October’s here, the harvest is still in full swing and we’re still standing! After a cold night the weather today is again warm and sunny and our team of pickers went high up the slopes of La Montée du Ventabren to harvest old vine Grenache. Back at La Ruche (Cairanne) our cellar is gradually filling up and grapes are slowly turning into wine in our open top tronconiques (wooden fermentation vessels). Today the fermentation in Tronconique 10, filled with incredible 53 year old Grenache Noir, came to its natural end and the tank has been racked, filling the cellar with enticing cherry and spice aromas.
Grapes continue to arrive at the cellar door, brought to us in these small crates which keep the bunches whole and the grapes intact.
Today’s delivery is Grenache (from 46 year old vines) and the first Mourvèdre to be picked. These will be slowly fermented together using only using the natural yeasts brought by the grapes themselves, mostly on their skins but wild in the atmosphere of the cellar now.
This was the case for Tronconique 10 some time ago. Filled with Grenache Noir from two plots of 53 year old and 22 year old vines, the natural fermentation and cuvasion was helped along by regular remontage and manual pigeage. Now, finally the fermentation has run its natural course.
We’ve made wine! So today we racked this tank – emptied it out, seperating the young wine from the gros lees – ready for its long maturation in oak barrels and demi-muids. Although the wine still has a long journey ahead before it’s ready to be released we can now declare that our first red wine of 2012 has been made!
It’s significant moment celebrated by watching the ‘gâteau de marc’ – now ready to be disposed of, emerge from the basket press.
Unlike white wine, where pressing marks the start of the winemaking process, for red wine pressing signifies that the first part of the winemaking has come to an end. For us it is not the end but the end of the beginning; the end will come in winter / spring 2015 when we start to make the final assemblage after long maturation in French oak.
Winemaker’s Eric’s job is far from over – wine is still fermenting in the cellar and grapes are still ripening on the vines, single or co-fermentations are yet to be decided upon and the matrix of maturating barrels needs to be planned in advance.
Meanwhile Benjamin, our cellar man, tackles the messy business of décuvage (cleaning out the tank) …..Kim (Tidy) did this last year and his old shoes never recovered.
It was back breaking work for our pickers today too as they started to harvest Grenache Noir from vines planted in 1968 on the slopes high above our cellar, near the top of La Montée du Ventabren.