Guest Blog from President & Winemaker, Eric Hickey: To punch or pump?

I am often asked “how do you get so much color LaetitiaVineyard-44 in your Pinot Noir?” As with all things wine, it begins in the vineyard. The techniques we employ with canopy management ensure that the grapes naturally produce a large amount of color compounds in the skins. Our job in the winery is to extract this natural color during the fermentation process. But it’s a tricky process. Here’s why – if you’re not careful, you can beat up the wine, damaging it’s natural aromas or making the wine too tannic and dry. During fermentation all of the skins in the vat float to the top because of the CO2 produced, which gets trapped in the skins and makes them rise to the top, thus separating them from the wine/juice. It’s very important that the wine be put back in contact with the skins so the extraction of all of the good stuff, including color, can make its way into the wine.

DHP-LVW-10-3-08-451-2This extraction process is traditionally done in two ways; 1. Punching down the skins back into the wine 2. Pumping the wine from the bottom of the vat and sprinkling it back through the skins. We employ both methods, but for different reasons. With most of our Pinot Noir we use the “pump over” method. It’s a very gentle process that ensures we get the extraction without beating up the wine. Sort of like how a tea bag steeps in water. But with certain wines such as our Whole Cluster Pinot Noir we use punch down method of extraction. This is because with the Whole Cluster we are looking to be more aggressive moving the stems around in the vat, ensuring we get that classic tobacco and earthiness which is the signature of that wine along with the rich color. Pumping over would not achieve this. So, as you can see both methods have their definite place in the winemaking techniques we employ at Laetitia. Next time you enjoy a bottle of Pinot Noir you may think to yourself “hmm…..was it punched or pumped?”

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