A technique used during the maceration where the solid cap of grape skins forming at the top of the tank is manually or mechanically punched down into the fermenting wine to mix the grape skins with the liquid.
We do with all our red wines to extract the optimal amount of color, aroma compounds and tannins, from the skins of the grapes.
All the red grapes have as green flesh as the white grapes (Try to peel the skin of a red grape and see for yourself). All the color, most of the aroma compounds and tannins are in the skins ( the seeds contain tannin as well) and thus we ferment our red wines on the grape skins to extract as much of these fundamental building blocks for the wine in perfect amounts.
In the beginning of the fermentation when the alcohol level is still low the extraction is less rapid. As the alcohol percentage increase as the grape sugar is fermented the extraction increases.
As the fermentation process also produces CO2 the grape skins are pushed up in the vats and form a cap or "hat" on top of the fermenting juice. To ensure optimal contact between the skins and juice we break up the hat manually and punch the grape skins back down into the juice to optimise extraction.
We do punch-downs in combination with punch-overs on all our red wines to really work those skins and get as much of all the good stuff into the wines and produce intensely flavourful and fruity wines.
We perform either punch-downs or pump-overs at least twice a day during the entire 2 week fermentation period, so yes; A lot of work!