Friday, September 21, 2007

Pigeage et Remontage

When I last posted the vats were filled with sweet crushed grapes, but it is now 12 days since the harvest ended and the smell of fermenting wine pervades every corner of my house and winery.

The grapes were surprisingly slow to start fermenting this year, but now that the yeast are busy I too have lots of work to do. My main job is keeping the grape skins in contact with the wine. The carbon dioxide released by fermentation carries all solids (skins, pips, etc) up to the surface of the bubbling liquid. The colour of Pinot Noir is contained exclusively in the skins so these need to be submerged regularly to maximize pigment extraction. There are basically two methods for submerging the skins…
Pigeage, shown above, simply involves pushing the floating skins back down into the fermenting wine. Traditionally this is done by climbing into the vat, naked, and splashing around with one’s hands and feet. I prefer to remain fully clothed, outside the vat, and to submerge the skins with the stick pictured (un pigeou)

The second method, remontage, is to draw the wine from the bottom of the vat and pump it to the top, above the skins. It the photo I am also allowing the wine to splash into a small tub to aerate the wine and give the yeast a breath of air.

Early days yet, but the colours are actually surprisingly deep considering the cool, damp summer we ‘enjoyed’.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007


Well it’s done, the grapes are all safely in the winery and we are waiting patiently for the fermentations to start.

Harvest is normally a stressful time, but this year was actually good fun. We were lucky enough to have a great group of helpers (please ALL come back next year!) and we somehow managed to get 2 hectares picked and sorted in just 2 days.

Thankfully the past two weeks have been dry and reasonably sunny, which has at least partially redeemed our rather cool and wet summer. I think that waiting late to harvest was probably the right decision, and certainly what we picked looked beautifully ripe and relatively rot free. The sugar levels are not sky high, but I should be able to avoid chaptalising (adding sugar) and I’m reasonable confident the wines will reflect all the hard work that took place in the vineyards.

Updates to follow as the wines ferment…

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Baby pigeons

The past few days have been quite windy which is good news for the grapes, but bad news for baby birds… they have been falling like rain from the tree in my courtyard. Two baby blackbirds and this little pigeon in the past 24 hours!