A couple of things I’ve learned this week:
- To make 500 hectoliters of wine, 500 hectoliters of water are required (take-home message – we need to find more efficient cleaning practices!!!)
- At this winery, the primary aim of blending (assemblage) is to obtain a product consistent across vintages, in order to match the expectations of the consumer. This is decidedly not true everywhere, and, I think, a very important distinction to make as it plays a huge part in informing the types of decisions a winemaker will make. At first appraisal one might think that this would make a winemaker more inclined to take a scientific, “Let’s do everything exactly by the book so we can be the same every year” approach, but in reality this is not at all the case. The reason? The enormous amount of variability between vintages (and even between vineyard plots, or “blocks” – parcelles in French) for the grapes! Thus you never are starting with the same materials, so the effort to maintain consistency is at least as difficult as making wines that reflect the year, and requires precise ability to taste and know what needs to be done to get your starting material to align with the required product – thus, a balance of finesse, analysis, and methodology.
- The whites here are only left on their lees (dead yeast still present in the wine after fermentation has finished – if the yeast have eaten all the sugar and turned it into alcohol they have both ran out of food and created a toxic environment for themselves, so they die) for 8-10 days before the wine is pumped off of them because the belief at this winery is that the longer than that the (dead) yeasts begin to emit undesirable aromas (though some wineries keep the wine maturing on the lees for up to about 6 months and believe that longer lees contact results in better wine – therefore, as usual, individual taste is paramount).
- Gregory hates Cabernet Sauvignon, so, though we will be processing some tomorrow, they use it as sparingly as possible when blending – same story – the winemaker’s taste trumps all, except maybe the need to bulk up the volume of wine produced, in which case relatively small amounts of less preferred wine (particular batches, or in this case, specific varietals) can be added without significantly altering the overall taste.
Yesterday we had about 60 children visit for a field trip. They harvested grapes in the vineyard (I couldn’t tell what they were doing more of – eating grapes or cutting them) and had a tour of the winery (which meant that I had an audience as I helped shovel up a press-load of grape skins – not exactly a glamorous task for those kids to aspire to do). Something about children speaking another language just makes them extra cute (even the ones who were pushing and shoving to get to the front of the line to dump their buckets of grapes).
Ludo and Marine helping the kids climb the ladder to deposit their grapes
Sunrise from the top of a tank
Le Pigionnier from the vineyard
Another shot of the sunset (coucher du soleil)