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How do you punch down?

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My dad always did 3 times a day from beginning to the end and pressed once the cap had totally fallen, or at least a puddle of clear wine was at the top. This year in the Willamette Valley was a good sunny and relatively dry one and the fruit came in looking pretty good. The juice was probably as dark as I have ever seen it, our pinot pretty much looked like a syrah. I gave both of my fermentation totes 3 punch downs a day, vigorously until the cap got weaker, then went to twice a day. My reasoning was to not agitate the harsher tannins of the seeds and whatever stems ended up in the must. I am assuming, based on nothing other than a hunch, that most of the fruit characteristics are extracted earlier in the fermentation, you know that phase when it smells amazing before it calms down a bit and is nearing dryness.

My questions are;
What do yall think about the frequency of punch downs?
Am I right in assuming that the later in the fermentation, the harsher and more coarse the components being extracted are?
If it is already dry, do you wait for the cap to completely fall as I described?
 

cmason1957

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I do punch-downs about three times a day, mostly because I work at a home office and I can walk downstairs to the wine area and do one at lunchtime. I don't know if it makes all that much difference if you do two or three.

I have no idea if you are right about the harsher tannins coming out later. I do a small taste pretty much every other day and I haven't ever noticed it being significantly harsher later.

I generally wait until the cap has pretty much fallen, or is really slower in reforming to do my press, generally I am below 1.005, oftentimes below 1.000 when I press.

I seldom worry about how vigorous I am in my punch-downs. Course I don't worry about stems, maybe not the best fruit getting into the mix, if it got picked, put it in the must, adds character. I am generally dealing with hybrid grapes (Norton, Chambourcin, St. Vincent) and only occasionally with vinifera grapes.
 
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