Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Shipping the 2005s

Now that the 2007 harvest is safely in barrels (where it will remain for at least 14 months) there is a slight lull the viticultural calendar before the vines loose their leaves and pruning can commence; this typically happens around mid-November.

Conveniently this relatively quiet period is an excellent time of year to be shipping the harvest of two years prior (2005 in this case). The 2005s have been in bottle for 5 months so they have fully recovered from any bottling shock, and the weather has turned cool so there is no risk of exposing the bottles to damaging heat during their transportation. (In fact, since I am working with conscientious importers the wines are transported in air-conditioned containers, so there should really be no risk in high summer either…)

The 2005s had been stored un-labelled since bottling, so preparing them for delivery means: labelling, fitting a tin capsule, packing into cardboard boxes, stacking these boxes on a wooden pallet, and finally wrapping the whole stack in lots of Clingfilm. Here’s a photo of one of the six pallet-loads that left last week, all ready bar the Clingfilm…

Into barrels

Since my last post the new wines have been resting in their vats to allow the yeast and other sediment to settle out. Once this is done I siphon the clear wine into empty barrels waiting in the cellar. Credit to whoever built this house some 200 years ago since the cellar is located directly below the vat room, and there are two 10cm diameter holes running through its metre-thick vaulted ceiling. This makes filling the barrels as simple as passing a hose though the ceiling and opening a tap… not even any need for a pump.
The 2007 harvest fills just 23 barrels, which equates to a distressingly low 28 hectolitres per hectare. The better news is that at this early stage the quality appears excellent. Above is a recent photo of the cellar, which now contains both the 2006 and 2007 harvests, a total of 42 barrels (the equivalent of about 12600 bottles).

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Le vin est fait…

… but not yet in barrels.

During fermentation I taste each wine several times per day to assess the amount of colour, flavour and tannin that has been extracted from the skins. Then after 2 or 3 weeks, when I decide there has been enough extraction, I draw off the new wine into an empty vat. The mass of skins that is left behind (called la gène) still contains a significant amount of wine (about 20% of the total volume), so la gène is transferred to a press and squeezed to recover this final 20%.
Once all the wine has been extracted I am left with about 1500kg of relatively dry skins and pips to dispose of. In the past I’ve sold these for processing into industrial alcohol, but this year I delivered them to a local artisan distiller who makes a type of rustic brandy (Marc de Bourgogne). Pictured below is his still, which has been in continuous use since 1860…
I am delighted to see my waste skins being distilled into brandy, but this new arrangement does have one very minor ‘downside’…. Didier, the distiller, is passionate about his product, and of course a polite visitor can hardly decline to join him in assessing its many merits…
I’ll definitely be delivering to Didier next year, just maybe not at 9am!