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

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Oddities 2

En francais

This photograph was taken on September 5th, so fairly early in the period of the vendanges. It shows white wine being run off its lees after being in tank.

Regular readers will recall that to make a white wine the grapes are usually pressed immediately after picking. The resulting juice heads to tank and ferments. The juice will contain some pulp and various natural substances from the skins such as the yeasts which kick start the fermentation process. As it continues the exhausted and dead yeast cells fall down into the bottom of the tank, these are the lees.

You can see the wine still fermenting because of all the bubbles in the container as it is run off the tank. Leaving the wine on the lees too long can be self defeating, risking bacterial contamination. However, the lees can add a creamy depth to the wine so it is matter of judgement as to how long to leave the wine in contact with them.

I love the golden colour in the photo, offering promise and hope to the wine which will follow. Having tasted the wine I know that the promise will be fulfilled.

Red wines spend time on their skins to extract colour and flavour from them during fermentation. The wine is run off and the skins removed when the winemaker decides. In the photo the skins are being removed by Jeff. However, after that the process is the same. There will be lees in the runoff wine and they will settle as did the white wine lees.

The sludge with lees and some juice

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When the tank is empty


En français

The vendanges may be over but the hard work continues for Jeff Coutelou and the team. Everyone is tired, back aches and minor ailments prevail, yet though the workforce is running near empty there is work to be done. Ironically, emptying the tanks.


Grape must after décuvage

The grape must has played its role in the tanks, adding tannin, colour, texture, aroma etc to the juice. It has reached the point though for some of the wines that the must would begin to have a negative effect, too much tannin or colour and, potentially, an increased risk of contamination.

Therefore décuvage has been the theme of the week, emptying those cuves, pressing the must and returning the juice to a cuve where it will remain for several months finishing fermentation and completing its transformation into wine.

It is a critical time. Moving the wine brings risks especially that of too much contact with air leading to oxidation. So, it was time to muster those last reserves of energy and press ahead.

The juice is pumped to the press along with the skins and grape flesh which are in suspension in the wine. The parts which have sunk to the bottom of the tank are left behind and removed by fork or by hand. The pressing sends the juice to another, clean cuve via another pump. The marc (solid materials left in tank and from the pressing) can be sent to the distillery to make eau de vie, as you will see in the video at the bottom of the page.

The new wine will reflect the grapes and terroir but also the length of time in cuve. Shorter time on skins brings lighter, fresher, juicier wine. That is why décuvage takes place at different times for different wines.

Here Jjeff and Michel ensure that all the wine is in the cuve.

The aches and pains are plentiful, the wines remain full of energy and life.