Last autumn I had the chance to participate in a workshop called „Winemakers“ in Barcelona. The collaboration between the Fab Lab Barcelona and Espai del Vi Català was aiming at bringing winemakers and digital makers together to be able to get an understanding of each other and find synergies between both worlds.
The fabulous Miguel Figini introduced us to the process of winemaking, refreshingly without fundamentalism when it came to the different processes – from natural wine to industrial wine – it was always about applications of processes, technology and chemistry and the resulting implications,
The passion Miguel has for wine is absolutely contagious!
After getting an overview about how wine is made and how the course would be structured we started with a grape tasting. When a farmer walks through the vineyard it’s about checking the health of the plants, how are they growing, are there any problems with pests or deseases and so on. Working a vineyard is „like raising a kid“ according to Miguel. You have to keep an eye on it to ensure a good development. Come harvesting season it’s about picking the day. Tasting the grapes gives an impression about acidity, sugar content, tannins, are the seeds cracking when you bite on them?
Of course we made our own wine to be able to learn hands on! For doing that each of the participants got a kit with four kilograms of grapes, a fermenter, a siphon, a mesh cylinder, a thermometer and a densimeter. The grapes had to be separated from the stem and then crushed in the fermenter. The mesh would help with separating the hulls from the juice, allowing for measuring the density and the temperature in the center but also preventing the hulls from floating on the juice. The siphon filled with water would let CO2 out but no oxygen and microbes into the vessel. I added a bit of yeast to accelerate the process…
… but unfortunately one of the hulls escaped and blocked the siphon. The CO2 produced by the yeast got trapped, increased the pressure and BOOOOM against the wall. I learned something there.
Monitoring the development inside of the fermenter without opening it was the challenge the Fab Lab team happily engaged with. Integrating a temperature sensor was relatively simple whereas prototyping the sensing of the density was a bit trickier. But that’s what a Fab Lab can offer, people with a wide range of expertise to help with making ideas become reality. The new version of the „Smart Citizen Kit“, apart from measuring a variety of environmental factors, has some free slots for additional sensors. We added a temperature sensor and a distance sensor. The densimeter was inside a pipe attached to the lid of the fermenter and the sensor measured the distance to the tip of the densimeter from the tip of the pipe. In the code ti#s possible to calibrate the values, translating distance into density.
In the rural campus of Iaac, the Valldaura Labs, we also learned about some chemical analysis, testing our wines for lactic acid for example. We also got more information about barrels, corks and bottles.
It was time to move our fermented grape juice into a new home, the Erlenmeyer flask. Ideally it would enter into a lactic fermentation which would eventually transform it into a nice wine. In the Erlenmeyer the particles would sink to the bottom which allowed us to separate them from the liquids. For two weeks we had to leave the wine in a warm space, shaking it twice a day to help the microbes doing their job.
Eventually the day of truth arrived and we all brought our creations to have a tasting with a pro sommelier. All the wines were quite good, taking into account that they had no time to mature in a bottle or barrel, truly a surprising experience. Especially interesting was the difference in taste between wines made of the same grapes!
Finally it’s going into the bottle! Throughout the course the cleanliness was very important. Every time we used a container or device we had to clean it with hot water, of course also the bottles before filling. Then the corks were pushed in with a special tool and voila!
Now it’s about patience, the wine hast to mature in the bottle. Ideally two winters. Will see if it will last that long…