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When in 1939, Rhett Butler quoted the memorable “how fickle is woman…” he obviously did not have any idea how complex consumers can be…But if one thing is true about consumers, it is the fact that they demand top quality for no dollars!

What does the consumer want? I reckon 99% of consumers want drinkability in what ever they may take from the shelve. And “drinkability” is one of those abstract terms with so many meanings and definitions. For me drinkability is a function of how well the winemaker interpreted the phenolic personality of a given block (or cultivar), and how the processing dynamics were being managed early in the life of the wine to obtain a wine which has loads of fruit, and soft and subtle tannins which are protected by complexing factors such as mannoproteins and colloids.

There are numerous ways to achieve this, and we know what important role oxygen plays not only in achieving this, but also in increasing the viability of yeasts and getting rid of bad flavours like H2S.  Various winemakers have experience with a number of cap management regimes, but in most instances various levels of oxygen is incorporated in the process. Obviously different strokes for different blokes.

Pulsair is one of these techniques. I stumbled upon this technology at an exhibition almost six years ago. More recently I saw fixed installations and even handheld units at various cellars in Australia. Yalumba has a fixed system on most of their red fermentation tanks.

How does it work?  It works on the sequential release of compressed air or gas at the bottom of a tank for the purpose of creating circulation and mixing. Measured amounts of high pressure air are injected under flat round discs called accumulator plates installed on the tank bottom. It looks just like a creepy crawly. These released bubbles become bigger as they rise to the surface, and bubbles through the cap mixing the fermenting must very efficiently with the pomace.

The result? Soft luscious wines with loads of fruit.

I think winemakers should think a bit more out of the box when it comes to buying expensive oak barrels, and perhaps think more about savings down stream.  The clever application of simple technology can certainly swing the bottom-line.

See pulsair in action on YouTube

Pulsair cap management

Pulsair red winemaking

Bertus Fourie is a winemaker, turned Enology lecturer and creator of the Barista coffee Pinotage.

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