As you know I make a red wine for my brand, Orr Grenache. In 2016 and 2017, in an effort to keep it cuckoo, we destemmed about 100pounds of Syrah by hand with little dinky scissors. This ended up being co-fermented with 1.7 tons (3500 pounds) of Grenache which had been mechanically destemmed like normal. The resulting wines are out on the market now called Orr Columbia Valley Grenache (98% Grenache 2% Syrah).
The idea is that the berry is kept intact so it undergoes partial carbonic maceration - the plant-mediated enzymatic breakdown of glucose into carbon dioxide, ethanol and some unique high toned aroma compounds. The interior of the berry is sterile but after a while the grape skin is compromised by the ethanol of the must or it is physically damaged in the process of punching down and the contents of the berry are released into the fermentation where the traditional microbes do their thing. Despite my training in controlled experimental design, I had to go all or nothin here, and there is no non-hand-destemmed-with-scissors control to compare to in 2016 or 2017.
It’s a cool story and I like that Maggie Harrison from Antica Terra does this for one of her Lilian Syrahs and Jean-Francois Ganevat of the Jura, France supposedly does this for 100% of his J’en veux cuvee … but at the end of the day it is insane too much work. For what it’s worth, I moved away from this technique with the 2018 red wine - it was too hectic when the 18 Syrah was ready to pick and I didn’t have the bandwidth to spend all day long roping my dad and winemaking amigos into this ridiculous endeavor. Don’t worry I still kept it cuckoo in 2018, just in different ways. Stay tuned….