RED WINE MAKING
HARVEST AND FIRST FERMENTATION
Every night is however, as cold as the previous one. Subjected to these harsh conditions, how do the grapes react? This fragile balance that makes both the vineyard and the winegrower suffer, gives the grape a special character that will later transfer to the wine. Finally the day comes when the winery officially opens its doors to the crop.
Then, a crazy period full of tension and emotion begins for the winegrowers and our specialists. Within a few days between September and October, the fate of our Young wines, as well as the future of our Crianza and Reserva is decided.
During the harvest, the berries are sorted directly from the vine. Depending on their final destination, bins full of grapes are put into crates, then they are carefully stacked into trucks or trailers to better protect the bunches.
But how can we obtain a good wine out of this mixture?.
The berries are then brought from the vineyard to the winery, vigilantly checked by the specialists and the inspectors of the Regulatory Council from the Designation of Origin, always attentive to the criteria of quality.
Berries that do not have the necessary characteristics will not be a part of the season's wine production. This motivates us to take attentive care of the crop all year long.
Once the crop has arrived at the cellar, we tip it into a receiving hopper where a crusher/de-stemmer will pump the grapes without damaging them to fermentation vats. The crushing consists of breaking the berry's skin and pressing the pulp slightly in order to extract its juice without breaking the pips, which would give a bitter taste to the juice.
The de-stemming consists of separating the berries from the stems that would give herbaceous flavours.
This whole process fills the air with a particular smell: the smell of the harvest, which mixes the sugared and herbaceous smells of the berries and their bunch. A general ambience, with the constant buzzing of hundreds of bees and wasps, faithful to any harvest period.
The mixture of the skin, the pulp, the juice and the pips forms a kind of dough we transfer into stainless steel vats of 40,000 litres. There, through a natural process, it will first transform into juice, then into wine.
To get a red wine, the solid parts of the grape (the skin and the pips) essentially need to keep in contact with the liquid part of the grape (the juice and the pulp) during the first fermentation. The intensity of the wine colour, its aromas and of course, its flavours will mostly depend on this factor.
The elaboration of a wine is nothing but a natural process of maceration and double fermentation. However, natural does not mean this process does not require any control. Apart from the quality of the berries, many factors interfere in the process: the temperature, the yeast contained in the berries…and the wine-maker who controls and improves this process, endowed with knowledge, technique and technology.
The mixture, added with an antiseptic, remains in the vats during 8 to 20 days where it macerates and ferments, increasing its volume. On one hand, the juice takes the colour and flavours of the organic elements contained in the skins and the pips. On the other hand, the natural yeasts present on the skins trigger the alcoholic fermentation, transforming the sugar into alcohol.
During this stage, the citric acid of the grape disappears. The tartaric acid becomes an intrinsic part of the wine, while the third acid contained in the berries, the malic acid, will be one of the essential elements of the second fermentation.
During a period of 8 to 10 days, the alcoholic fermentation releases heat, that if not controlled, could ruin this essential step of winemaking. The vats' temperature, checked through an inside thermometer must be then maintained at 25º to 28ºC.
An ingenious, simple and very effective system allows their constant refrigeration, hosing down the vats with cold water from a top circular hose that acts like a shower on the vats. This exciting and tiring process becomes complicated because simultaneously we must extract the colour from the grape skins to create a red wine. This method is called remontage or pumping over.
As we explained before, the fermentation of sugar generates alcohol on one side, and carbonic gas on the other. This carbonic gas pushes the solid parts of the mixture to float to the top of the vat to form what is called the cap of skins. This cap, which will later be separated from the juice, constitutes a natural protection over the top of the juices. The "remontage" is a method of pumping over the juice from under the cap back over the top of it. This is done by connecting a hose to a tap at the bottom of the vat and then spraying the juice over the cap of skins.
The cap keeps wet which enables the best of the tannins, colour and flavours of these solid elements to be extracted and absorbed into the future wine. Within these 10 to 20 days, each vat will be subjected to remontage for 45 minutes, twice daily. The heat from the fermentation and the carbonic gas phenomenon that moves and pushes the cap to the top of the vat gave rise to the expression "the wine is boiling".
RUNNING OFF, SECOND FERMENTATION AND RACKING
Once the alcoholic fermentation is achieved and its ideal colour obtained, the juice is run off the skins, which means separated from the solid parts to finally become wine.
At Bodegas Viña Vilano, thanks to the gravity system, the running off takes place through our underground vats, covered inside with alimentary resins (epoxy resins), that host the wine coming from the stainless steel vats from the upper level.
Again, we must face a difficult stage, watching carefully that the cap does not go down with the juice. We must as well decide when the precise moment has come to do the running off and in doing so, we determine the fate reserved to every single product, depending on its characteristics. All the wine will not become Crianza, Reserva or Gran Reserva. All of it will not be used as Young wine either.
This laborious step gives every wine a specific stamp, which distinguishes it from other cellars.
These silent, dark and cool (maximum 15ºC) underground vats host the wine that rests there awaiting its second fermentation: the malo-lactic fermentation. As previously explained, during the juice's transformation into wine, it has lost its citric acidity and most of its sugar, whereas the malic and tartaric acids have not disappeared.
The tartaric acid generates the crystal deposits we find in some bottles of red wine. It nevertheless gives the right touch of acidity to the wine. The malic acid, which gives a strong flavour, provokes the second fermentation when it transforms itself through a bacteriological process into lactic acid, making the wine softer and rounder.
This fermentation is not as fast as the first one and can last all winter, risking it to paralysis by the lowering temperatures. At Viña Vilano, once the malo-lactic fermentation is achieved, we rack the wine.
This technique consists in bringing the wine through pipes again to stainless steel vats, leaving its sediments in the underground vats. We will then make sure these do not accompany the wine recently fined thanks to natural albumin.
The tartaric acids are then stabilised in order to avoid the development of the crystal deposits, as mentioned before. The aim of this process is to provoke these deposits before the bottling, which consists of subjecting the wine to a temperature of -5ºC for 10 days in an isotherm vat, before filtering it through fine earth. During each of these stages, our specialists control the characteristics and the quality of the wine.
However, it is only when the Regulatory Council for the Designation of Origin of Ribera del Duero guarantees and certifies its quality than we will bottle it or decide its final destination.
CRIANZA AND RESERVA.
The Crianza, Reserva and Gran Reserva are subject to an ageing process in order to improve their organoleptic characteristics. At Bodegas Viña Vilano, we select them carefully and before they go through this ageing process, they must achieve the high standards of criteria for tannins, colour and aromas.
These selected wines are then transferred into American, French or Central European oak barrels, depending on the character we want to give them. Racking them as frequently as necessary, they rest there the right time to become good Crianza, Reserva or Gran Reserva wines.
The Crianza wine spends a minimum of 12 months in oak barrel before it is bottled, labelled and released into the market. The Reserva wine spends 24 months in oak casks before it is bottled to rest in metal crates for a minimum of another 12 months, in the quiet and dark barrel cellar. It is then prepared as well to be released into the market.
The Gran Reserva bottles will rest a minimum of another 2 years after undergoing the same stages as the Reserva. Viña Vilano does not product these wines every year. The cellar where the barrels and bottles rest is a quiet place isolated from light, noise and temperature variations, which gives it a special atmosphere that mixes humidity, oak and wine aromas.
This is the specific aroma of a winery.