Filling and Treading
When the bunches roll off the end of the selection carpet they fall into the crusher below, where the stems are removed and the berries are crushed. The crushed grapes and released juice are then pumped to the lagar that is being filled.
Each lagar has its own Ficha de Fermentação (Fermentation sheet) which is a register or record of all the information from the time the first grapes enter it to the time it is settled in its tank for the winter with all corrections done. In a sense it’s the final wine’s DNA.
As the lagar is filled this information includes: the number of the fermentation; the number of the lagar being filled; the date and time the first and last grapes enter the lagar; the grape variety(ies), the parcel(s) and respective Kilos; and the total Kilos in the lagar.
Ideally the lagar is filled during the day, and our lagares at Malvedos take approx 11.000Kg each. That same night after dinner it is trodden for a minimum of 4 hours. The next morning the fermentation has started and we begin cap plunging to extract colour and continue this throughout the fermentation. Once the lagar is nearing it fortification time we empty the wine out of the lagar, by tipping it up and opening a trap door on one side. The wine and cap fall into a hopper equipped with an Archimedes screw which moves the mass out of the hopper and through a pipe down to another fermentation tank in the lower part of the winery where it will finish the fermentation. The reason I do this is to always have an open lagar and treading capacity in the upper part of the winery for all the grapes we receive, as the treading is absolutely fundamental to the quality of the wines we produce at Malvedos.
Fermentation and Fortification
Throughout the fermentation I control the temperature of the lagar by means of the water jackets in its walls and treading pistons, so as to end at 29-30ºc when we add the grape brandy.
We register all Baumé and temperature readings during the fermentation period, from the first one which is used to estimate the time of fortification and the amount of grape brandy to be added, to the last one just before fortification. Initially we take readings every 4 hours, as the fermentation progresses hour by hour, and just prior to fortification we check every 15 minutes so that we fortify at exactly the right time – when the wine is at the desired baumé – be it a 3 in the morning or 3 in the afternoon!