When to press red wine
When making red wine from grapes, you crush the grapes then ferment them. You leave the skins and pulp in the fermenting wine, for a time, then you press it and leave the solids behind. The amount of time will vary according to the style of wine you’re making. Three or four days, will yield a light bodied wine. A few weeks will yield a tannic, full bodied wine. A good full bodied wine requires top notch fruit, and since I don’t have detailed information on how my grapes were grown I decided to make a medium bodied wine, and pressed after a week.
Here you can see the bladder press I used to press my Merlot.
Using a bladder press
I loaded the fermenting wine, pulp skins and all, into a perforated cylinder. At first, “free run wine” flowed out of the perforations, leaving seeds, pulp and other debris behind. Later, I applied water pressure to inflate a rubber bladder that squeezed the grapes against the sides of the cylinder and “press wine” flowed out. Altogether, I got over eight gallons (30+ liters), which is more than I expected from my 100 lb (45+ kg) of grapes. I was going by the rule of thumb that 100 lb would yield 5 gallons (about 19 liters).
I kept the free run and press wine separate. The carboy on the left, with the orange handle, contains press wine, while the carboy on the right contains free run. It’s still fermenting, and I expect it to finish in another week. Once it starts to clear, I’ll rack into fresh containers for aging. At that point, I’ll have to decide if I want to keep the press and free run separate or combine them.
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