Monday, 29 August 2011

Vendange 2011

I spent my first day grape picking this year at Régis and Christine Pichon's Domaine Ribiera in my village Aspiran. 7 am start yes, but at least there was no commute involved. To my surprise it was going to be Grenache and the 22nd August was believed to be the earliest recorded day for a Grenache harvest the village had know. That said, the objective was to make a fresh and expressive wine for drinking young which is not too rich and not too alcoholic. To achieve this the Grenache was being picked "early" and the instructions were to discard all unripe bunches that, by my estimation, amounted to 30% of the crop. Once it starts to ripen Grenache apparently ripens quickly so waiting until those 30% of bunches were ripe would mean 70% were overripe.

It occurred to me that passing through the vineyard a second time at a later date was an option, but as the photo shows, healthy leaf growth makes it near impossible to see and assess the ripeness of an individual bunch without actually cutting it away from the vine. The discarded bunches will return their goodness to the soil and vines so no waste, just loss. I calculated the resulting yield was around 30 hl/ha - the ideal spring flowering conditions have ensured a good crop.

The team were clearly experienced locals with the classy smooth action of hairdressers and speed of champion sheep shearers. 6 hours of picking had just one pause café when I managed to snatch this picture of the team (Christine had popped back to the cave).

No doubt I was expected to make my apologies but kept going and even helped with the destemming of the last batch before a very late lunch. Here the destemmed grapes will be pumped directly from the base of the machine into the cuve, a system that minimises exposure of the juice to the air.

Next up will be the Carignan blanc at Mas Gabriel. As white wine needs to be pressed immediately in one batch the picker's duties will be limited to the size of the press - a lighter interlude is in prospect.