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Pressing Questions: Q&A with Winemaker, John Musto

Pressing Questions: Q&A with Winemaker, John Musto

Published on: Mar 17, 2022

Our winemaker John Musto recently sat down with Winemaker Magazine to discuss Drive's approach to pressing and our experiences as both professional and home winemakers.

What type/size press do you use?
  • We currently use a 50hL pneumatic, bladder press for most of our wine production. We continue to use a small basket press for experimental lots. 

What does your pressing procedure look like, and does it vary by varietal or style of wine the grapes are being pressed for?
  • We run a programmed press run, which is a bit different for our reds versus our rosé and white wines. For reds, the program starts by allowing free-run juice through, eventually assisting by tumbling the lot. Once this cycle is complete, we slowly ramp up pressure in increments of 0.2 bar, tumbling between each cycle. We are tasting throughout, waiting until the completion of each cycle to decide if the recently pressed wine will be included and pumped to tank. We will press a typical red lot until 0.8/1.0 bar depending mainly on taste, but also based on how familiar we are with the vineyard site, our anticipated oak regiment, and the varietal. Our rosé/white process is similar, but dealing with whole clusters and looking to produce a lighter style of wine, we use a slightly different program that runs lighter press cycles. We typically run this program up to 0.4/0.6 bar. With both our red and rosé/white programs, we are able to run the press manually, if we decide we are happy with the wine at a specific pressure level, we can run multiple pressings at that specific pressure. 

Do you separate the free run and pressed juice for all of your wines? What’s the benefit of this and what are the different characteristics that can be expected in doing this?
  • Originally, we kept our free run and press lot separately, but we quickly realized blended wine helped develop a more complete and balanced wine than the separated lots. As a result, we now taste throughout the pressing, especially as pressure increases and make a decision as to whether this will be included with our final blend. This allows us to ensure that no overly tannic or astringent wine makes it into our blend as later pressing will eventually bring in astringency from the pips. Blending the wine early on allows us to bring individual elements together to develop a balance of fruit and structure before elevage. There are obvious logistical benefits to keeping the lot homogenized as well. 

Assuming you separate press cuts also, how do you determine at what fractions?
  • While we don’t keep the lots separate, our evaluative decisions are typically made during the free run, 0.2, 0.4, 0.6, 0.8, and 1.0 bar pressings. As we work with specific vineyards and lots with more frequency we develop a better understanding of where we intend to press until. 

What’s the purpose of separating press cuts in your winery?
  • We do not separate out our press lots for different wines. We find that we prefer blending the different lots during the press process. We specifically like the added structure that later pressings add to our red wines. We find that our free-run juice on its own will miss this added structure, especially in the mid-palate. 

Do you whole cluster press any of your grapes? Why/why not?
  • We whole-cluster press our rosé and white wines (while we haven’t made a white yet, we’re hopeful 2022 will be the year!), to give them a lightness and freshness. Our style has always been to make lighter, acid-driven rosé and whole cluster pressing within hours of the pick allows us to accomplish this. Looking forward, we may implement some light foot treading to add color and body to our whites/rosés, but we very much like the clean style that results from the vin gris method of rosé production.

Would your advice for a home winemaker on a basket press or small bladder press differ in how you approach pressing on a larger scale?
  • It’s not all that different, the most important part of pressing is to constantly taste and evaluate the wines. With anything in winemaking, the more you’ve tasted, the better you understand what to look for in the wine. This is true of 20 pounds of must in a basket press or 5 tons in a pneumatic press. It’s also important to understand that a basket press will build up more pressure than a bladder press will, so the evaluative step is even more critical in ensuring any undesireable pressed wine doesn’t make it into your final blend.

What other pressing-related tips could you offer for home winemakers?
  • Tasting/Evaluating - Tasting throughout and making notes will help you during the press cycle as much as any stage in winemaking. Evaluative decisions made at the press may ultimately have the biggest impact on the final wine (with pick timing as a possible exception). This will also help to be a barometer for future pressings, especially if working with the same lots. When tasting, be sure to observe flavor profile, structure (looking out for astringency),color, acid, residual sugar. 
  • Cleaning and sanitation - wood is porous so it’s less than ideal from a sanitation perspective, ensure that you are keeping an organized cleaning and sanitation program, making sure the press is dry when you place it into storage. 

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