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Triage – Processing Red Grapes

Wikipedia defines Triage as –

The word triage is a French word meaning “sorting”, which itself is derived from the Latin tria, meaning “three”. The term literally means sorting into three categories.

The word was first used by a French surgeon during the Napoleonic wars. Overwhelmed by casualties he developed a system to determine who were the most seriously injured, who needed immediate attention, who could not be helped. A system now used universally in moments of crisis.

Triage is a new concept in grape processing. It does not have quite the same panache or urgency. It means the removing of ‘MOG’, or material other than grape—vital but not life threatening. The term is probably the brainchild of the equipment makers PR department. Under whatever name, but, the equipment performs extremely well. The first step is the removal of unripe fruit, leaves and other detritus—and occasionally cutting shears left by a careless picker—as the grapes start their journey. The second is separating the grapes from their stems. This is done by a stemmer, a very simple machine – consisting of a rotating drum with holes sufficiently large to allow the grapes to exit while rotating ‘fingers’ push the stems out the end. The speed of the rotating drum can be adjusted, as well as the quantity and size of the holes.

From there the grapes pass over a mesh on a vibrating table. This is the heart of Triage. What drops through is MOG that would normally not be removed. The third and final step – as the individual grapes pass over yet another conveyor—those pesky small ‘jacks’ that attach the grape to the stem are removed. These are the most hard to remove and are often ignored. Since these are mini branches they contribute flavors and if you have ever bitten into one you will realize why we remove them. The Winemaker insists that, all those who work on this line, bite into a ‘jack’ before the start – it concentrates the mind. The grapes are collected in a picking bin at the end of the conveyor and rather than pump them into a fermenter they are fork lifted in. Pumps are not used in the early stages, even the gentlest pumps can hurt solids.

This is a costly way to do business but winemaking is a marriage of art and technology and the bottom line is the results – the quality.

Here is to a perfect score of 100.

In 1962 Pierre Lafond opened the first

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