Yesterday we took a break from pump-overs to visit Médoc in celebration of the end of the 2011 harvest.  Médoc is the Bordeaux appellation home to such celebrated wineries as Château Margaux, Châteaux Lafite Rothschild and Mouton Rothschild, Château Latour, and more.

What we left behind (well… we did do pump-overs in the morning before we left and upon our return last night): ) – Remontage, or pumping over – we pump from the bottom of the tank as shown here, to the top, where a tourniquet (pictured below) sprays the must pumped from below all over the cap of skins, seeds, etc. (the “marc”) that floats on top of the must.

The team on the bank of the Dordogne (**nb** – none of us normally look anywhere near this clean):


Drive-by shot of Lafite Rothschild:

…and Château Latour:

Château Cos D’Estournel

We spent 3 hours visiting Château Cantemerle…

(photo credit to their website… I didn’t manage to take any photos of the gorgeous  Château or grounds as I was preoccupied by listening to the loads and loads of information they were giving us)

where we learned the ins and outs of everything that they do there, from viticulture…

(Giant atomizers (5 of them) for spraying the vines.  They are mounted on special tractors that, like the machine harvesters (though everything at  Château Cantemerle is harvested by hand) are designed to go on top of the rows.  The subject of to spray or not to spray will have to be the subject of a different post – suffice it to say that most people spray in France  as organic viticulture has a reputation of being incredibly difficult and expensive, with unpredictable, and often mediocre, results.)

… to vinification

(Wooden foudres for aging the wine)

…and even got a tour of the storage and labeling facilities.  Of course, the afternoon ended with a tasting of their very well-balanced 2010 and 2007 wines.



Old World Appellations Explained

Here is an article I ran across that explains what is often very confusing about French (and other Old World) wine appellations.  This is very pertinent to my experience here, as people keep asking me what type of we are making, and the answer is not obvious to those used to drinking New World, varietal labeled wine.  So here we make a Bergerac Blanc, which is Semillon and Sauvignon Blanc, and the red wine is made from (mostly) Merlot, as well as Malbec and Cabernet Franc.  Read the article and this will make a whole lot more sense if you are wondering why I’m not just calling the red a Merlot.

The DOC (or DO or AOC): Nobody Does it Better – David Duman

As for what I’ve been up to, I’ve been working long, but very enjoyable, hours, doing a variety of the tasks in the winery (we started the Rosé this week – which is made from Malbec grapes but we use the same process as for the white wine).  I have worked on the labeling line, performed Chaptalization (adding sugar to the must to increase the final alcohol content of the wine if there isn’t enough natural sugar in the juice to produce the correct amount – it doesn’t make the wine sweeter because the yeast eat the sugar and convert it to ethanol), helped with a lot of racking, etc.

Sunset from the winery:


Today after checking the density and temperature of the musts that we have been racking,  Muriel took me with her to hunt for cèpes! This week has been filled with talk of these precious mushrooms, as this is the high season for them and this year they happen to be exceptionally abundant.   She taught me the differences between edible and nonedible mushrooms, as well as the difference between a cèpe and a tremoul, which are also edible but not quite as good as the cèpes.  There are two types of cèpe here, black and brown, and Muriel gave me some of each to try, as well as some tremoul (which you only eat the top, or “chapeau” of, whereas you eat the stem of the cèpes) and a couple of girolles (a type of chantrelle) that we found.  I cooked them all separately so that I could compare, and definitely agree that the cèpes are better than the tremoul, and I liked the black cèpes slightly more than the brown (though they are both very delicious, almost sweet in character).

Muriel with just a tiny portion of our loot!

This year it really doesn’t even require much skill to find them – they are all over!


View from just behind the winery