The term crush is used in the wine industry regarding harvest time. No it is not about crushing grapes with your feet like Lucy, at least not for Pinot Noir. The term more closely aligns with the “crush” of activities associated with harvesting, sorting and preparing the fruit for making wine.
The day begins usually at day break in the vineyard after mass quantities of coffee and some stretching. The clusters of grapes at Youngberg Hill Vineyards are handpicked and carried to half ton totes in five gallon buckets. When the buckets are dumped into the totes, there are sorters there to take out any unwanted fruit and debris. Some vineyards will sequence their harvest with lunar phases and even pick at night. We’re not quite there yet.
The totes are trucked to the winery. The totes are transferred onto a conveyor where the fruit is again sorted. During the culling process keen eyes and quick hands remove everything but the best of the fruit. Items removed include infected clusters of fruit, leaves, insects etc. Here is a snap shot of that operation:
After the grapes have been inspected they are lifted by elevator to the destemmer. The destemmer is a stainless steel drum with holes that match the size of the grape berries. Rubber fingers on the inside of the drum move the whole cluster through as the berries fall free and the stems are transported out the opposite end. The stems are usually composted and returned to the vineyard. The berries fall free into a one and a half ton fermenter for the beginning of fermentation. The next photo shows the outflow of grape berries. Notice they are still whole and uncrushed.
That is how we do it at Youngberg Hill. Some operations may choose not to destem the grapes, leaving them as “whole cluster” going into the fermenter. Other operation may move the fruit to stainless steel tanks equipped with glycol jackets for both cooling and heating the fruit.
So as you can tell especially for pinot noir the term “Crush” is a tad confusing. But it is a crushing amount of work that is time critical.
Do you have any entertaining crush stories to share?