Monday, 14 September 2009

In early to the Chai this morning to get on with the organised chaos of barrel filling.

The empty barrels in the Chai may all look the same but on closer inspection, you will find that the barrels are all very different and individual. Some of the main factors that give the barrels their unique flavours include: the age of the oak, the forest it comes from, how it has been cut and the length of time the wood has been dried for. The cooper also has his own way of building the barrels and so the thickness of the staves and the toasting will vary considerably.

So what I actually have here at the Chai is a huge spice rack! And I have 400 spices to choose from. This morning I will taste all of the juice currently stored in the Chai and match this with the best mix of barrels to enhance - but not ruin - the natural flavour of the grape variety in question. Physically this means pulling the barrels of the stacks and replacing them in new batches; a lot of hard work, believe me!

Once I have decided upon the oak to match the juice, I will set off to the Midi to harvest the Roussanne in Beziers. Roussanne is one of the principal grape varieties used in white Chateauneuf-du-Pape.

This will not be taken to the Chai until Wednesday morning however, because I am allowing what we call 'skin contact' to occur. This means that the juice and skins are left in contact with eachother for 6-12 hours (sort of a marinade) in order to extract flavour and light tannins.

The reason I am doing this is to create a 'backbone' to the wine, since this juice is headed for new barrels. New barrels are very powerful and if the wine is too weak, it will be drowned in woody flavours. With a bit of backbone however, I am sure the wine will be able to stand up to the new oak.


No comments: