Monday, 7 November 2011

No travelling for us winemakers last week …

… but that doesn’t mean we haven’t been busy! It is another crucial point in the winemaking process when the wines are now dry, ferments have finished and the natural protective CO2 has disappeared leaving the wine very vulnerable to oxidation. So we have been in the cellar all week, moving wines off their sediment, adding protective sulphur, cleaning out barrels and vats and putting everything back!

It is at this stage that the wines start to show their potential and reveal the true quality of our work and the vintage. It is quite a worrying time as all the initial fruit and aromas have been masked by the fermentation. So it’s a relief to taste and smell all those beautiful fruit characters that were present in the grapes way back in early September.

Nothing is blended or finished yet but here are some of my thoughts on the 2011 whites so far:

Grenache Gris (GG): Lovely aromatics, fresher white fig fruit, less tinted colour and lower alcohol this year, still in barrel.

Chardonnay ‘Cailloux Vineyard’: fresh vintage down in Carcassonne and I selected only the Cailloux vineyard this year to make a single-vineyard wine. Lovely acidity with bright tropical fruit.

Vermentino ‘Vent de Folie Blanc’: really good this year. Beziers missed most of the rain and the heat at the end of August and early September allowed for big ripe flavours. Again, good fresh acidity.

Limoux Chardonnay ‘La Voute’: outstanding year for finesse. I went even higher into the Haute Vallee this year resulting in a very classy Chardonnay which has perfect balance and will age beautifully. Currently on lees in barrel: new and one-year-old.

Carignan Blanc ‘New Wine’: this year’s all new Chai wine. Very hard to get hold of, but I managed to prise this rarity from my friend Laurent in Maury. It’s a lovely balanced wine with a unique character of tropical and citrus fruit.

Sauvignon Blanc ‘JMS’ and ‘Le Grand Chai’: good work from Kiwi James on a difficult year but he picked in the right window and plenty of classic grassy aromas and good palate weight.

Sauvignon Gris ‘Le Coin’: superb this year with ripe tropical fruit, very distinctive perfumed flavours

Viognier: absolutely stunning varietal character and I’m really getting to know this vineyard now in Carcassonne, violets, honey and apricot.

Dry Botrytis Sémillon: another new Chai wine. A brilliant Tony Laithwaite idea brought to reality this year in the cellar. And it worked; worked very well indeed. Lovely aromas of marmalade and dried apricot, but with a lifted citrus note. Fantastic palate, rich with another lovely limey acidity keeping it fresh.

Still lots to do in the cellar but the results of our meticulous selection in the vineyard are proving the worth of all the long days (and nights) and many miles in the car!

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