Tuesday, 20 October 2009

The Laithwaites 40th Anniversary Show

The last couple of days have been a whirlwind of excitement, travel and a lot of tasting! Last Friday the final La Clariere Cabernet vineyard was harvested at 6am in -3 degrees! Then I quickly went to the Chai to taste and leave instructions for Chris, who is baby sitting my wines this weekend, before heading to Bordeaux airport to fly to London to make the 5:30pm opening of the Laithwaites 40th Anniversary Show! But after being in the Chai non stop since August there was certainly no danger of being home sick. I entered the venue in the centre of London and was immediately blown away by Libby's amazing full scale Chai au Quai re-construction! It had all the bells and whistles, the lighting, the barrels, the images, the videos on the wall, the wines, the people and of course Dylan, Elvis, Hendrix, Bowie and the Stones blaring out. Home sweet home!

I had an excellent show both on Friday and Saturday and it was great to meet so many interesting customers and I especially enjoyed presenting some wines with Tony in the tasting theatre (right).

I was very tired, but in great spirits on Sunday morning and had to get a move on to catch the flight back to Bordeaux.

Monday 19th
Got back late yesterday and its all go this morning with a quick early stop at the Chai to taste all the wines and check everything through with my assistant winemaker Chris. All looking good and I was very pleased to hear the love and attention last week has worked and the stuck Chardonnay has started fermenting again!!

I have to leave at 10am to be in the Roussillon for 3pm to meet Jean-Charles. The reason being is that the sugars have all been converted to alcohol and the wines are dry but unlike white wines there is an extra stage, what winemakers call the 'post-ferment maceration'. This is a tricky part of the red wine making process when the winemaker must decide when to 'press off' (more on that tomorrow). The post-maceration is when the wine is still pumped over the skins (as during fermention) but now very gently, only for a short time and without aeration – called 'wetting the cap'. This method allows the wine to slowly rinse through the skins and to take, as they say in french, 'le gras!' (the fat), so that the last remaining thin slippery layer of pulp still attached to the skins is slowly washed into the wine giving body and roundness. The danger however is leaving the maceration too long and extracting bad tannin resulting in wines that are drying or pressing off to early and not extracting any body. This results in a thin wine. The winemakers job is to say when to stop, though the length of maceration time will vary from grape to grape, region to region and of course vintage to vintage, and can be anything from 3 days to 4 weeks long!

I tasted through all of Jean-Charles wines and decided that only the Syrah is ready to press off tomorrow which pleased 'Papy' immensely and he hurried off to get out his pride and joy, the old basket press! After tasting, looking and feeling the skins in the vat I predict the Carignan will ready for next Monday, the young (65-years-old) Grenache next Tuesday and the old (104-years-old) Grenache end of next week. I will however come back next Monday to check if my predictions are correct before my final decision is made.

On the way back through the l'Agly Valley (right) to Perpignan the fantastic colours of the autumn leaves in the old vineyards now give away the true identity of the randomly planted Grenache Gris and Blanc vines hidden amongst the Grenache Noir. If only I had a helicopter I could map out their locations for next year!

1 comment:

Aidan Bartlett said...

Mark, it was great to meet you on Friday. I told you I read the blogs! Hope it's all going well, and fingers crossed we'll be down to visit soon.