Wednesday, 16 September 2009

Back into the 2009 XV du President harvest in Maury this morning

Some pretty impressive scenery of what I call the 'XV valley', deep in Vin de Pays Cotes Catalanes country.

I overheard some grape growers at the Co-op saying they were picking whites over the valley side in the Corbieres so when we stopped for lunch, I nipped over the hill to the Cave de Cucugnan to have little look at what was coming in.

I actually worked here as an emergency consultant winemaker back in 2000 when the original harvest winemaker was injured only 3 weeks into vintage. They have always remembered me and I get a bit of royal treatment when I turn up! Royal being offered a wine glass rather than a tumbler and a slice of sanglier saucisson!

This tiny forgotten village even has its own recognised terroir and they have the right to put Vin de Pays de Cugcunan on their labels. As you climb up the valley side from Maury and over into the Corbieres, you soon realise it has a much higher altitude than that of the XV valley, and the harsh slate changes into soft terracotta clay - absolutely perfect for southern white grape varieties.

After saying 'salut' and 'ciao' to everyone about 15 times, my hunger forced me in the direction of the next and even smaller village of Padern for a spot of lunch in the timeless cafe des sports. Apparently it hasn't changed one bit since the Second World War. Honestly, the photo is not a postcard - it actually exists!

The next load of XV grapes won't arrive until 4pm, French harvesters are always slower after lunch, I can't think why?!

I therefore have time to check the 2008 XV du President North of Narbonne, unbelievably being bottled on the same day as the 2009 is harvested!

Back to Maury and the grape growers arrive in numbers sporting some very old trucks in fine condition as most of them are only used one day a year!

Pickers have finished and flock to the cafe de Maury to party but lots more to do here in the cellar tonight. We have to do the first bleed or 'saignee', this is when we bleed off the first juice that forms at the bottom of the vat.

This happens due to the sheer weight of the grapes piling on top of one another, causing the lightest watery juice from the grape to be squeezed out first. Removing this lighter juice as soon as possible concentrates the wine. The lightly coloured 'saignee' can then be fermented cold like a white wine to make a style of rose.


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