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Or Pump It!

The alternative to the punchdown technique I discussed last week is what we call the pumpover. If the cap is too thick to punchdown by hand or the winemaker thinks that the fermenting wine needs to be more thoroughly mixed, we use this method. We have a large hydraulic “foot” that attaches to our forklift that we can use to punchdown the large stainless steel tanks but for the most part we perform pumpovers on the tanks.


A cylindrical stainless steel strainer is inserted through the cap at the top of the container. This can be really difficult sometimes if the skins are too compacted. As soon as the strainer breaks through, the juice comes bubbling up to the top. Then one end of a hose is inserted into the strainer, which is long enough so that the hose can reach the liquid well below the cap. Using one of our powerful compressed air pumps we pump the juice over the top of the cap evenly for about 15 minutes – hence the name. This way the skins stay wet and the must at the bottom of the vat is able to come in contact with the skins. This adds enough oxygen to the must for the yeast to survive, stay happy, and do their job. Occasionally the juice gets sucked out of one area and the strainer needs to be moved around.


Pumpovers are much easier to do than punchdowns. The downside is that the pump must be cleaned between each pumpover. The foot that is used for punchdowns is easy to rinse and spray down with alcohol. But the pump must be taken apart, the remaining wine drained out of the machine and the hoses, then added back to the tank (only about half gallon, but it adds up after several weeks). Then the pump is reassembled and a proxy solution is circulated through it, then a citric acid solution and finally water. Once again it must be taken apart, and the hoses drained. Finally it is reassembled for use on the next tank. After doing this about a hundred times you get very fast at it but it still can take longer to clean the pump than it does to actually use it!


Personally I like doing pumpovers better than doing punchdowns just because the risk of falling in the bin and ruining the wine is stressful. So far we’ve covered sorting the fruit and one aspect of the primary fermentation process. The journey continues next week on!

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