Thursday, 12 November 2009

Today it’s my birthday and I am off to the UK for a Laithwaites customer tasting in Salisbury tonight followed by a birthday meal with family.

I was away early this morning to beat the notorious early Bordeaux traffic to the Airport. No such luck and a combination of yesterday’s public holiday and the pouring rain created a huge traffic jam! I made the flight by the skin of my teeth and was very thankful I was flying British Airways.

I arrived to very rainy UK but for once I couldn’t say it was better back in Bordeaux!

The tasting was really enjoyable and was held in the lovely big room Salisbury town hall where I showed the following Chai wines:

2008 Grand Chai Bordeaux Blanc
2008 La Voute
2007 Le Prestige, Cotes du Rhône
2008 Syrah de Folie
2006 Grand Chai Sauternes

Big thanks to the great customer turnout despite the torrential rain. My mum and dad also came along for the tasting, their top tips being the La Voute 2008 and the Andresen 8 year old port (glad they liked one that I made!)

Afterwards I was treated to a lovely birthday meal and enjoyed sharing a very nice bottle of Barolo, thanks mum and dad. Also a big thanks to Libby for adding yet another amazing cake design to her portfolio and it tasted great too!


Tuesday, 10 November 2009

With the 2008 Vent de Folie racked and blended from barrel last Friday, there is now plenty of cleaning and moving of the empty barrels.

The big Vent de Folie Grenache-based wine that has occupied the barrels for one year has absorbed a fair amount of tannin and flavour from the new barrels but there is still some top notch flavour left which will be perfect for ageing a more subtle wine.

However before they can be refilled the attention to detail must continue and even empty barrels need love and care! In order to keep every barrel in the best condition each one will be rinsed for 3-4 minutes with hot water to open the pores and remove as much of the wine that has seeped into the wood as possible, followed by a cold rinse to shrink them back closed.

The inside of the barrels will then be steamed for 5 minutes using our special barrel steamer (basically a very big kettle!). All barrels are then turned upside down, drained overnight, then a sulphur candle is burned in each barrel to stop them from getting vinegar aromas. So as you can see, empty barrels are almost just as much work as full barrels!!

Once the cellar guys are in full swing I hurriedly make my way to Carcassonne to check on the Viognier and Sauvignon Blanc. They taste better and better each visit and the varietal character is really standing out now! All good here at Domaine Lalande so I leave to stay the night in Perpignan as I need to be in Maury tomorrow first thing to check the 2009 Vent de Folie.

It’s non-stop – no sooner has the 2008 been taken out of barrel than the 2009 is ready to go in! The drive down from Narbonne to Perpignan was horrendous as a very cold and strong northerly Tramontane wind was in fine form blowing at 120km per hour, causing havoc for the last of the holiday caravans and mobile homes returning from Spain! The wind had however cleared and swirled the cloud away allowing me to be greeted by the mighty snow-capped Canigou mountain, beautifully skirted by the Pyrenees' foothills.

Had a lovely dinner in the Vauban restaurant opposite the Castillet in Perpignan and tasted a stunning '2007 No.3 castelmaure' red wine from the Corbières.


Monday, 9 November 2009

First stop this morning was at the Co-op de Maury

The wines have all finished fermentation and malo-lactic but it’s not quite the same story at JC’s where he is struggling to get the wines through the malo-lactic fermentation. After a quick rummage around Pappy’s garage I came back with some blankets to make a skirt around the bottom of the vat and an old electric heater which should get the vats back up to the malo bacteria’s preferred temperature of 22ºC.

Once JC has been briefed and had got over the fact the big, strong Un Vent de Folie Grenache vats are wearing skirts I head back to Bordeaux. Along the way I start to notice that the gobelet pruning has already begun and the valley is slowly turning into a wintery lunar landscape.


Thursday, 5 November 2009

The big day is finally here, the blending of the 2008 Un Vent de Folie!

I have been waiting so long for the right moment and early this week I tasted through the barrels and was sure it was the perfect time to put the wine into bottle. The individual vineyards have been kept separate from the day it was picked way back in September 2008 and I have watched and learnt from the components that make the Vent de Folie blend.

The blend is made up from 104yr old Carignan, 100yr old Grenache Noir, 65yr old Grenache Noir and Syrah vineyards all with there own unique soil and micro-climates. I have filled a few bottles from the single barrels to put in my wine archive so that I can continue to learn how the wines will develop in bottle.

The wine has been in barrels for 12 months and during this time the sediment has slowly fallen to the bottom and gradually compacted into an almost jam like consistency, leaving a beautifully naturally clarified crystal clear wine behind. I have not used filters or fining agents once and with patience and good barrel husbandry the wine has naturally become what we call perfect bottle condition!

We therefore have to be careful when we move the wine so as not to disturb the sediment clouding the wine and this is done using a thin racking spear. The arrow screw on the bottom is adjusted depending on the thickness of the barrel sediment so that the holes that suck the wine sit above the sediment in clear wine.

You have to watch it like a hawk as the spear must be kept vertical at all times. If necessary you must adjust the screw on the spear as every barrel is different! Once the blending got underway the aroma from the wine filled the whole Chai and was so powerful you could almost taste it in the air!

The tasting of the new blend at the end of the day made me very proud and I can guarantee this is not a wine to be missed!

It’s getting colder here in Bordeaux and at last beginning to feel a little wintry. The temperature has fallen in the Chai too. My poor little Roussanne barrels that are still fermenting are slowing down due to the cold. However I have a trick up my sleeve! I will make a plastic tent over the barrels and use some electric heaters to create an isolated warm room. After I had finished, Chris came back into the Chai and when he saw the big square black tent his face lit up as he thought I had bought a Hummer as the new Chai work vehicle!!!

Sunday, 1 November 2009

Very warm this morning

So before the roast dinner Sharon so kindly prepared, we went up to the 10th century castle with their two young sons James and William and the dog Robbie for walk.

We were kept excellently informed by the boys of all the historical facts (along with a few not so historical facts) of Calatayud – their knowledge having been acquired from the local primary school they attend. The views of the town were just stunning and you could see to the east the remains of the Roman city of Bilbilis and the bull ring and churches down below in the centre of town.

We left around 4pm and headed back home being greeted by torrential rain just after Pamplona all the way to the back to Bordeaux but I can’t complain as it’s the first bad weather I have seen for about 7 months!