Harvest in the Winery

A Pressing Matter

32 days. 846 tonnes of gorgeously ripe, healthy grapes. One exhausted winery team. The 2023 Ridgeview grape harvest is now complete and it has been a Herculean task. Our gleaming new winery has been fully put to the test in its first year, processing record quantities of fruit pouring in from our prolific vineyards. After more than a month of long days and late nights, 600,000L of juice is now fermenting away in 160 gleaming tanks, beginning its epic journey to the pinnacle of English sparkling wine. 

None of this would have been possible without three unsung winery heroes, by the names of Coquard, Bucher and Willmes. Our trio of grape presses have been operating at full capacity over the last month to extract all the goodness from those glorious grapes. With expert insights from our Assistant Winemaker, Jack Mankin, we’re exploring pressing matters in the winery, after our biggest harvest to date.

Grapes in the press

The Basics of Pressing

In English sparkling winemaking, the fundamental goal of pressing is to draw the finest juice from the year’s grape harvest. It needs to be done delicately to ensure only the right qualities are extracted, as Jack explains.

“You want a gentle, even pressing of the grapes. If you don’t, you’re not going to get very good juice extraction. You’ll press a certain amount of grapes really hard and other grapes not at all. And that juice is going to be incredibly phenolic, because you’re really ramming those grapes and squeezing the skins and stems. So it could potentially end up being quite green, bitter and astringent.”

This gentle extraction is the reason why grapes were traditionally pressed underfoot. Today’s ingeniously engineered mechanical presses do the job in far larger quantities and a fraction of the time. Better still, we can calibrate them to different pressures to extract different qualities from the harvested grapes.

Jack breaks this down: “The first 50% of juice by weight will be the cuvée, which is the more gentle, aromatic, non-phenolic juice. The next section, the higher-pressure pressings, are known as the taille – more phenolic but it really helps in small volumes to give the blends structure. And then the final, really hard pressings at the end. We do use these but in very sparing quantities.” 

Each of these pressings is fermented individually. Multiply that by three grape varieties and our multitude of vineyards, and you can see why we need 160 separate tanks to hold all of the different components of the 2023 vintage.

Introducing the Ridgeview Presses

Why do we have three presses instead of just one? Efficiency is a big factor. Three presses means we can process the grape harvest three times as quickly. But as ever with Ridgeview, the quest for quality is also key. Each press has its own merits, which we harness to the full in how we use them.

Ridgeview Coquard Press
Ridgeview Winery Elevator

The Coquard Press

Type of press: Hydraulic

Capacity: 4 tonnes

Age: 15 years

Specialism: Chardonnay

Originating in Champagne, the Coquard press is a winemaking icon. And since ours was the first in the UK, it’s a little piece of English wine history. It’s a very hands-on press and we love the control it gives us over our press cuts. It’s great for Chardonnay but less suited to pressing the Pinots, as it tends to extract a little too much colour from the grapes.

Jack’s notes: “It’s a traditional French-style press, very gentle and very romantic. Coquard basically took the idea of a wooden basket press and turned it on its side. There’s a big horizontal hydraulic ram attached to a slanted plate that squeezes the whole mass of grapes when it pushes forward, but then also turns them over as it pulls back. So you get that rotation of grapes and even pressing mechanically. 

“The max pressure is only around 1.4 bar, so the juice we get is really light and delicate, minimal phenolics and lots of fruity, floral notes.”

Ridgeview Bucher Press
Ridgeview Bucher Press

The Bucher Press

Type of press: Pneumatic

Capacity: 9 tonnes

Age: 0 years!

Specialisms: Large volumes, automated pressing 

There’s an element of serendipity with the arrival of our hi-tech new press. Jack is clear on this: “we wouldn’t have been able to deal with this harvest if we didn’t have the Bucher.” Not only is its capacity over twice the other two presses’ combined, but it’s also capable of getting on and doing its own thing.

Jack’s notes: “The Bucher has lots of new technology in it, things like flow meters, which mean it can dynamically adjust the pressure based on flow rate. It’s kind of its own entity – you can design pressing programmes, then just press a button and it does the job. 

“It’s known as a pneumatic press or a bladder press. So it has a big bag inside which inflates, pushing the grapes against the inner wall of a perforated cylinder, which allows the juice to run out. Then it deflates, rotates and goes again. It’s very efficient and it’s what’s allowed us to press 48 tonnes a day this year.”

Ridgeview Wilmes Press
Ridgeview Wilmes Press

The Willmes Press

Type of press: Pneumatic

Capacity: 4 tonnes

Age: 11 years

Specialisms: Rosé 

Our trusty Willmes has been with us nearly as long as our Coquard, and it’s still going strong. Like the Bucher, it’s a pneumatic press, and it has one very handy advantage over its larger, newer neighbour. The Willmes seals completely shut, which offers us some additional useful winemaking options.

Jack’s notes: “This year, we did a maceration in the Willmes. We loaded the grapes in, added some CO2, sealed everything up overnight, and then pressed in the morning, just to bleed some extra colour out of the skins. We could only do that in the Willmes. With the Bucher and the Coquard, when you put the grapes in, the juice just starts draining out. So that’s where it really comes into its own.”

Shop Sparkling Rosé
Jack Mankin, Ridgeview Assistant Winemaker

From Pressing to Prospects

With the grape harvest over and the tanks full, what does the future hold for the 2023 vintage? It’s too early for any concrete predictions, but Jack is quietly excited. 

“It’s been a brilliant harvest – the new winery’s off to a flying start and we’ll be bottling the most we ever have from the vintage. Some of our newer growers in Kent have grown some amazing Chardonnay that I think will do very well, so there will be a lot of Bloomsbury. Also some of our Suffolk vineyards have produced some excellent Pinot Noir, and the Ridgeview Pinots are delicious this year.

“I think we’re going to make a great Rosé de Noirs from the grapes we macerated in the press, and also a really good Blanc de Noirs. We’ve got so many options, it’s really exciting.”

So watch this space! Or better still, why not see our new winery in action when you visit us? One of the perks of joining our exclusive wine club OurView is a complimentary tour and tasting experience. 

OurView Wine Club


Get to the heart of England’s finest sparkling wine with Ridgeview’s award-winning wine club, OurView. Ridgeview wine club membership unlocks a host of exclusive benefits – from generous member pricing and access to rare archive wines to secret wine club events and so much more. Step into a whole new world of celebration as an OurView wine club member.

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