With an average production of 600 000 litres between the two vineyards, the method of vinification is a combination of traditional and modern techniques.
For you to fully appreciate our wines we want to share with you the "secrets" behind our rigorous production process. From the vine to the bottle every stage of production follows an unwavering emphasis on quality so that only the best final product reaches you.
In order to make fine wine, grapes must be harvested at the precise time, when physiologically ripe. Before we give the green light for one variety, we select in the 10-15 days prior to harvesting up to 2,000 individual grapes from different bunches and locations. These go into the cellar and a combination of science and old-fashioned tasting determines the right time to harvest. We choose to harvest manually, whereby our specialized team will select only the best bunches. This can be an effective first line of defence to prevent inferior quality fruit entering the cellar: “You can make a bad wine from good grapes, but not a good wine from bad grapes”.
Each handpicked bunch of grapes is placed in a single layer in small 10kg boxes. Contrary to the use of larger harvest containers or in machinery harvests, this method prevents excess pressure on the grapes. We can then avoid damage on the skin, which might start unwanted fermentation. This is one of the important quality procedures which can be expected in a small boutique winery.
Transport to the cellar to cool
The boxes of grapes are transported to the cellar. They are processed the day after the harvest. They are put into our cooling chambers as quickly as possible to prevent any unwanted fermentation of the grapes which might have been slightly stressed during the hand picking stage. Processing cooled grapes affects the overall quality of the wine so this is another important step of production if superior wine is the end goal.
While we try to achieve perfection in the vineyard, grapes are nevertheless a natural product. That is why, after the cooling period and before processing, they undergo another strict selection process. First the boxes of grapes are emptied into a vibrating tray, which forces any small particles to release. It then drops the grapes onto a conveyor belt, where our team removes damaged or eventually unripe grapes and leaves, as these could cause unwanted tastes if processed together with the healthy grapes.
Separation of grapes from bunches
A lift mechanism takes the quality controlled grapes to a destemming and crushing machine, which separates the grapes from the stems. This is a very important procedure as the stems contain unwanted tannins which we prevent from entering the must. At the same time two rollers gently squeeze the grapes, breaking the skins to start liberating their contents, known as must.
Extraction of the must by gravity
(white and rosé wines)
Up to destemming the steps for making white wine and red wine are essentially the same. At this stage of production white wine grapes go through the must extraction process, which happens in a huge bladder press. It fills with air, pressing the contents gently and evenly, with gradually increasing pressure. We control the pressing impact ensuring a sensible treatment of the grapes. The grapes are pressed in order to separate the must from the skins, seeds, and solids. By doing so unwanted colour (which comes from the skin of the grape) and tannins cannot leak into the white wine. For rose wine this process lasts approximately 2 hours, enough time to extract the desired colour.
Maceration (red wines)
Red wine grapes are pumped straight into vessels to macerate for 3-4 days at a controlled temperature of 12°C. This process helps the must garner colour, flavour, and additional tannins. There are two ways to perform this procedure: one in the open fermentation vessels where a large stamp breaks the skin and pushes the pulp into the must and another one in the larger vessels, where a pump extracts the must and pumps it back in on top, gradually mixing the content. This last method is called reassembly.
Decantation (white and rose wines)
After the must extraction process, the must is decanted over 2 days, be it for white or rose wine. At this stage the bigger particles settle at the bottom of the liquid, transforming the cloudy must into translucent must.
At this stage activated dried yeast is added to the must. Yeast in winemaking is the most important element that distinguishes wine from grape juice. In the absence of oxygen yeast converts the sugars of wine grapes into alcohol through the process of fermentation.
Temperature controlled fermentation
This process can last anywhere between 15-20 days depending on the grape variety. The temperature of the must during fermentation process significantly influences the quality of the wine. That is why both the peak temperature and the average temperature are controlled through cooling tubes which are integrated in the stainless steel vessels.
“Running off” (red wines)
After fermentation has reached the desired result, namely converting most of the sugars into alcohol (some of the original sugar of the grapes remains), the liquid has been transformed from grape juice to young wine. Now it is drained from the bottom of the stainless steel vessel, dragging the skins and seeds, which were flowing on top of the liquid, to the bottom of the vessel. This leftover matter is then forwarded to the press to extract very carefully the last remnants of liquid, aromas and colour.
Storage in stainless steel or wood
Once filtered and cleaned from the remains of seeds and skins, the wine enters into the first stages of the maturation process for which it will be stored in either stainless steel vessels or in wooden barrels. This stage once again distinguishes quality from mass production. Red wines, which undergo a longer maturation process, develop best in combination with wood, affecting its flavour, colour, tannin profile and texture. This maturation and transformation process can happen in 100.000 L stainless steel vessels or in 225 L French oak barrels. The cost impact per litre of wine may vary from £0.01 in industrial production up to £2 in boutique wineries depending on the type of wood and treatment. Be ensured, the wine differs not only significantly in costs but also in quality! We use three quality levels of French oak, for up to a maximum of three years.
