Whole Bunch, Whole Berry or Crush & Destem?

One of the very first decisions a winemaker makes during harvesting, is the method of processing the grapes before fermentation is initiated. Typically, there are three methods to choose from: whole bunch, whole berry and crush-and-destem.


Whole bunch is exactly as it sounds: the bunches are put into the tank whole, with the berries still attached to the stems, and then the fermentation proceeds with the stems in the mix. Whole berry is where the berries are removed from the stems, but not crushed. Ultimately, the berries crush under their own weight, allowing the juice to run. Lastly, there is crush-and-destem, where the grapes are mechanically removed from the bunches and then crushed for release of the juice. Each method has its place in winemaking and contributes stylistically in a very specific manner.


For the Oldenburg Vineyards white wines, Nic opts for whole bunch pressing. This allows for softer extraction. The press is filled with the whole bunches, and the press is put on a 2.5 hour soft press cycle, without rotation. The juice extracted has minimal phenols in it, as the skins remain intact. Recovery through this method is lower, compared to crushing and destemming. For the <CL° series wines, the grapes are crushed and destemmed to increase the extraction of flavours from the skins.


Syrah is a cultivar that typically does very well with whole bunch pressing. Nic also uses this for our Grenache Noir.  For our Syrah, Nic enjoys having a range of components to work with. He will have different ferments processed using two different methods, playing around with a range between 100% whole bunch, down to 30%. Whole bunch fermentations typically deliver a lower colour extraction, and a higher expression of aromatics, as well as a powdery tannin – so the different methods also have different textural effects on the final wine. When deciding on how much whole bunch vs whole berry he wants to use, he makes the call on the day of harvest, depending on the ripeness of the stalks. He will chew them, and evaluate the bitterness and astringency, and choose a course of action from there.


Processing of our Merlot is 100% whole berry, while the Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc are crushed and destemmed – depending on the year. If the phenolic ripeness is slightly lower, for example in a cooler year, these cultivars may also be processed as whole berry.

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