A Grape’s Journey: In the Lagar

Filling and Treading

When the bunches roll off the end of the selection carpet they fall into the crusher below, where the stems are removed and the berries are crushed.  The crushed grapes and released juice are then pumped to the lagar that is being filled.

Each lagar has its own Ficha de Fermentação (Fermentation sheet) which is a register or record of all the information from the time the first grapes enter it to the time it is settled in its tank for the winter with all corrections done.  In a sense it’s the final wine’s DNA.

As the lagar is filled this information includes: the number of the fermentation; the number of the lagar being filled; the date and time the first and last grapes enter the lagar; the grape variety(ies), the parcel(s) and respective Kilos; and the total Kilos in the lagar.

Ideally the lagar is filled during the day, and our lagares at Malvedos take approx 11.000Kg each.  That same night after dinner it is trodden for a minimum of 4 hours.  The next morning the fermentation has started and we begin cap plunging to extract colour and continue this throughout the fermentation.  Once the lagar is nearing it fortification time we empty the wine out of the lagar, by tipping it up and opening a trap door on one side.  The wine and cap fall into a hopper equipped with an Archimedes screw which moves the mass out of the hopper and through a pipe down to another fermentation tank in the lower part of the winery where it will finish the fermentation.  The reason I do this is to always have an open lagar and treading capacity in the upper part of the winery for all the grapes we receive, as the treading is absolutely fundamental to the quality of the wines we produce at Malvedos.

Fermentation and Fortification

Throughout the fermentation I control the temperature of the lagar by means of the water jackets in its walls and treading pistons, so as to end at 29-30ºc when we add the grape brandy.

We register all Baumé and temperature readings during the fermentation period, from the first one which is used to estimate the time of fortification and the amount of grape brandy to be added, to the last one just before fortification.  Initially we take readings every 4 hours, as the fermentation progresses hour by hour, and just prior to fortification we check every 15 minutes so that we fortify at exactly the right time – when the wine is at the desired baumé –  be it a 3 in the morning or 3 in the afternoon!

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4 thoughts on “A Grape’s Journey: In the Lagar

  1. Hi,
    From the text and pictures above, I get the impression that the cap also goes down into the fortification tank, is this correct? If so, how do you remove the solids when the wine goes into the storage vats?

    1. Anders, thanks for your interest. The wine and cap altogether move from the lagar into another fermentation tank in the lower level of the winery – this way we have the lagar free to receive and tread the next lot of incoming grapes. In the fermentation tank downstairs, the wine completes its fermentation to the point where we want to fortify. We then run off the liquid into another tank for mixing with the aguardente, and the cap will be separated and put through a press. So, what goes into the toneis or vats for storage over the winter is only the young, fortified port. Press wines may or may not be blended back into the main batch of wine, in full or in part, at the discretion of the winemaker for each lot of wine. Hope this helps!

  2. Cynthia, thanks for the reply. Just a completing question: for how long do the grapes (and must) stay in the lagares and the fermentation tanks, respectively? I saw Paul wrote in an earlier post that the fermentation time for port wines is 36 hours. Is this including the time in the tanks?
    I am giving a lesson about fortified wines tonight, thus the interest in details.

    1. Hi Anders, Answer is it depends on variables such as ambient temperature, starting baumé, progress of fermentation. 36 hours is good guideline, but it can go up to 48 sometimes, nothing is hard and fast. I just realised time stamp of your query, apologies for missing your deadline. Fastest if you contact us at blogadmin at grahams-port dot com directly if you need more info in future, happy to help.

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