Malolactic fermentation (red wines)
Once inside the chosen vessels, the wine is left to undergo malolactic fermentation, a process in which harsh-tasting malic acid, naturally present in grape must, is converted to softer-tasting lactic acid. This tends to create a rounder, fuller mouthfeel and add complexity to the flavour and aroma of the wine.
To monitor the progress and/or completion of a malolactic fermentation, we use a malolactic chromatography test kit. Sample wine is spotted onto a special piece of paper which is rolled into a cylinder and placed standing into a small amount of a developing solution. Over the next 2 hours the solution moves up the paper and carries the acids in the wine sample up with it. Once finished, the paper is removed from the solution and allowed to dry. As it dries, the paper turns blue/green and the acid spots show yellow. We read the chromatography test by the presence and size of the malic acid spot as it relates to the lactic spot.
Batonnage (white wines)
After fermentation, whilst most of the white wine is put into stainless steel vessels. Inactive yeast cells known as lees settle as a sediment at the bottom of the vessel. Lees release all sorts of compounds which interact with the wine creating complexity, aroma and flavour. They also absorb oxygen, reducing the risk of any unwanted oxidation of the wine. By performing "batonnage" (stirring the lees), during the time the wine is being aged, helps redistribute all the positive compounds into the wine, making sure all the wine comes into contact with them. Small quantities of selected wines, in this case Verdelho and Antão Vaz will be introduced into French oak barrels for a short maturation process and afterwards before bottling transferred for resting in stainless steel vessels as well.
Tartaric stabilization (white and rosé wines)
Tartaric acid and potassium are natural components of grapes. When the two bind together, under chilly conditions, they form little potassium crystals, which then would settle at the bottom of the bottle. They are completely harmless, odourless and undetectable on the palate. The problem, of course, is with appearances. To ensure no crystals are found in the final bottled wine, cold stabilization is performed. For about one month, the stainless steel vessels with the wine are plunged to near-freezing to force the crystals to form. The crystals stick to the sides of the vessel, and when the wine is then removed, the crystals remain behind and can thereby not enter during the bottling process. Laboratory tests confirm whether tartaric stabilization has been achieved. This is not a common procedure for red wines as they are kept at relatively warm temperatures, meaning the crystals do not form.
In wine tasting, a wine is considered "clear" when there are no visible particles suspended in the liquid, especially in the case of white wines. A wine with too much suspended matter will appear cloudy and dull, even if its aroma and flavour are unaffected. Filtration removes yeast and grape or fruit debris from the wine. This not only renders the wine instantly clear, it also makes the wine more stable because yeast or bacteria that could feed off residual sugar have been removed. This process works by passing the wine through a filter medium that captures particles larger than the medium's holes. Complete filtration may require a series of filtering through progressively finer filters. Many white wines require the removal of all potentially active yeast and/or lactic acid bacteria if they are to remain reliably stable in the bottle. There are many materials that can be used to filter wine, we use perlite, a mineral of volcanic origin. Perlite particles present a maze of microscopic pathways that adsorb the small particles. A filter then catches these “clusters” of particles and we achieve a clean wine.
Apart from our mono varietals, we blend wines from different grape varieties as this creates perfect matches, giving the right structure, aroma and flavour in a single bottle.
When it's time for the bottling process we prepare the wine to be preserved and prevent unwanted fermentation in the bottle. Whilst the wine is pumped directly from the vessels to the bottling machine, it undergoes one last filtration. In the meantime the wine bottles are thoroughly washed and nitrogen gas is used to sterilize them and displace the oxygen to avoid oxidation. Next the wine is filled into the clean bottles to about 1cm below the point where the bottom of the cork will be. The bottles are then promptly corked with either natural or agglomerate corks. The white and rose wines go straight to be labelled and corked, the red wines go to the cellar for further ageing.
Ageing in the bottle
The aging of wine is important as it improves the quality of wine. Complex chemical reactions involving a wine's sugars, acids and phenolic compounds (such as tannins) alter the aroma, colour, mouthfeel and taste of the wine. It is a natural and gradual process which should be given to wines to develop their best potential. For whites it is sufficient to mature in stainless steel vessels or with some exceptional wines in wooden barrels, but red wines need further aging in the bottle. We take our red wines to age in the bottle in our temperature-controlled underground cellar for anything between 6 months and 2 years. Once properly aged they get labelled and released on the market.