Wine Capping: What are Pumpovers and Punchdowns?

Different capping methods and type of cap used as sealant has an impact on wine’s aging process. It could enhance wine aroma, color, and taste, or ruin everything entirely. Find out how wine capping methods affect wine fermentation. 

Wine capping is one of the methods in wine storage that is sometimes overlooked by rookies. Some beginners view cap management as a stylistic preference, but it is more than that. Different wine capping methods have unique influences on the wine’s taste, color, and aroma. Likewise, the cap used to seal the wine has a huge impact on its overall quality.

To start with, this article will help you to understand more about one of the basic wine storage and fermentation process.

All about Pumpovers

Pumping over (also known as remontage in French) is the process of drawing off the young wine coming from the bottom of the fermentation vessel. The process involves pumping the must over the cap, soaking, and extracting its flavor, tannin, color, and oxygenation.

Experts label ‘pumping-over’ as the harshest method of fermenting wine. This method introduces more oxygen to the wine to support the fermentation process, which makes it more intense than other wine capping management.

However, over the years, experts developed a gentler process of pump over. The intensity of pump over required depends on the fermentation vessel, grape variety, ripeness of the fruit, stem inclusion, duration of fermentation, and temperature.

Introducing Punchdown

Punchdown (referred to as pigeage in French) involves the process of breaking up the cap and submerging it in the must for approximately once to thrice times per day.

The punch-down process is done either manually or mechanical. The former is more labor-intensive and consumes more time. On the other hand, the latter is easier and requires less time for work. Moreover, mechanical punch-down is the best option for managing a large-scale collection.

In a punch-down process, the result depends on the technique and performance. It could enhance the wine’s quality or not.

Due to the unpredictability of punch-down, many prefer modern pumpovers. Experts even recommend this method to beginners since it is gentler and easier to manage. In modern pumpovers, no plate comes in contact with the grape skins. The grape juice is the only one moved, which results in good fermentation.

On Wine Bottle Sealant

Natural cork is perhaps the most common wine bottle stopper. Some prefer this option because of its elasticity and ability to keep the oxygen out. Moreover, the pores of natural corks allow minuscule air to interact with the wine, which immensely helps in enhancing its aroma and flavor. Lastly, natural corks are a renewable source, and of course, there’s nothing more satisfying than the sound of a popping cork when opening a wine bottle.

Unfortunately, natural corks are susceptible to taint, which could also affect the wine’s taste. It also easily dries out and crumbles over time. For this reason, experts suggest using alternatives such as screw caps and synthetic corks.

Screw caps support less oxygen interaction with wines, which results in a longer wine lifespan. Likewise, it is affordable and easier to open compared to natural corks. However, screw caps have a questionable aging ability that causes different levels of oxygen transmission rates.

Meanwhile, synthetic corks possess the qualities of natural corks minus the fragility. It is also the most used wine bottle stopper today.