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Harvest & Wine Making

          arvest & Wine Making




Ideally we harvest when the grapes have reached their peak ripeness. Obvious. But not so simple. This necessitates the convergence of aromatic, phenolic (tannin, colour), and chemical (sugar, acidity) ripeness. As we get closer to the estimated harvest time, this entails analysing the grape must in a laboratory to determine sugar, acidity and tannin, with concomitant tasting of the grapes. And biting the pips. When the pips taste of dry nuts, as opposed to bitter almonds, this is often the sign to go ahead.


Climate is also a determining factor in when to pick. Sudden heavy rain can bode disaster for the crop. Thankfully in the Languedoc, we are blessed with relatively mild climatic challenges, compared to certain other regions in France more vulnerable to autumn rain and hail.


Most of our grapes are hand-picked, bunch by bunch, plot by plot, because this is still the best way to harvest quality fruit. In 2012 we worked with a team of 15 pickers and carriers, using traditional back-baskets (hotte) to collect the grapes in the rows. And, bien sûr, the end of the harvest is celebrated with the traditional fête des vendanges.



Each stage of our winemaking is monitored by regular tastings and laboratory tests.


Our Red Wines

We pick the grapes entirely by hand from mid-September to early October, so harvest only the ripest, healthiest, bunches. Each plot of land is harvested and vinified separately.


The bunches are de-stemmed and the uncrushed berries are taken to the chosen vat. Alcoholic fermentation is triggered off by the addition of the appropriate yeast which “eats” the sugar and transforms it into alcohol, carbonic gas and heat. The solid matter rises and forms a cap at the top of the vat. The temperature also rises at this time. The art of winemaking consists of maintaining the right temperature and contact between the cap and the juice. This is ensured by literally pushing down the cap manually into the juice with a stainless steel prong (pigeage), when and as often as necessary, thereby extracting the right balance of flavours. After this initial pigeage, the juice is kept at a temperature of 25-27°C and left on the skins as long as it takes for the wine to form its tannic structure and acquire the right degree of richness.


The wine is then delicately pressed in our vertical basket press, 5 hl at a time.

The secondary, or malolactic fermentation takes place partly in cement vats, and partly in oak (225 and 5000 litre casks). This is essential for stabilising red wines. Depending on our regular tastings, we age the wines for 12-18 months, after which they are bottled and left to “rest” until they are ready to be released.


Carbonic Maceration

We experimented with carbonic maceration in 2011 and were so happy with the results that we continued to do so in 2012. We hand-picked enough Syrah grapes to fill our smallest cement vat (18hl) with whole, perfect bunches, which were left to ferment at 35-37°C for 8 to 18 days (respectively 2012 and 2011) until “ready”, i.e. when we could “taste” fresh figs. Then the juice was gently pressed in the vertical basket press and left in the vat to finish its alcoholic and then malolactic fermentation. The resulting juice is exquisitely aromatic and expressive.


Our White Wines

The grapes are harvested in the very early hours of the morning mid to late August when the outside temperature is at its coolest thereby protecting the berries from unwanted oxidation. Once sorted and de-stemmed, they are immediately and delicately pressed in our pneumatic wine press. During the pressing, the grapes and the juice are protected from oxidation by a blanket of inert nitrogen gas. This retains all the wine’s colour and aromatic potential.


The juice then goes into a stainless steel, temperature-controlled vat (12°C) and is left for 24 hours to settle by gravity, before racking. Alcoholic fermentation takes between 14-21 days.


Ageing on the lees lasts approximately 6 months in 50% new oak casks: demi-muids (600-litre capacity) and traditional barrels (225-litre capacity). These are regularly topped up, stirred with a stick (bâtonnage) and tasted.



Our Rosé Wines

It is something of a shame that rosé wine is not always given the recognition it deserves, because it is far from easy to achieve the balance required between aromatics and colour.


Technically, we make it as we would a white wine. The grapes are picked very early in the morning, between late August and early September, to ensure cool temperatures which keep the berries fresh and protect them from undue oxidation. Once de-stemmed, the berries are immediately pressed just enough to extract interesting aromas and texture, but not too much to avoid over-darkening the juice.


The juice is then placed in temperature-controlled stainless steel vats until the end of alcoholic fermentation, which usually takes around a week. The wine is then left to age on the lees with regular stirrings (bâtonnage) to nurture the gentle extraction of interesting aromatics.