Pressing is done and more can be created.
Last weekend, we pressed the must of Cabernet Sauvignon grapes picked a few weeks ago. The wine tastes great and smells lovely. We have just a small basket press and a very hands on process. My family and boyfriend are always kind enough to help me press the wine.
Buckets of the must go into the press, and buckets of wine are poured into the tank, Then we drop the top of the press and apply the pressure to the must. This presses out the wine.
After all the wine is out, the press is full of the skins and seeds of the spent must. This mixture is known as pumice. As it sits in the press it is called a cake of pumice, because it resembles a huge, dense, multilayer, birthday cake. However, you really hope nothing pops out of it and starts singing to you!
Pumice can become a few things, but mostly is it trash. Most wineries add it to the compost piles to go on the field the following spring. It can become animal feed, and there is a donkey in Murphys California who is a great fan of the stuff and has been known to get drunk off of it. -Braying whenever the pumice truck rolls through town. Pumice can go into consumer products as well: spa treatments and grape seed oil. But the second life product of pumice that I like best is Grappa!
Grappa is a liquor. But without wine or pumice, Grappa would not be possible. By combining the pumice, with some sugar and water, a new fermentation can take place. Once this new wine is fermented, it is distilled and the result is Grappa. The liquor tastes of raisins and fiery alcohol. The pumice is the flavoring agent in this process. The sugar you add is the food for the yeast, since the sugar originally in the grapes already went to the first batch of wine that was made.
The lore of Grappa is that it was fermented in crocks near the kitchen fire in old Italian cottages. Through a cool winter, the fire kept the fermentation going. In the spring the wine would be distilled and the result is a lovely aperitif.
The Grappa can be finished by bringing the proof down with spring water, or it may be aged in oak barrels for a year to multiple. If it is aged, it will take on a honey or golden hue. While the Grappa that has not been aged remains clear.
If you have never tried Grappa, I do not suggest starting with your uncle’s homemade variety. That stuff has been known to peal the paint off the wall. But you can pick up a bottle at the store and give it a whirl. Traditionally you drink it in aperitif glasses that only hold about an ounce of liquid and it is consumed before a meal to get your digestive juices flowing.