Friday, 29 October 2010

Cold Irons Bound

Autumn is really setting in here in Castillon with vineyard leaves turning different colours and exposing the varietals summer disguise. The mornings are also beginning to get rather cold at around 2 degrees but James and I are still in shorts! And no sooner than the harvest has finished the vignerons are already back into the vineyards ploughing between the rows whilst their precious crop ferments back in the winery.

By midday however its back up to a lovely 18 degrees and the sun gently warms the Dordogne river during the day so that the following morning there are spectacular mists rising from up from the river creating an amazing sunrise.

Yesterday we spent the afternoon about 20 miles out of town in the Entre-Deux-Mers finalising the 2010 Laithwaite Sauvignon blend. The cool summer nights and James’ New Zealand winemaking has created an incredibly grassy aroma backed with subtle citrus fruits ... one of the best yet I reckon!

The continuous and tedious task of rolling and stirring the barrels in the Grand Chai cellar is starting to pay off as the first wine to emerge after what winemakers call the ‘closed period’ is the 26 barrels of Vermentino which goes under the name of the white ‘Vent de Folie’ label. The wine has suddenly started to express itself by re-releasing all the beautiful aromas found in the grape way back in September, and now they are backed by a luscious palate built by stirring the sediment daily.

Oh and Petit Denis says ‘he knows a gardener of a very posh, huge Chateau in the Dordogne that is so proud of his work that every morning he cleans all the water hoses and irrigation system garden with a fresh, clean tea towel provided by his wife…….’


Monday, 25 October 2010

We have all now fully recovered from Friday night’s ‘Gerberbaude’, the name for the official end of harvest party

We all celebrated ours at Le Comptoir in St.Genes and it was a fabulous night with 130 winemakers and owners attending.

Bottled a little beauty this morning and a steal for the price, the 2009 Chateau Bellevue Favereau Bordeaux - another little find we made from tasting at Le Chai.

Whilst I was out and about I decided to start the rounds at Bertrand Massonie’s chateau where we make our Grand Chai Lalande de Pomerol. I checked the 08 for bottling next week (a really lovely wine), the 09 in barrels (still needs time) and tasted through the 2010, still on skins in vats, great fruit this year, and again like 09, the satellites such as Lalande de Pomerol will be bargain wines!

After doing the right bank red rounds I finally ended up at the Chai to taste through all the whites and with our Southern whites and reds harvested and almost finished (bar one naughty young vine Grenache ferment!) the Chai cellar is now back to full strength with Maitena from Spain, James from NZ and of course our own Petit Denis.

Which reminds me, Petit Denis says ‘he knows a bloke who found a German Soldier skeleton in the Dordogne and that the whole top of the skull had been repaired after a shell attack with a metal plate…….’

Anyway back to the wine, most of the ferments are now dry except the Marsanne and the Chardo from Limoux which were picked the last. We are now busy confirming that the wines are sugar dry by analysis and then adding some sulphur to protect the wine before putting into barrels and beginning the daily task of rolling and stirring. With 500 barrels to roll and stir it is quite a task and seems to never end!

Tomorrow I will be doing the 2010 Laithwaite Sauvignon rounds with James, but tonight I will trying out the 2009 Chateau Bellevue Favereau with roast organic guinea fowl.


Tuesday, 19 October 2010

And I’m back In the Game!

Well what a vintage ride it’s been. I started on August 29th down in the Roussillon with the Grenache Gris and it hasn’t stopped since!

Immediately after in rolled the Sauvignon Blancs of the Entre-Deux-Mers, Chardonnays of Carcassonne, Viogniers of Beziers, Vermentino from Languedoc, an all new Marsanne, then Roussanne, Sauvignon Gris back in Bordeaux, Chardonnay from Limoux, and whites done.

Midi red harvest kicked off with not a moment to spare. Languedoc Pinot Noir, l’Agly Valley Syrah, Roussillon Grenache and Carignan, Minervois, Fitou, Corbieres more Grenache in the high Schist of St.Paul de Fenouillet, the Negrette’s of Fronton, Cotes de Castillon, Pauillac, Margaux and finally our Grand Chai St Emilion yesterday with perfect berries rolling off the sorting table.

Not to mention the Americans, Australians, New Zealanders, English, Frenchies, the Spanish, Bernadette’s lunches, Le Voyageur restaurant, 20,000kms driven, a few speeding tickets, JMS, dinners at Le Bourg, Le Comptoir at St Genes, boiling hot weather, cassoulet, Sir Michael of Windsor, the Laithwaites, film crews 2 or 3?, our UK buyers, UK team conferences, 80’s fancy dress parties, Chai dinners, tours, wine advisors from the UK, Chai Keyholders, Monday markets and of course our own Petit Denis!

Oh and Petit Denis says ‘The new huge 100 ton Chain draped over the refurbished Castillon Citadel entrance used to be stretched across the Dordogne River to stop barrel laden Gabare boats getting through to Bordeaux tax free and he knows a bloke with a toe for thumb’…..

We’ve all gone slightly mad but with all the grapes in and most of the whites already finished, their sugar sanity is back and the next step of winemaking can begin. We now have nearly 500 white wine barrels to be daily stirred or rolled on the OxO in order to mix back the sediment for palate weight, crisp Viognier and Sav B’s to rack off lees and keep fresh and reds to pump over precisely to extract the perfect amount of tannins.

Oh and a stuck ferment in the Midi, there’s always one isn’t there! Will keep the hire a few more days ... fingers crossed

And a big thanks to Libby for her patience with me over harvest!