how do we do it?
the making of red wine
we’ll explain step-by-step how we work with and care for our grapes, musts and wines
1) controlling ripeness on the vine
From the point of veraison (the onset of ripening), we visit the vineyards daily to assess the ripening process by measuring several parameters (potential alcohol, density, acidity) and determine the optimal harvest time.
2) the harvest
Harvest time is critical; besides the maturity and phytosanitary state of the grapes, we need to be aware of other factors such as the weather forecast. Harvest is always manual, using 18-20 kg crates.
3) transportation to the winery, weighing and cooling
Transportation from the vineyard to the winery is done using refrigerated vehicles to begin cooling the grapes. Before entering the winery, the grapes are weighed and taken to our cooling room for 6-12 hours to ensure the grapes are as cool as possible for tanking. This prevents fermentation from starting early, allowing us to perform a pre-fermentation maceration where primary aromas are developed.
4) hand-sorting table
Leaves and underripe or damaged berries are removed. Although we do a first pass in the vineyard, there’s always the need to sort again before vatting.
5) destemming, crushing and vatting
This step consists of separating the grapes from the stems and passing the grapes through a mechanism where they’re broken and begin to release must. Throughout, the grapes and must are protected using inert gas to prevent oxidation. Peristaltic pumps are used to move the grapes and must to stainless steel, temperature-controlled vats.
6) cold, pre-fermentation
The wine undergoes cold pre-fermentation maceration for 36-48 hours at 6-8ºC. This is a necessary step in order to develop the primary aromas and flavours, which are unique to each grape variety. After the desired time at 6-8ºC, we reduce the amount of cooling so that the temperature rises to 20-22ºC over 4 to 5 days. During this time, the wine is punched down daily to prevent the top from drying out.
7) spontaneous alcoholic fermentation
In this step, wild yeasts work to convert sugar into alcohol. The process can last between 9-13 days, during which CO2
and heat is produced. The temperature-controlled vats prevent the temperature from going above 21-22ºC. The carbon
dioxide gas that is produced promotes a stratification of materials within the tank, with the must sinking to the bottom
while the skins float to the top and form a layer called the “cap”. During this time, it’s vitally important to perform
4-5 remontages (pumping over) each day during the first phase (5-6 days) which the yeast is most active, and 2-3 times a
day until the wine is devatted. The remontages consist of taking the liquid from the bottom of the vat and pumping it
over the cap. This is done for three reasons:
a. Oxygenate the yeast to keep it active.
b. Extract anthocyanin from the skin to give the wine colour.
c. Keep the cap from drying out and prevent acetic bacteria from establishing.
Once all the sugar has been converted to alcohol, the wine is considered ‘dry’ and the must (which is now wine) is separated from the solids. The wine, which is removed from the tank via gravity, is called free-run wine and is usually light and fruity.
9) pressing and coupage
Once the free-run wine is removed, the remaining solids are pressed in a vertical hydraulic press, producing a more colourful and astringent wine. This is called pressed wine. The free-run and pressed wine are mixed in appropriate portions (coupage) to conserve fruitiness, while augmenting colour and structure.
10) racking and malolactic fermentation
The resulting wine has a high level of suspended solids. It is allowed to rest for about 2 months, during which time it is racked for filtering 2 or 3 times which allows malolactic fermentation to complete as cleanly as possible and avoid any unwanted odours in the future. Malolactic fermentation is the second fermentation that the wine is subject to. Malolactic acid (astringent and harsh in the mouth) is converted to lactic acid (unctuous and rich) through lactic bacteria activity. These bacteria develop in an oxygen-free environment at a controlled temperature of 17-21ºC. The whole process lasts about a month in proper conditions. Depending on the desired structure, some wines undergo malolactic fermentation in oak casks, while others use stainless steel vats.
11) racking and aging
After malolactic fermentation, it is very important to perform a racking, which leaves behind the solid material (lees) that precipitated during malolactic fermentation. Afterwards, the wine begins the aging process, usually in French and American oak, which lasts a time period according to the wine structure and desired finished product (for example La Zorra Original ages for 10-12 months).
The barrels which will make up a specific wine are determined, and they are mixed for homogeneity.
Just before bottling, the wine is passed through a layered cellulose filter to remove any impurities.
After filtering, the wine arrives at our bottler, where the bottles are filled and corked in an inert gas, low pressure environment which counteracts the pressure that the cork imparts upon the wine.
15) cage resting
After bottling, the bottles are stored in cages where they sit for 2 or 3 weeks on end. Next, the cages are tipped so the bottles are lying flat (ensuring the cork remains wet) for the time required for the flavours in the wine to integrate and round out. The amount of time required depends on the time that the wine has spent in barrel. La Zorra Original requires 6-8 months of rest before it is released to market.
16) cage turning, labelling and packing
This is the last step before leaving the winery. First, the cage is turned to return the wine to an upright position, then the bottles are cleaned, labelled, capsuled and packed into boxes.
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