Punching down the Foch

Yesterday I was at Whitecliff Vineyards as they were crushing Chardonnay they received from the vineyard in Hudson NY. While there they did put me to work punching down the cap.  What is punching down the cap?

After red grapes are destemmed they are put into large fermentation containers, yeast is added and fermentation begins. As a result of the carbon dioxide that is produced as the yeast consumes the sugars in the must (juice) the skins and seeds rise to the top. The skins and seeds contribute phenolic compounds to the wine.  Phenolic compounds contributed are color, tannins, structure, and resvertrol.  In order for this contribution to happen the skins and seeds must be in contact with the must.

Punching down the cap happens every 4 to 6 hours or so.  As the wine ferments and the cap gets punched down it gets easier.  The first day or so of the punch down is tough.   When you stick the pitch fork into the cap it’s like cutting trying to get a knife through an ice cream cake you just took out of the freezer.  You punch down in a pattern to get all areas.  As you break through the cap, it does get easier.  As the days go by and the wine ferments the cap does get softer.

Punching down the cap is a great way to build those upper arm muscles!