Making Wine The Old Fashioned Way In San Rafael, Argentina

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Although the process for wine making was simpler than I thought, the actual physical effort required is far more arduous than I expected.  Imagine being hunched over plucking grapes from vines all day in the hot sun and dragging 50 pound crates of grapes between the vineyards.  Despite the hardship, I didn’t want to miss the opportunity to try it out first hand.

‘Tomorrow Just Happened To Be The Day’

When I inquired about a vineyard for sale sign posted in a local convenience store in San Rafael, Argentina, I was invited by the owner, Gustavo, to come see the farm and help make wine.   Tomorrow just happened to be the day of the year when Gustavo harvests his very own table wine.

Gustavo picked me up early the next morning, stopped to pick up some work gloves and then pulled by his buddy’s place to borrow a hand operated grape grinder.

‘The Tractor Looked Like It Belonged In A Museum’

Upon arrival at his 5 hectare (12-ish acres) vineyard we had to get the tractor up to form.  The tractor looked like it belonged in a museum.  Due to its lack of continuous use, the radiator needed water and the battery had to be re-connected.  Despite the tractor’s rather worn appearance, it ran like a top.

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Next we gathered some plastic crates and threw them into the back of a makeshift flat bed that would be hauled between the vines by the tractor.  Once we arrived at the vines we started pulling bunches of grapes off the vines with gloved hands and tossing them into the crates.

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‘Two Hours And 100 Bottles Of Wine Later’

I was amazed at how many grapes (and thus, how many bottles of wine) can be produced from just one row of vineyards.  On average an acre of vineyards in Argentina can produce 3000 – 5000 bottles of wine.

Within two hours, three of us had harvested over 100 kilos of grapes – roughly equivalent to 100 bottles of wine and a year’s supply of wine for Gustavo and his family.

We lifted the crates full of grapes back to the farm house and poured them into a hand operated grinder, which crushes the grapes into a large barrel lined with a durable plastic bag made especially for wine fermentation.

Afterward we reached into the barrel and tried to pull out the majority of the stems to eliminate a green flavor to the wine. Finally we simply tied up the bag.

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‘Ready For Gustavo’s Dinner Table’

In about a week Gustavo will return to filter the wine using egg whites which act like a sponge to absorb any impurities left in the wine.  The wine is then bottled and ready for Gustavo’s dinner table.

Modern day machines mechanize this process but it was exciting to take part in the home-made version of the wine making process.  Gustavo doesn’t host organized tours, and you’ll have to track down his convenience store in San Rafael if you want to sample his home brew.

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