Saturday, September 5, 2009

Le Vendange - The Harvest

All over the lower lands of Provence (this is relative as they are still atop plateaus) it is harvest time. Grape juice on the roads, workers up and about early in the morning, the presses, pressoirs, working at full tilt. Bins are filled, tractors are blocking traffic (or at the very least slowing it down). The weather has been wonderful, and today we've a cooling Mistral blowing through the vineyards. Hard to ask for more.

Syrah, aka Shiraz, is the first of the red grapes to be ready for harvest. The team is out (predominantly female) from 7AM to bring the grapes in at their freshest (temperature-wise). The early morning is necessary as temperature control during fermentation is one of the arts of wine-making. Those who harvest by machine have been known to harvest from 2-7 in the morning... In fact, this is the case of at least one of the neighbors. Two bins came in this morning filling the 20 ton tank. The chilling system - reverse radiators fed by the well water under the cellar - was a bit iffy last night, but in fact is working fine, much to the relief of the vintner. This morning the tanks were at their proper temperature, and the day's work was put into motion. Besides removing the grapes from their stems, les érafles, there will also be multiple airings of the grapes and liquid, remontages, by which the juice and some of the grape solids are pumped out of the tank from below and poured back in from above, breaking any cap that might form atop the liquid, and encouraging a better mixture of the skins into the juices. This is desirable for a maximum extraction (same word in both languages).

This week a WOFeuse, i.e, an intern via the World Organic Farms association which places individuals from all over the world with organic farms for a proper internship, or a working vacation, is here from Paris. Normally a skilled store manager for a leather designer, travelling throughout the world setting up stores in Lebanon, Russia and South America, she is spending her vacation learning about wine from A to Z, and working the harvest. Energetic, willing and bright, she's trading room, board and a short education for her labor.

It's been a stressful week getting everything back into working order, amidst the presence of the electrician and the plumber working on the house above the cellar, etc., But at least the masons have removed their presence from the courtyard, having finished the new roof and flooring. It's been a race against time to have the cellar in shape for this harvest. But, after the first few kinks, things seem to be back in order, and all is moving along as it should. The viognier is looking lovely, currently evaluated at 14 degrees (a bit high for a white, but then again, this grape tends towards this), with rich fruit and amélique flavors (banana, English candy, malabar) inherent to the fruit itself.

The final rosé will be have approx. 25% syrah from this week's harvest. So far, so good. The cooler it is kept, the more delicate and captivating the fruit and floral aromas. It, like the white, has had the solids removed prior to fermentation, débourbage, and is progressing nicely.


Martha Ann said...

I can't even begin to imagine how much work that is. I can, however, imagine the smell and taste of those bunches of grapes and I'm drooling.

Madeleine Vedel said...

the work is hard -- I skipped out on it this time around, though might join in next week -- and yes, those grapes are as sweet as you've ever tasted!