photos taken by Eben Lillie
September 5th, 2011Because of heavy rainfall, 10 to 30% of our grapes this year are rotten. We've been sorting through bunches, and have been forced to throw away some usuable grapes because large parts of those clusters were too affected by rot.
The yields for the first week were 35 hl/ha. Hopefully we'll get bigger numbers in the following days!
The good news is in the quality of the juice; the years of sorting experience I've instilled in my harvesters has really paid off. It's been more time consuming than I expected, but the effort was well worth it; the juice is clear, with great acidity (5.8 g/l) and the sugar levels are just where I want them to be. The first batch was at 10.5 and we've now reached 11%.
We'll be harvesting the old vines at Briords on Tuesday. We just finished Gras Moutons; less rot and the grapes were very ripe. The Pépière vines are in good shape too, although we've only been there one day so far. It looks like only the Briords were a real problem, and we probably will have very little to bottle this year.
Via chamberstwines.comGras Moutons.
Today was a completely clear day, without any clouds. It was HOT! Every time I looked up and made eye contact with a fellow harvester the word that inevitably came out of both our mouths was "CHAUD!" I now have an official "winemaker's tan." My nose is almost as red as Marc's!
The Gras Moutons site is really beautiful. It's situated on the top of a hill, with plenty of wind and even a view of Nantes in the far distance. There are young and old vines here. In fact there are three different plantings. One that is about 15 years old, another around 30, and then the old vines which are somewhere between 50 and 60 years old. Marc's predictions were right. The old vines had more rot than the young. I asked him why and he mentioned how dense the leaves and the vines are. There were a lot of leaves on the old vines... easily the hardest vines to harvest so far, as the vines are so old and twisted and there are so many leaves in the way.
The weekend is upon us. The harvesters get Saturday and Sunday off but there will be some work to do in the cellar, obviously with today's juice, and in general preparation for next week. Just enjoyed a lovely outdoor dinner at Marc's home, and would have stayed outside all night if it wasn't for the "pique" from the mestique (mosquito).
Via chamberstwines.comWednesday, August 31st: Lots of rot (pourriture) in the vineyards, rain for 3 days last week has caused problems as the grapes bunches are consumed. Marc is worried about yields this year, as we were cutting off most of a bunch just to save 10 or 20 grapes out of what would normally be around 100. Luckily they have some new vineyards this year, one that is through the first year of conversion to organic and has very good soil and a good slope facing the sun, which we were harvesting today, called Les Tigres. We will finish that parcel tomorrow and move on to the young vines at the Briords site. Marc says he can't remember a vintage with this much rot in the vineyard since maybe 1994, and he simply can't remember a year with as much rain as they got in July and August. He's not happy but he says this year will really show the difference between machine harvesting and hand harvesting, and will show that the hard work in the vineyard and the close attention to detail is very important. They are tasting the juice every day, multiple times a day, to see how it is evolving... With the machine harvesting in the area, they usually have to add lots of SO2, then also use coal to absorb flavor from the rotten grapes, then because that isn't enough, cream also, so they end up with a juice that is completely flat, devoid of flavor. and then they add the yeasts.
Thursday, Sept 1st;
Today I spent the morning with Remi, Marc's associate, and the afternoon harvesting in the vines. We took yesterday's press juice (the last, most concentrated juice of the pressing) for filtration, then returned in time to receive the grapes for the first crush of the day. ((Marc and Remi both feel it's important this year to have this pure clean juice (which tastes amazing and is really a dark orange in color) because it has so much flavor and will help to add richness back to the wine)) They're adding a very small amount of SO2 to the cuve this year, because of the rot that they are encountering. Usually it is 1 gram per hectolitre, but it will probably end up being a few grams more this year depending on the significance of the rot. We measured the alcohol level, by measuring the sugar and then using a chart to determine the corresponding potential alcohol level, which was a little low at 10.5 after the first two presses, and we measured the acidity, which was ideal. I don't know what the numbers mean.. but it was 5.8 and somewhere between 5.5 and 5.8 is the aim, so 5.8 is ideal. Usually by the time the wine is wine and is bottled, the level goes down a few points, so it would probably end up at 5.5. This still doesn't explain how much of this acidity is malo, tartric, citric, etc, but it gives a very good idea of what the end result will be. The tank with juice from the first two days (Monday and Tuesday, 8/29 and 8/30) of harvest has just started to ferment, with foam at the top of the tank. The juice is very tasty, with a little tingle of petillance from the gasses that are put out when the sugar converts to alcohol. Conditions were much better in the vines today. The vendangeurs (harvesters) were all at the original Pepiere site, which Marc has owned and tended for a long time. There was a lot less rot in the vineyards and we ended up doing 4 presses by the end of the day. The harvesters are a great bunch of people who are very fun to work with. I will write more about them and include pictures once I reveal to them that I am not just on a "stage" (like an internship) but that I'm also an "embedded reporter!" Today, Marc says he is happier with the harvest. He noticed that at the edge of his vines, where his rows border his neighbors, there was a lot of rot, but in the middle, there were more healthy bunches and a lot less rot. His neighbor uses what Marc calls "food" and what I am quite positive is the French version of MiracleGro, which covers the surface of the vines. These particular vines have much more foliage but the grapes are in worse condition. Marc also smelled acetic acid (which smells like vinegar and is very dangerous in winemaking) towards the end of the harvest today, and was careful to stop the harvesters in these sections. Apparently, if acetic acid gets into the juice, even at low levels, it can affect the entire tank and ruin the juice. I've been sampling some grapes here and there as I pick. The grapes are delicious. The plain old grape juice from the press today was so good, I temporarily regretted it was going to end up as wine... but then my common sense returned. Tomorrow we harvest Gras Moutons, which is a parcel that was given to Remi by his father, who has been making wine in Muscadet for a long time. Marc is optimistic about the young vines, but has some worries about the old vines at Gras Moutons, as they may have suffered from the unsavory weather conditions. On verra!