In 2015 vendanges began on August 21st, in 2016 things kicked off on August 30th. The protracted cool spring and the drought contributed to a later harvest though not so late as predicted because of the hail on 17th August. This damaged some grapes especially in Sainte Suzanne (Metaierie) and Jeff decided that the grapes needed to be picked as they would lose acidity if left on the vine.
On the 30th it was the Syrah which was picked, unusual for a vendanges not to start with white grapes. Syrah normally produces small berries but these were especially small. The cagettes in which the grapes are transported back to the cave are usually running with grape juice, requiring regular cleaning. Today they were virtually dry. Jeff calculated that the volume of juice produced was around half of the normal harvest which is not good news. Hopefully other grapes in other vineyards have fared better but we shall see. This is all the result of the protracted dry spell in the region. Rainfall, other than the occasional storm where the rain comes too heavily. has been pitiful. The vines have found it hard to cope and give water to swell the grapes. The hail confounded the problem by shredding leaves which would help to nourish the grapes.
The good news was that the grapes gave lovely juice; fresh, very raspberry fruit and they smelled of beautiful warm spices. The measure showed potential alcohol of 12% so it will make a light, fresh Syrah wine or blend.
There was a full house to help out. Michel, Julien and Vincent as usual. We were joined by James, an Australian who is staying for the harvest to help his learning for making wine in the future. Charles who spent a few days with us last year is also here for a longer spell, he adds humour and energy. Jeff’s primary school classmate Maylis was also present spending the day in the vineyards. And Céline, Brice and their two girls were here on the way back from their holidays, it is always fun to see them.
One or two bits of machinery creaked under the strain of a new harvest but the changed cellar made cleaning so much easier. The team is taking shape for the challenges ahead. The Syrah sits in cuve 2A, I shall keep you up to date with its progress and path to the bottle.
Day 2, August 31st
The last of the Syrah was picked first. If you look at the photo of the vines with James picking you will notice the lack of foliage and therefore why Jeff felt the need to harvest now. First official analysis of the Syrah from yesterday showed healthier than expected acidity and potential alcohol, a welcome fillip.
Then came the Grenache from Ste. Suzanne, in many ways more problematic than the Syrah due to mildew earlier in the year. However, when it came in there were many good firm bunches of healthy fruit with possibly a little more juice than the Syrah. It was a very hot day so Jeff worked some magic by using frozen pellets of CO2 to stop the juice from starting to ferment too soon so that it doesn’t extract too much of the flavours of the dryer grapes before it is moved for the first time. This was the first time that Jeff has tried this method due to the nature of the vintage and its drought. Difficult to take a photo as all you could see was the mist of the frozen gas.
The juice tasted healthy and fresh with red fruits, a little vegetation still present. Yesterday’s Syrah was already darker, more weighty and very different to yesterday. Wine alchemy. It now sits in cuve 2B next door to the Syrah.
Tomorrow (September 1st) is a new moon and so no picking or work. It is also the 2nd anniversary of my arrival in France, days like this remind me why that decision was a good one.
Salut to Jean-Claude, tu nous manques