amarchinthevines

Learning about wine, vines and vignerons whilst living in the Languedoc

Vendanges 2016 #6 – Sort It Out

4 Comments

 

En français

What do you look for when hundreds of bunches of Grenache grapes come towards you? What is your job on the sorting table?

Every winemaker wants the healthiest grapes to go into their vats to make the best possible wine. In some of the smartest chateaux and domains in Bordeaux and Burgundy each grape is sorted, even scanned. However, those are wineries which charge hundreds of pounds for a bottle of wine. For a natural Languedoc wine producer such expense is not feasible, so no scanners at Mas Coutelou. However, the need for only healthy fruit to go into tank is even more important for those who will not use additives such as SO2.

p1010664

The sorting table is new this year, previously we sorted direct from the case. The table means that you can see more of the grapes, move them around and search for any problems with greater ease. Undoubtedly it has led to better triage of the grapes which should help the wines. In a very difficult vintage such as 2016 the table has easily repaid its cost.

 

So, what are you looking for?

p1010660

Michel brings in the cases and information about the grapes

Well, first of all you get information from Michel as he brings the cases direct from the vines. He talks to the pickers and they will tell him if they have been in a good part of the vineyard with few problems or, conversely, if they have had to do a lot of sorting and cutting themselves. Michel relays this information to us on the sorting table with warnings to look out for snails or rot for example. Forewarned is forearmed.

In the video you see Vincent empty the case onto the table. He immediately looks for leaves, snails, spiders etc and removes them. Priscilla starts to sort. I or someone else would be on the other side so that we can see the bunches from different angles and turn them over to inspect.

vdlgrappe

Some squishy grapes

When I first joined the Coutelou team in millésime 2014 it was Carole who taught me what to look for. There are the obvious things, more snails and leaves but then look at the bunches. Or rather, not so much look, but touch and smell. Feel the bunch, are the grapes firm and springy or squishy? In the latter case warning bells ring. Is the squishiness due to juice or to rot? Smell the bunch. Does it have aromas of clean fruit or vinegary, rotten odours? Obviously if that is the case you cut into the bunch and seek out the rot and remove any affected grapes. Usually cut some of the ones around too as they might have been tainted by the rot.

mildew

Mildewed grapes

Look out too for mildewed grapes which have dried and become unpleasant. There are grapes which have naturally dried out and their raisiny sweetness is actually good in the wine, so you have to learn what you are looking for. Are there hail damages grapes? Grapes with holes from vers de la grappe (grape worms)? Black rot? Oidium? In a future article I shall be looking at how these problems show themselves on the final grapes.

lovely-grenache

Lovely Grenache bunch but check the interior

Of course, the vast majority of bunches are great, no problems at all, just lovely fruit. But, beware, those big closed up bunches are the very ones where problems might lurk inside. Don’t be deceived by something which looks good, you must still check it over.

p1010847

Nice, loose bunches – air can circulate to keep the grapes healthy

And meanwhile, whilst you look at that bunch another one is passing you on the table. Work fast, eyes, fingers, nose on the alert. Secateurs cutting whilst your fingers are already touching the next bunch. Be careful, no blood on those grapes please.

p1010794

Sorted!!

For Martin, hope you enjoyed it!

Author: amarch34

I'm a recently retired (early!) teacher from County Durham in North east England. I am going to be spending most of the next year in the Languedoc leaarning about wines, vineyards and the people who care for both.

4 thoughts on “Vendanges 2016 #6 – Sort It Out

  1. Thank you Alan,
    As usual a very informative and not at all boring blog!!! I know I sit at the feet of the master.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Congratulations Alan on compiling this very informative and wonderful blog. Another year has slipped by since Pat, Martin and myself had the experience of picking grapes in the Rome vineyard (slow moving though we were!!!!)at Mas Coutalou.Thank you for making this possible and encouraging us to learn about life as a vigneron.
    Martin and I would like to extend our thanks to Mr Jeff Coutalou for allowing us to be part of this great experience. We have gained a lot of knowledge about the highs and lows of life as a vigneron. We also had the privilege of sharing a delicious lunch with Jeff’s late dad Jean Claude, Jeff himself and his friends. This is a memory we hold dear to our hearts.
    Having had no knowledge into the working and expertise that is involved in the wine making industry we found this a very rewarding , educational and enjoyable experience. We cannot forget the wine tasting night from Jeff’s cave. Oh what a night!!!!! Excellent wines, brilliant company,thanks to you and Pat.
    As you march on through the vines Alan may you enjoy every moment of your journey and to Jeff we extend our best wishes for the future at Mas Coutalou, continuing to produce excellent wines for us all to enjoy.
    Best wishes and blessings ,
    May and Martin

    Like

    • Thank you May, those are very kind and humbling words and they mean a lot to me. It has been a wonderful two year journey and the encouragement and support of our two lovely friends has made it much easier and more joyful. So, thank you.
      I shall pass on your words to Jeff, and look forward to sharing that wine with you in future.

      Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s