Tuesday, 19 January 2010

Last week we emptied the Dordogne Chai red cellar ready for the renovation

This morning the builders were in at 8am on the dot to start work (French builders are very good at finishing on the dot also). I have also been cleared out of my tasting room and laboratory and am now literally in the cellar with my desk amongst the vats and barrels. It’s a bit cold but I am not complaining as there is certainly nowhere else I’d rather be!

It’s that time of year again when the new vintage of Laithwaite Sauvignon emerges ready for blending and bottling. This afternoon I have been on my weekly rounds checking our vats of Sauvignon in the Entre Deux Mers.

At this moment in time what we call ‘reduction or reductive character’ can be a problem. The reduction occurs when the fine sediment in the unfiltered wine settles very quickly in the cold temperatures and compacts on the floor of the vat causing the wine to have a rather strange, struck match aroma thus masking the natural fruit. If you’re not on the ball it could stick like that forever!

I have therefore been following the wines very carefully and have been ‘sparging’ (a method of bubbling from the bottom of the vat) regularly to prevent the sediment from compacting. The proof is in the pudding as the wines are as clean as a whistle with fresh vibrant grassy citrus aromas.

It was a glorious day here in Bordeaux today and whilst driving through the Entre Deux Mers region I noticed lots of eager growers out, busy catching up on their vineyard pruning. The delay mainly caused by the very cold weather – but plenty of Christmas parties would have helped too!

At the moment everyone is pruning by selecting the healthiest cane (single or double) as close to the main trunk as possible which that will become this year’s new fruiting arm. The second job is to ‘tirer les bois’ – meaning to pull out the unwanted wood from the vines – and ‘bruler les sarments’, when the canes are burnt in a wheel barrow burner.

Anyone who has done this job will know it is not easy. The tendrils grip the wires very tightly and when snapped, you learn why it’s called a cane! The selected canes are then left waving in the air waiting to be tied down to the fruiting wire later on.


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