Tuesday, October 27, 2009


After a 6 day sojurn to Castello di Spannocchia, I returned to Casa Raia to help press the mosto, the cap of seeds and skins left from fermentation. Of the three large vats of "finished" wine, only the Rosso di Montalcino in the large steel tank was ready to press. One 30 hL vat, how long could it take? Apperently a very, very long time.
We began early Thursday morning after the morning remontage of the two vats of Brunello. The vat that was to be pressed was not remontaged as we did not want to disturb the cap. The first step of pressing is much like delastage: we move as much liquid as possible into an empty steel vat. The cap falls (slowly) to the bottom, as the liquid is drained, strained and then pumped into the waiting empty vat.

When the liquid is removed the door in the front of the vat is opened. This is the moment of truth when you find out whether or not you have removed enough of the liquid. Otherwise it can make a huge mess, the wine gets lost to the floor. We removed enough liquid, got a beautiful wall of mosto.

Now that the liquid is out of the vat, its time to remove the mosto from the bottom of the vat with a shovel and pitchfork until it fills up the wooden slatted press on a rolling platform.

The loose cake of mosto is then wheeled under the electronic pnumatic press. The press is capeable of 500 Bar of pressure (One bar is equal to one Kilo of pressure per centimeter).

  We did three presses, the first to a gentle 80 bar. The press is programed to operate at intervals, going very slowly as not to break the grape pips (seeds). When grape seeds are broken they release a very harsh green tannin into the wine. The liquid from the first press is pumped back to join the free run juice (vin de goutte) already inside the previously empty vat.  The first press takes about half an hour, then the the pressure is increased to 120 bar and another half hour passes before the second press can be pumped into the the wine. The third press to 300 bar is emptied into a seperate container to be consumed as "vino sfuzo", bulk wine for drinking right away. Directly translated "sfuzo" means "unpacked".  Then it is time to remove the wooden slats of the press and remove the compressed "cake" of skins and seeds.

This whole process takes a long time and there is lots of waiting around.

This cake needs to be broken up and put into bags to send to the government distillery to make grappa. Alchol production in Italy is very strictly controlled to prevent people from making illegal and dangerous moonshine. A certain percentage of the pressed mosto can be put in the vineyards as fertilizer, but by law, the majority needs to be sent to the distillery. There was lots of cleanup to do, but luckily many hands make for light work.

To empty the vat of mosto this whole process had to be repeated 7 times, taking the whole day into the night. At the end, when it becomes too difficult to remove the mosto on the far end of the vat, I crawled into the vat to get the last of the mosto and then clean the vat.

We finished the day with a liter of wine and a great pasta carbonara, exhausted.


  1. Gabo! I am enjoying reading your posts. Sad to miss the vendemmia this year, but happy that you can be there! Back home in Maine I have some cider fermenting on a much smaller scale - maybe we can share some the next time you are in New England!

  2. Gabe!

    I can't believe I didn't even get to say goodbye to you! How is New York? I hear you want to get back on the land. We are leaving soon and I am already scheming about how I am going to get back.

  3. This pleases me a great deal. Yes, indeed, mi piace! Nice pics and fun to read.

    What are the odds you'll be in Italy in October 2010...? (Just planning ahead!)