Let the Wine Decide? No, this time the grapes decided when they were ready to be plucked. So Go! Go! Go! The Boutinot Rhône harvest 2012 begins….at last!
So far the weather has been perfect (sunny clear days with a good mistral blowing) and now it’s full steam ahead in the vineyard and the cellar. Days are busy and long but satisfying….the grape-pickers stride out into the dawn and we finish hosing everything down in the cellar by dusk! So no time for a long post so here are some images from the past week. A full 2012 post-vintage report and initial assessment will follow in time but we’ll keep you abreast of developments as they happen.
Picking finally started on the 13th September 2012, five days later than 2011. Perfect weather for the harvest greeted us as we stepped out into the crispness of dawn with the cockerel crowing hoarsely as if to say: “Get on with it!”
A clear sunny morning, but just 13°C due to the freshening mistral wind. So a bit chilly for us as we scrunched across the gravel to the cellar, but ideal for grape-picking: fruit picked cool and fresh is best, too hot and things can start to happen which you don’t want. Syrah was the first to be picked at La Ruche….rows in front of the cellar last week then the rows behind today…
A few hours into picking and the second tonne of Syrah arrives at the cellar.
Into the tanks they go, not destemmed unlike the first few bunches…
The first of the open-top fermenters starts to fill up and the maceration process begins. Our wooden tanks hold 38hl in volume of wine (but you need to start with about 4 tons of grapes).
…such as which tank is ready for ‘remontage’ or pumping over: where juice is siphoned off from the bottom of the tank, pumped up and splashed over the cap at the top to start mixing everything up. This is how we aerate the must, encourage the spread of fermentation and soften the cap ready for ‘pigeage’.
Five days after the first grapes have arrived in the cellar then it’s time to start ‘pigeage’ – punching down the ‘cap’ to extract colour and tannins. Pigeage can be done by a machine shaped like a pneumatic drill; but more fool us, we prefer to do it manually! This way we can finely judge exactly how much pigeage each individual tank needs. You really do wonder why though, when your body is aching as you skim, roped to the ceiling, from one fermenter to the next; and stare blearily and despairingly at the array of others still left to do!
We say manually, but of course we really mean with our whole bodies: feet first, then legs stamping down, building up to a bicycling action and at the crescendo thrusting down using every ounce of strength you can muster from your torso and arms. It would be romantic to think you emerge like Aphrodite smiling from the sea at birth but in reality you look more like Poseidon, trident in hand, dripping in red juice like some image from a Gothic horror movie!
So far this year ‘pigeage’ seems to be easier than last – perhaps due to the condition of the grapes, or maybe because we are getting stronger! With eight tanks to tread daily it can be an exhausting task. Luckily as the cap gets softer we can use the pigageur instead of our feet!
Out in the vineyards our Syrah plots – front and back of La Ruche – have been picked and we are waiting for the Grenache Noir from La Pauline and Les Six Terrasses, our old plots high on the La Montée de Ventabren to ripen.