Wednesday, 21 September 2011

A sticky harvest in Loupiac

Another beautiful morning here at Le Chai with the sun rising behind the harvest-time river mist. A perfect start to another grape-picking day here on the right bank of Bordeaux!

The river mist stays low here in Castillon and St. Emilion, safely away from the vineyards. But today I am heading into Bordeaux sweet-wine country; across the Entre-Deux-Mers to the Garonne River. The viticulture and wines are very different here and vineyards are purposely planted so that they are engulfed by the mist everyday. It is here, in and around Sauternes, where some of the most famous Chateau names can be found making the incredible noble rot sweet white wines from the Sémillon grape.

I am heading a little further up-river to a village called Loupiac which is also making fantastic sweet wines. The reason the mist is important is because it creates a perfect humid environment for the botrytis fungus. This fungus can be disastrous to grapes in other vineyards but here, with the thick-skinned Sémillon, the botrytis lives happily on the berry.

It feeds from the water inside causing the grape to concentrate flavours and sugars while still maintaining the high level of acidity needed to balance the wine and keep it from tasting cloyingly sweet. Although the bunches don’t look that attractive, once pressed, the clear sweet juice is released in perfect condition. The harvest is all done by hand and the selection by the pickers is quite something … and a very sticky affair indeed!

The sweet juice was in the Chai by early evening and the plan is to make a dry botrytis wine: very exciting indeed!

Plenty going on at the Chai today. The Chai team, along with Barbara and Tom Laithwaite, were here to welcome personal wine advisors Anna Leach and Phillip Sidebotham, part of the famous “grape crusaders” who have been riding around all of Laithwaites Wine stores in the name of charity.

Having started in Gloucester on the 7th Sept, travelling 287 miles around the 12 Laithwaites Wine UK shops, the group passed the baton onto Anna & Phil who covered a further 300 miles through France; finishing at Laithwaites 13th wine store here at Le Chai au Quai!

The sponsored charity cycle ride is in support of The Prince’s Trust, a charity Laithwaites works closely with. Laithwaites has high aspirations in raising at least £10,000 for the charity and to continue this support in the future.

The Prince’s Trust helps change the lives of over 40,000 disadvantaged youths who have experienced difficulties in their life by offering life changing opportunities for employment, education and training. Well done! If you’d like to help the crusaders reach their target, you can donate here.

I am now off to the Midi to check on the red harvests in the Roussillon. I will be back on Friday in time to welcome a staff trip to Le Chai and to host our International Grenache Day tasting!


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