Hand picked and collected in traditional wooden tubs...
Souvenirs, souvenirs 1988
Hand picked and collected in traditional wooden tubs...
We have been talking about it already last year in spring: The Rhone 2011 vintage requires patience. We started on a sunny Wednesday 14th of September, harvest was hand picked and sorted, natural yeasts carried out fermentations, late-harvested grapes were put in the vats without destemming and tannin extractions were long and slow.
Most of the wines were aged in oak, with large 3600 vats replacing most of the traditional smaller barriques. Now the blends are finished and the wines rest in concrete tanks, waiting to be filled. The latter will be done according to the lunar calendar, in order to enhance the aromatic expression of the wines.
Like for every wine, the character of great Champagne is born in the vineyards. But its quality highly depends on the pressing of the grapes. Traditionally, vertical basket presses containing 4000 kg of grapes (or a multiple of 4000 kg) are used in Champagne. Press, cellar and tanks are standardized and their conformity is checked by the CIVC (Comité interprofessionnel du vin de Champagne) and the INAO (Institut national des appellations d’origine). Grapes are pressed as whole bunches without destemming. The advantage of whole bunch pressing is that the juice flows out of the pomace more easily. Additionally, the pomace filters the juice, that runs out of the press particularly clean and clear.
According to its quality, the must is split into different parts, called “cuvee” for the first part, “taille” for the last part. During pressing, pomace is restacked by hand several times to facilitate liberation of the juice.
After several hours of loading, pressing, restacking and unloading the basket, the wine maker obtains some 2050 litres of “cuvee” and 500 litres of “taille” must. That’s the maximum press yield allowed by the production rules of the Champagne region.
When I last time visited Nathalie and Hubert in December (I love to go to the Champagne towards the end of the year!), they asked me to put those pictures of the 2012 harvest on the website.
The pictures have been taken in September 2012. One week of harvest a under grey but rain-free sky, picking Chardonnay grapes of the Côte des Blancs. Every acre of the small and dispersed vineyards is harvested by hand, with the help of hundreds of hands. A very fast and concentrated harvest, typical for regions that cultivate only one grape variety. Despite the differences between terroirs, almost all grapes are ripe at the same time. Even more, as only “low” maturity levels a required to produce sparkling wines, in order to preserve acidity and fresh aromas in the grapes.
now that the wines have achieved fermenting the last residual sugars, and we have decently celebrated the end of harvest at the Domaine de l’Arjolle, we may try a first review of the 2012 harvest.
We picked the first Sauvignon grapes at the Arjolle early in the morning on 22nd of August, followed by the other grapes for our white wines, Chardonnay, Viognier and Muscat Petits Grains a few days later. Favourable weather conditions during this first part of harvest, allowed us to pick grapes at optimum ripeness. As a result, we have very nice and aromatic white wines with crispy acidity in our cellars.
Syrah and Cabernet Franc for our rosé Méridienne were picked in the beginning of September: fermentation was totally done in casks, to favour integration of oaky characters. The period of “bâtonnage” (stirring the lees back up into the wine) to enhance aromatics is over now and you may already fully appreciate the complexity of the fruit and the velvety taste of the wine… Summer will be hot!
September 24th: Beginning of harvest for the red wines with Merlot and Syrah. The good weather does not last and intermittent rains towards the end of September increase pressure at the winery. We decide to wait for full ripeness of Cabernet sauvignon, which imposes a strict selection of the grapes before vatting them. And already now – which fruit and how smooth those tannins are!
This period, when we choose to cut the umbilical cord of the grapes is very delicate and every vintage is different, although there may be similarities. All along this period of hard work, care and attention for every detail are the key to success of a vintage.
For the reds some more patience will be needed: Malolactic fermentation needs to be finished, to reveal the entire mellowness of the wines. In a couple of months 2012 will be in the heart of your feasts.
It has been a vintage full of ordeals for many wine-growing regions in France. After the very hard frosts in February, budburst was quite heterogeneous in the Rhône valley. But due to “fertile” spring weather, full of rain and sunshine, vegetation caught up easily before flowering.
After a warm summer and dry weather in August, we started harvesting on September 17th. Ripe and well-balanced grapes allowed picking Syrah, Cinsault and some early ripening Grenache vineyards before the rainfalls late September. Rain was rather beneficial to our late Grenache and Mourvèdre vineyards, allowing them to proceed their ripening.
A good balance between sugars and acidity, showing potential alcohol around 14% by volume and pH between 3,5 and 3,7, forecasts juicy and generous wines for this vintage. It looks like every vineyard gave us grapes with a lot of character and personality, which is rather promising for the blending and the ageing to be done.
Under a grey but dry sky, Yves Gras is harvesting the last grapes of his most precocious vineyards in Gigondas and Vacqueyras. The rather international harvest team is meticulously sorting the grapes in the vineyards in a concentrated and in a jovial mood, while Yves bends over the trailer to remove the last “bad” grapes and leafs that might have fallen into the buckets. Few but juicy and savoury grapes for the 2012 vintage, by the way the first certified ORGANIC WINE of the Domaine Santa Duc, in vineyard and cellar.
The thunderstorms roaming around France towards the end of September, brought rather beneficial rain for the vineyards and grape varieties that ripen later and will be picked by mid October.