3:00 AM Punchdown – Not Very Romantic

Candle light and a barrel room provide a romantic setting.

Some people associate wine and winemaking with romanticism. It is not difficult to imagine why a romantic vision is painted on people’s minds. Picture a candlelit barrel room. A small table with white linen has two red wine glasses with a dark ruby colored red wine. A single lit candle is on the table. Filled wine barrels surround the table and chairs for two. This is a romantic setting. However, winemaking is not very romantic especially at 3:00 AM.

When we first made a barrel of wine at Tin Lizzie Wineworks in Clarksville, Maryland we wanted to become fully involved with the day-to-day winemaking tasks. Our first activity at the winery was to get on our hands and knees and scrub the floor. Later, once the floor dried, we painted it. This was not at all romantic. However, we enjoyed being a part of the total winemaking experience. Someone has said that more time is spent extensively cleaning at a winery than in actually producing the wine.

More recently, I am fermenting Rkatsiteli grapes in a buried qvevri. I did use a commercial yeast. The fermentation took off and there was quite a bit of foam. The cap formed at the top of the qvevri and I had to punch down every three hours so that grapes and juice/wine would not spill out of the qvevri. That meant punching down at 12:00 AM, 3:00 AM and 6:00 AM as well as throughout the day.  Getting up in the middle of the night to punch down the cap is not an example of a romantic setting. It was quiet and peaceful though, but not romantic.

I needed to punch down the cap every three hours.

When it comes to winemaking, I spend most of my time cleaning and sanitizing. Another practice that is not romantic. The tool we use to punch the cap down has to be cleaned after a punchdown and sanitized before the next punchdown. Potassium metabisulfite, used to sanitize, is not romantic. Neither is washing and cleaning in the middle of the night. Then, using a paper towel sprayed with potassium metabisulfite, I wipe down the top lip of the qvevri.

There is no doubt that wine certainly has its place in romantic notions. Winemaking is not part of that romantic thought. At 3:00 AM, thought centers on getting the task finished and getting back to bed.


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