed to prevent contact with air and light and partly bottled for further ageing. When we want to drink the wine all that we have to do is to go to that container, open the faucet, and fill one or two bottles

A quick note about bottling: the trick is to use only tick, dark glass bottles and store them into a dark and fresh place; this way even non-sulfurized wine can last long, easily up to 5 years.

WHITE WINE - compared to the red one, the white wine has one less step (no ageing in the wooden barrel) but it's more complex to work with, because a) it's weaker so it's easier to ruin it due to external factors; b) it's much more dirty than the red one (has more suspended solids inside), therefore it needs more filtering (and using thinner filters).

Paper filters used to clean white wine

Look at the pic above, that sort of mud it's what's inside the white flower and it needs to be removed, in various steps.
However, the process of making white wine is similar yet slightly different from the red one. First, the flower does not ferment together with the marc, but rather the must is squeezed directly in the press and the flower is then put into a closed stainless steel vat; there it rests for 48 hours usually, during which a big part of the suspended solids goes down, then by adding a bit (2 to 5 liters) of fermented liquid from the marc (basically, I leave the squeezed white marc into the press for 2-3 days.. inside there is still a part of flower, which will start the fermentation.. so these 2-5 liters have a high concentration of enzymes).. the addition of these liquid will boost the alcoholic fermentation, that can last from 10 to 20 days.

After that, the wine is filtered (see the pic above, this year to filter 250 lt of white wine I had to use a total of 84 filters like those, and it took me almost a full day!) and put in another stainless steel vat for the second fermentation; once again it will last for 5-6 weeks and then the wine is filtered again (using filters with a smaller micron) and moved to it's last dwelling, another special stainless steel container designed to store it, and partly bottled for ageing.

There would be other details to discuss and present, but I guess that less or more you have got what's the general procedure.. all in all I spend about 80-100 hours per year in the cellar working on the wine, it's mostly time you spend waiting, but it's still time you cannot use to do something else because you have to watch that everything is going the right way!

See you in the next chapter, which will probably be around December, once the white wine will be ready for drinking...


  1. Mhaedros's Avatar
    This series is inspiring and fascinating, thanks for the glimpses into winemaking, even if I would prefer a taste rather than a glimpse!
  2. Flinn's Avatar
    Lol Mhae, my brother, as I said to King Athelstan in a previous chapter, if you want to taste my wine, you ought to come to visit me.. that's the cons of producing bio wine, it's never good for being shipped around the world

    however, there would be much more to add about the technicalities of making wine, though I know they will result a boring argument to follow.. heck making wine is about smells, tastes and feelings, but unfortunately this is something I cannot show you well in a blog
  3. Flinn's Avatar