Monday, 28 March 2011

Time is a jet plane; it moves too fast

Last week went by as fast as a holiday. Here is why … what I got up to at Le Chai:

Monday 21st

First thing in the morning, we loaded the GG 2010 into the tanker for the very short 3 minute trip up river to our new bottling winery. No sooner had the wine left the vats, they were cleaned and filled with the 2010 Vent de Folie white Vermentino which had just been filtered. I left ‘petit’ Denis to finish this as I needed to empty the tanker and prepare the wine for tomorrow’s bottling.

After a quick lunch, we started on the racking of the 100 barrels of 2009 Syrah de Folie and as fast as I was emptying the barrels, ‘petit’ Denis was washing them. We managed to finish up 60 barrels by around 9pm … not bad going.
Early to bed.

Tuesday 22nd

Straight back at the Chai (had I actually left? dreamt of barrels probably!) to finish off the remaining 40 Syrah barrels. Loïc gave us an extra pair of hands today as we have 500 empty washed barrels waiting to be ‘mèche’ which is when you burn a small sulphur candle on the end of a wire hook and pop it through the bung hole. The candle gives off sulphur gas (takes about 10minutes to burn) chasing out the air and preserving the inside of the barrel until it is re-filled in a couple of weeks’ time. It’s a long job!

I left the guys to get on in the cellar as I had a 10:30 tasting with James Ryland (used to work with Andre Lurton) in the winemaker office. No time for lunch today because the 2010 Grand Chai Bordeaux white needed to be filtered and most importantly, all the components blended ready for the bottling next week. 19,000 litres takes some time to do and as the wine was too small of a volume to fit our 23,500-litre tank, it had to be put back to the vats it was in before filtration. Poor pump works his pistons off!

Once the Grand Chai Blanc was filtered, I immediately started the 2010 Marsanne/Roussanne so as not to waste the filter. A favourite winemakers’ TV saying around the cellar is “I’ve started so I’ll finish”. All went well and even a bit of luck as the wine fitted perfectly in our 10,166-litre vat, pump seemed to smile at me! On the way home I stopped off at the bottling cellar for a final check and taste of the 2010 GG before bottling begins tomorrow.

Wednesday 23rd

Bottling GG 2010 early morning and tastes great in the bottle, very pleased indeed. Back to the Chai where ‘petit’ Denis is now doing the monthly topping of the remaining full 500 barrels and Loïc is still burning sulphur candles …

Chai team meeting at 09:30. Always great to catch up with everyone and I can assure you the whole Chai team are just as busy as the cellar with websites, sales, tours, events, financial plans … the list is endless.

Just as things weren’t busy enough, JMS arrived with Cliff Roberson for a tasting of our Chai range!

The afternoon was spent finishing the GG bottling and straight after, transporting the Vent de Folie white to the bottling plant and preparing the wine for tomorrows bottling.

Dinner was in St.Emilion with JMS, Cliff and his winemaker Gavin from Western Australia. Francois at L’Envers served up some great food: I had lovely fresh crab to start followed by lamb cutlets. We tasted 1995 and 2002 Chateau Troplong Mondot.

Home to bed.

Thursday 24th

Early morning bottling of Vent de Folie white 2010 which tastes divine. It’s made with 100% Vermentino and could easily give the Corsicans (who I learned how to make this style from) a run for their money!

Then again back to the Chai to meet JMS who was with Stuart and Tash visiting from head office. We gave them a tour and tasting of the Chai and then whisked them off to show them Saint Radegonde and the Sauvignon Blanc Entre-Deux-Mers vineyards responsible for JMS’s very own ‘JMS’ and our Grand Chai White Bordeaux.

The next meeting was a lunch and tasting with Jonathan Maltus at his beautiful Chateau Teyssier.

Robert Parker had just paid his annual visit to taste the 2010’s at the Chateau so JMS was really keen to taste and see what he thought. Lunch was fantastic and we ate in the dining room next to the tasting room: avocado salad followed by perfectly tender homemade chicken Kiev’s and vast array of ripe cheeses.

We were very fortunate to taste:
2010, 2008, 2007, 2003 ‘Le Dome’
2010, 2008 ‘Les Astéries’
2010, 2008 ‘Le Carre’
2010, 2009 Vieux Château Mazerat
2010, 2009 Château Teyssier
2010, 2008, 2007 Château Laforge
2010 Clos Nardian
2010 Pezat

And a big thanks you to Jonathan and Neil for the fabulous lunch and tasting.

Next meeting was at another St.Emilion Grand cru, Chateau Mangot where we were greeted by only Yan as on this occasion, his brother Karl had done a JMS and missed his flight. Another great tasting and good to see comparisons of 2010’s. It’s ‘En Primeur’ here next week and by my first glimpses of the 2010’s. There are going to be a lot of black, wine-stained teeth and lips around at the tasting venues! Chateau Mangot, De Lisse, la Brande, Quintessence tasting amazing and the Mangot ‘Todeschini’ 2008 was just out of this world.

I went back to finish off the bottling and to check the Chai (Loïc still burning sulphur candles …) whilst JMS picked up the food for we were cooking tonight at Chateau La Clariere for the guests and winemaker friends. It has been beautiful weather and 22ºC all week so we decided to get the BBQ going!

Friday 25th

No bottling today but Denis and I are now left to clean up the untidy aftermath always left by such occasions. Lunch at the Comptoir, great food again, Remy the chef really using his new customer exposed planxa to its full. I had battered oysters with wasabi mousse and an ‘entrecote’, superb. We tasted two Cotes de Castillon, the 2008 Domaine de l’A and 2004 Chateau d’Aguilhe both lovely but very different styles.

The afternoon was spent with my soon to be Captain for the ‘Voyage’ from Bordeaux to London in May and after crushing my hand, Captain Howard Lucas promised he can never afford to take non-working passengers!

And that was my week! But if you want to get perfect wine into the bottle you mustn’t miss a trick!

This week is rather similar. Bottling three wines, filtering three wines and a lot of barrel moving ready for the 2010 reds!


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