Gravity flow winemaking is a practice that is becoming well recognized by wine makers and vino fanatics. The process in gravity flow winemaking (also known as gravity fed), allows for the wine to stream from winery levels. Unlike traditional one-level cellars there is no use of pumps or mechanical force, enabling the wine to gently extract colour, flavour and tannin.
Although gravity flow seems to be a new discussion in the wine world, the process has actually been around since the 1800s and is a highlight of Australian winemaking history. In 1888, Seppeltsfield Estate in the famous Barossa Valley used gravity flow for almost 100 years. By 2010, the winery was remodeled with a million dollar investment to include top of the line industry equipment.
This month, WineCollective is featuring Lynmar Estate’s 2009 Russian River Valley Pinot Noir in our Indulgence package. Winemaker Shane Finley says that the Californian estate has used gravity flow since 2006, “when the winery and caves were completed.” Although Finley says that the process allows for minimal oxidation and delicate handling of the wine, he admits that the process is not for everyone. “It is time consuming and more labour intensive. The winery need to be built in a specific way,” says Finley.
The typical gravity flow winery is compromised of four levels that follow regular winemaking steps. However, each stage is separated onto different floor levels, allowing gravity to move the wine from crushing to cellaring.
Clusters of grapes are brought by forklift to the top floor of the winery where they are destemmed and crushed. The juice from the grapes slides beneath to fermentation barrels through hoses that connect each level.
Regular fermentation takes place where natural or added yeasts turn into grape juice in alcohol. Lynmar Estate is equipped with “the most modern winemaking equipment including double-jacketed fermentation tanks,” which allows for temperature control. Wine is then pressed and flowed to the next level.
Wine is drained into barrels in the cellar to age. At Lynmar, wine is moved to “The Cave,” a 9,000 sq ft cellar that can set temperature to 11°C and control humidity.
Bottling the wine typically uses nitrogen to push finished wine into bottles. However, finishing touches vary according to the wineries filtering, fining and settling choices.
Gravity flow winemaking is without a doubt a more gentle way of handling wine at every stage. Lynmar Estate says they operate from a “dream winery,” which appears to be a common belief of gravity flow wine makers from Calera or Denner Vineyards.