The photo above is Navarro's modern take on the centuries old tradition of pigeage—treading on the grapes. Although pigeage has mostly disappeared except as a tourist attraction—or a Lucille Ball TV rerun—it stubbornly remains as the primary method of fermenting Pinot Noir in Burgundy. Open-top fermenters are filled with grapes—destemmed or whole clusters or both—then someone, historically a male, will strip to their underwear and hop in. Hot spots develop in the must when the fermentation in one area becomes more active than in the surrounding grapes; the task is to mix the hot with the cold to even out the fermentation, and the human body is a great heat sensor. Navarro's routine for fermenting Pinot Noir: bins are filled with cold grapes—destemmed or with up to 15% whole clusters—and after two to three days a few grams of yeast are added and pigeage begins twice a day until the must is pressed.
Navarro winery crush interns ready for punchdowns, September 2020. In spite of masks, social distancing, smoke and ash—not to mention the lack of a sit-down hot meal at noon—this was one of the best natured teams we've seen at Navarro.
Pigeage à la Navarro.
Being touchy about sanitation, we don't want someone in their shorts in our Pinot. Rubber waders don't work since you can't sense the heat, so we settled on using shoulder-length, thin poly gloves. Produced from well-tended vines, fermented using pigeage and aged in French oak barrels—25% new—this 94-point Pinot is priced at only $31.50 in a 12-bottle case. Wine Enthusiast magazine recently reviewed the wine: “Deep in flavor and rich in texture, this medium- to full-bodied wine overflows with black cherry, black tea and cedar flavors that mingle nicely, creating complexity and extending into a long finish. Best through 2026. 94 points.” Yep, it's that good! Platinum Medal winner.