When I worked in the tasting room at various wineries one of the most asked questions was - how do you actually make red wine? It seems so simple and yet it is so misunderstood. My go-to analogy (along with many other wine professionals) is to explain that it is most similar to steeping a tea bag. Plunge the tea bag up and down in and out of your hot water and before you know it you have extracted all of the color and flavor and are ready to enjoy your beverage.
This concept is exactly how you make red wine. Now let's dive a little deeper.
At Darling Wines, we practice a technique called "whole cluster" fermentation and "stem inclusion". This means we do not remove all of the stems from the berries but we keep the clusters whole and intact to achieve mini-fermentations inside each little berry. This, along with including the stems in the fermentor, brings more depth and complexity to our wines and is a centuries old practice in many wine regions across the world. Instead of having the juice and skins in the fermentor, we add a third element by keeping a portion of stems in the fermentor and extracting another element for our wine.
To take it one step further, when we do whole cluster fermentation we need to break some of the berries and have free juice in the fermentor. To achieve this, we practice another century old tradition - foot treading!
Yes, we plunge our smelly feet into the fermentor to tread the grapes. This breaks a portion of the berries and provides enough juice to do our regular punchdowns (or steeping!) throughout fermentation. We do this for the first few days as fermentation begins, and then we move to regular punchdowns once we have enough juice.