If you tour an Oklahoma winery near I-40, you may see some of the equipment used to produce delicious wines, such as tanks, pumps, and barrels. One area that has a vital role in winemaking is a “crush pad,” as it is where the process of transforming grapes into wine begins.
There are five primary stages of winemaking: (1) harvesting, (2) crushing and pressing, (3) fermentation, (4) clarification, and (5) aging and bottling. As referenced in its name, crush pads are used during the second step of the process.
The History of Crush Pads
For thousands of years, winemakers would manually crush grapes to prepare the juice for fermentation. When considering this process, the first image to come to mind is likely that of people stomping on grapes in barrels or large vats. The area or platform where this took place became known as a “crush pad.”
Modern Crush Pads at an Oklahoma Winery Near I-35
Due to many advancements in winemaking technology, crushing grapes into pulp and juice is no longer an entirely manual process. Current crush pads can be understood as the part of an Oklahoma winery near I-35 designated for the equipment used to process harvested grapes into wine.
How Are the Grapes Crushed?
After the grapes are harvested, everything is brought to the crush pad. After unwanted materials (like leaves) are removed and the best grape clusters are selected, winemakers move the clusters into a machine to be crushed. There are various types of machinery used for this process; for example, a winery may have a:
- Crusher-destemmer: the equipment crushes the grapes before removing them from the stem.
- Destemmer-crusher: the machine removes the stems from the grapes before crushing them.
- Destemmer-only: the equipment only removes stems, with a different method used for crushing.
These machines vary in size and price. They may also be manually operated or fully motorized. This allows each Oklahoma winery to select the ideal equipment for its needs.
What Happens After the Grapes are Crushed?
Once the grapes are crushed, the resulting mix of juice, skins, and seeds is referred to as a “must.” From this point, the winemaking process slightly diverges based on the type of wine that the Oklahoma winery is making:
- White wine: the must is pressed before fermentation, often shortly after it is crushed. This process separates the juice from all solids, meaning that the wine’s flavor and color are unaffected by the skins and seeds.
- Red wine: the must is fermented as-is, allowing the wine to gain its strong color, flavor, and tannins from the seeds and skins. The must is pressed after fermentation, removing all solids to leave a smooth red wine.
After fermentation and pressing (in either order), the next step is clarification. At this time, leftover pulp, stems, and skins become suspended in the wine, along with any unwanted proteins, tannins, and other phenolic compounds. Once these unwanted materials are filtered out, the red or white wine is bottled and aged until it is ready to be enjoyed.
Interested in Visiting an Oklahoma Winery Near I-40?
While the crush pad is an important part of any winery that produces wine, it is only one of the many key parts of the business. To build a true appreciation of the hard work that goes into creating delicious, high-quality wines, consider scheduling a winery tour that brings you through the entire winemaking process.