First time - the old fashioned way

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Oct 9, 2009
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I live in a tiny village in central portugal where every house makes its own wine from home grown grapes - without sugar, yeast of sulfides. No measuring for density, gravity or sugars, no gadgets of any kind.

I'm basically following neighbours techniques except that my batch is a 10th of the size of theirs and I'm using the rarer grape of this area (because the common grape is actually rootstock and tastes like pig's blood - it's called vinho americano btw).

I don't know what this "rarer variety" actually is because the neighbours call it 'tinta' ie, red.

I'm foot mashing - 10 minutes/day for a week and then "racking" as you say. They only rack once here, but now I'm thinking I might rough strain once, wait a week and then muslin strain the second time...

Any advice? Hints for a blind sailor flying random in the dark in unchartered space and time???
We typically rack quitea few times but some of us are also entering our wines in competitions in which clarity is a must. There isnt really anything I can tell you since you are doing it in a matter that requires no tools or #'s. All I can add is while trying to get it started fermenting try and keep the temp of the must arounf mid 70* F.
Fortunately the daytime outside temp is exactly that and in few weeks will drop to 65F. Basically open the doors of the adega during the day and shut them to keep the warmth in at night (stone houses). Night temp outside about 60F, so it's pretty steady down there.

For this first week, the neighbours leave their vats quite exposed to air - and the vats are wider than they are taller. Does the first week (of must fermentation) not matter so much for oxidisation?

Oxidation only really occurs once fermemtation has finished as while its fermenting its making C02 which is heavier then air so forces out any air and yeast need 02 to multiply and become a healthy colony. Do you mean wide open as in no towel or anything to prevent bugs from getting in there? I would cover it with a towel or something, it should be able to breath but also prevent bugs from getting in there.
Funnily enough I already covered it... with a towel! Did another round of foot squashing this afternoon - it's nicely bubbling, nothing too dramatic - think I'll make this a morning routine to "warm up" the wine for the day. It was noticibly not cold on the feet, not warm either (and it's a bit itchy and sticky too once you get going) but quite a pleasant exercise...
I'm a newbee and haven't had the experience of doing any grapes yet.
I love thinking back on the old days. Even though I don't know if I could go back and live in the days before computers and me jumping in my car or on my motorcycle and doing a 1000 miles in one day, I do really think they had some good times.
I look forward to more posts on your wine making using a time honored method.
No more foot mashing!
After yesterday's effort, I woke up in the middle of the night with itchy feet (more than the usual). This morning, major itchyness attack, fierce and unrelenting! Fortunately only on the front of my feet, not underneath or on toes which would be unbearable! Painfully dosed them in vinegar, followed by cream and an antihistamine...
This morning I used gloves and a potato masher on the must instead, nothing too modern ...;)

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