Thursday, 20 September 2012

Un Vent de Folie

With all the whites in and fermenting happily at Le Chai, I left Bordeaux and headed for the red harvest in the Roussillon.  

As normal the yields are down. JC got hailed on 3 times and it’s drier than ever but he keeps smiling and is in best form for the old-vine harvest.
Hail damage


Papy is also getting stuck into his 55th harvest and not taking any nonsense from the array of harvesters who come every year from all walks of life. No machines here!
Some of the harvesters

JC’s wife Celine has taken her holidays to help out in the vineyard. She used to work full time in the family vineyards so she knows the ropes. She seems so much happier and at home lugging the boxes of Grenache than she is when working in the supermarket. She really misses the vineyard.

Midday comes around quickly and Papy has already got the fire going. Out comes the long coiled Catalan sausage, not forgetting a chilled bottle of Maury! Everyone is fed and Mauried (a new word?) and it’s back to it as we really need to fill the vat today.

 JC, Celine and I go back with the first truck of boxes and start processing them from the main road and pavement into his tiny garage winery.

JC's Garage Winery

Dinner is a well-earned three-courses-in-one ‘rapido’ that consists of steak, salad, frites and cheese at Williams thriving village cafĂ©. And, of course, a glass of chilled Maury!

Steak 'rapido'

Tomorrow is International Grenache Day, so where better to be than in Grenache Land, harvesting more old vine?! 


Monday, 10 September 2012

Harvest Begins!

The 2012 harvest has begun and the first juice to arrive at Le Chai was the Grenache Gris! The tanker pulled up this morning and the juice is now on its way to barrels for fermentation. The colour this year is an amazing pink picked up from the long skin maceration before being pressed.

With the first vineyards now picked, I have been on a Midi tour checking and selecting grapes. I met up with Maitena who will be based in the Midi over the next 2 months at our winemaker’s house in La Clape near Narbonne, she helping me when I cannot get to the Midi.  Our first stop was in Carcassonne to see Richard Aussie Osborne and have a look at the Chardonnay vineyards. 

As soon as we stepped into the vineyards it was apparent that the rumours of low yields this year were true.  The vineyards had a terrible flowering and yields are down as much as 50%! However the quality is incredibly high and the flavours in the berry already tell me that this is going to be very a good vintage for the Le Chai Midi whites ... but low volumes. The only real problem to be careful of is the low acids and high PH’s, so the vineyards I selected were the Galetis Vineyard which is holding much better acidity; and the slightly lower acid but intensely flavoured Caunettes Vineyard.  

Now that we were happy that we had a rough idea of the picking date we sped up to Beziers to see the Vent de Folie Vermentino. Vermentino is always a surprise as it has rather large berries that give the impression that the juice will be dilute, but on tasting you are always shocked at how flavour packed it is! This year the lower yields have intensified the flavour even more, there are a few spots of botrytis but the warm dry wind has dried it out so it won’t spread.

The Pinot Noir is looking clean and good colour is already coming from the skin, but still has a way to go. So we will give it a bit more hang time and try to turn those pips brown.

The next stop was Limoux, the home of the La Voute vineyards. Quite a yield shock here too, where parts are more than 50% down so it looks unfortunately that we will be severely down in volume. However, I predict that this could be the best La Voute yet! 

Tomorrow we head to Maury to check the XV du President Grenache Noir vineyards and of course Jean-Charles’ old Grenache which is 107 years old this year!