Monday, 20 September 2010

After a busy day in the cellar and just before I thought it couldn’t get crazier, JMS took me to IKEA to help him get furniture for our Chai office

It was honestly like accompanying a tornado as I watched him ripping through the store, grilling the useless staff for lack of information. More tiring than the cellar! Anyway afterwards we ate calmly at the superb Chiopot and tasted a fantastically youthful 2001 Fleur Cardinal St Emilion Grand Cru.

Back in the cellar early this morning and with ferments checked JMS, James and I headed for Sauveterre in the Entre-Deux-Mers to taste the first juice from last night’s harvest.

From here I went on to the Midi stopping in Carcassonne to check the Chardonnay vineyards. After a good walk up and down the rows tasting and assessing the berries, I give the go head to harvest tonight. The grapes on the edge and I think this is as far as a can push them before the predicted rain turns the vineyard into a disaster!

After a bite to eat at our winemaker base just outside of Carcassonne (which was some pan fried duck breast accompanied beautifully with a glass of 2007 Gevrey Chambertin from Marc Rougeot-Dupin) we were back to the winery for the arrival of the first Chardonnay grapes.

Soon enough the presses were full the juice was being carefully pumped through the cooling pipes and within minutes, the juice was in a vat at 3 degrees to settle out the largest of the sediment.

After a few hours sleep we started the Viognier harvesting by machine. Harvesting by machine nowadays is very efficient as it is very quick, can be done at night or in the cool hours of the morning, takes berries only and most importantly is always on time! With dark clouds looming and laden with the forecasted rain, we harvest the last row just in the nick of time as the drops started to fall.

My good Aussie friend and head winemaker Richard Osbourne was in good form this morning considering his company car got stolen last month when he nipped into a boulangerie to get a baguette!

Pierre Degroot, the owner of Lalande, wasn't so impressed but did give him a new car. But the hilarious thing is it has a big photo of Pierre on the side! Richard though with typical Aussie humour says "I'm sure he's punishing me by making me drive round in this bloody car mate!" Richard showed me some of the Chasselas he was going to harvest tonight. It’s a really hard grape to use for wine but is a great blending component.

No time to waste and I am off straight to Beziers to check the settling of the Marsanne and Vermentino whilst the Viognier and Chardonnay settle out in Carcassonne which I’ll be checking later this evening.

From Bezier we followed the Mediterranean Sea towards Catalonia and into Perpignan just in time for the lunch menu at the Double YY (always time for lunch!) and to see my friend Benoit who runs the place. He knows his Roussillon wine inside out and always something interesting up his sleeve and let us taste. This time it was a very interesting Grenache Gris/Carignan Gris from Domaine Clot de l'Oum.

Lunch over and we are soon in the heart of the Roussillon meeting up with Vent de Folie vineyard owner Jean-Charles Duran. We all climbed into his 4x4 and motored off into old vine territory. The slate soil and old vines produce next to nothing and the knarled vines are bent to the ground from the Tramontane wind.

The old vine Grenache grapes are awesome and we predict next Wednesday for the harvest. I told Maïtena our flying Spanish winemaker that this place was insane but it is only now she is actually here that she really believes me!

Not finished yet and as promised it's back to Carcassonne and the juice from last night and early morning has settled beautifully ready for tomorrow's loading and trip up to the Chai. The separation of the sediment and the clear juice can be seen clearly through the sight glass on the side of the vat.

Back late and a lovely glass of Pic St Loup and some fresh tuna steaks picked up on the Med coast this afternoon was a great way to finish off a very satisfying day. All that's left is to get all the hard work safely back to the Chai tomorrow!

Meanwhile even my mum and dad are getting a good crop in Dorset! We will have a taste off at Xmas!


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