Ahead of vintage this year we upgraded our press to help improve our efficiency and save on labour costs. To put this into context, our two pneumatic basket presses that churned out our previous vintages needed 5 people per day and a 10 hour workday to process 4-5 tonnes of grapes. Heavy manual lifting of the grapes and marc was required at all stages. With our new airbag press and mechanised elevator, we were able to process 5 tonnes per 3 hour cycle of the press, with only half an hour loading time, using only one forklift driver and an additional loading operator, with each press cycle taking only 2.5 hours to complete. Much less work meant we were free to complete other tasks (drink beer) whilst each press cycle was completing.
A huge thanks is owed to Hugh Jones of Humis Vineyard for being a bouncing board for all my queries as we made the leap from our small basket presses to an automatic airbag press and elevator. And of course to Grapeworks Tanium and Winequip for supplying the equipment.
These benefits are just assessing labour, but it's worth mentioning that our press extraction jumped from 60% to 75% for our red wine ferments which this year equated to around 3000L more wine than we'd expect from tonnage processed and with that, increased flavour intensity as well.
A key upside of this new press method is the ability to press fruit for white wines and rosé. To minimise colour extraction with these styles, we press the grape juice directly off the skins (i.e. before fermentation), which, with our old basket presses, was messy and inefficient - resulting in low volumes and more skin colour extraction that was desired. With the bag press and elevator, we've been able to separate the grape juice from the skins much more quickly and efficiently, jumping from around 40% extraction to a higher 60% for hand-picked fruit and resulting in less skin contact, creating brighter, more refreshing whites. You can see the hand-picked Greco grapes being loaded directly into the elevator hopper on the video below.
In 2022, we have released a Greco - a southern Italian white style - and a Grenache Rosé as part of our Democracy! wine series, making great use of our new press. The winery and brewery also worked together to create two natural sparkling Pet Nat wines which have been packaged into cans, which we will write about in more detail in a separate blog. All these wines are vibrant and refreshing, ready to enjoy with this warmer weather - and in the case of the cans, convenient to throw in the esky for summer. Check them out at our store (and displayed below).