Wednesday, 13 March 2013

The Hurricane
The secret is out! I can finally reveal that during the last year I have been working together with JC on my very own wine project thanks to the encouragement from Tony Laithwaite! 

For 13 years I have longed to make the purest Grenache ever, but other people’s ideas and fashions demanding high alcohol, lots of oak or Shiraz in the blend have not, for me, been the best style for this difficult grape variety.  Grenache Noir is a grape that I put in a category alongside Pinot Noir and Tempranillo as being the most fickle and attention-seeking grape varietals of all. 

Grenache Noir is very often talked up as a full bodied, dense and strong wine but really it is actually a very complex, delicate and not that ‘noir’ grape variety.  Poor tannin ripeness and oxidation are the main factors that ruin the great pure Grenache fruit character that many people haven’t actually experienced before. 

I have been moaning on and on about this as winemakers tend to do! I’d moaned so much that Tony finally turned to me last year and said “well do it, then. Don't tell anyone and do it your way”. That encouragement sparked what is now my ‘Hurricane’ wine, the purest old-vine Grenache ever!

We starting carefully pruning last January using the ‘taille long’ method. You prune the spur to six buds and then on bud burst re prune leaving just two buds, so delaying the bud burst and in turn the flowering, thus avoiding the poor flowering Grenache is renowned for.  We made lots of green pruning in the summer taking the unwanted and water-sapping sucker shoots and leaving canes much longer than normal, increasing the leaf area for maximum photosynthesis.

The harvest had to be spot on and the Duran family team – including: Celine, Axel, the brothers, sisters and cousins; led by JC, Papy Pierot and myself – was the dream team. We carefully hand harvested at the crack of dawn at optimum maturity, carrying case by case the tiny Grenache bunches back to the garage winery in the village.

I used selective yeast and also introduced a new technique of malolactic co-inoculation. This means instigating the malolactic ferment and finishing the malolactic fermentation whilst the alcoholic fermentation takes place.  Normally this is not done until the end of the alcoholic fermentation. The aim of this is to finish the wine as early as possible to capture the freshest and purest essence of the variety.

Getting the wine to bottle with all its fresh fruit intact is quite a task and has been the priority since the beginning of the year.  Finally, the bottling date was scheduled for just around midnight last Thursday night.  I arrived in Maury late in the evening and got straight to work with JC on the exact final blend in the small garage winery. No need to take sample as I could reach the small vats of different batches from my upturned crate seat!

The blending continued late into the night trying 2% of this, how about 5% of that, but by midnight we had the blend. No sooner had we decided than the old doors of the cellar started rattling and a sudden freak storm with a hurricane wind raged through the village: a sign perhaps!?

After much bottling organisation my mind still boggles at why bottle, box, capsule and label producers don’t cooperate with one another! However, after a few last-minute dilemmas the wine was safely bottled at 11.21pm. I hope you get to taste some; I made only 400 cases and it’s available soon at Laithwaite’s… Bonne degustation! 

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