amarchinthevines

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


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Harvest 2019 – The End

En francais

Julien loads the last case of 2019

Life is full of surprises.

I went along to the cellars on Monday 23rd September in order to take some photographs of the pressing and progress with the making of the wines. When I arrived Jeff and Julien were on their own pressing the marc from the Cinsault. The free juice had been run off already into tank but the grape skins and pulp contain a lot of juice still so they are pressed adding more tannins and colour to the finished wine.

However, shifting tons of grape skins from a tank through a small doorway and then pumping it into the press is hard work and though they were managing well enough I decided to help out and get stuck in. It’s a proper workout pitchforking all that pulp, it gets very messy (bad news for my trainers) but job done. More remontages in the afternoon but also the chance to taste through the tanks before sending samples off for analysis.

Tasting wines from tank during or immediately after fermentation is challenging. Jeff is used to it and knows how a wine will emerge. I taste a lot of wines and know his very well by now but all I seek to achieve is an idea of acidity, tannin and fruit presence, to see if these elements are balanced. Happily it is good news all round. The wines tasted good, very promising for the vintage following on from last year’s excellent quality. The analyses are also good, there have been one or two scares along the way but the wines have worked themselves out with a little help from Jeff.

A week later I was a little surprised to hear that there was to be one last pick. This has happened in previous years, often picking Muscat for the solera. However, there were a few rows of Grenache Gris unpicked and so on September 30th, a month after harvest began we started over.

I picked all morning with the Moroccan team of four, my aching back a reminder of how quickly we get out of practice and rhythm. Then back to the cellar where the grapes, with a few vines of Macabeu, were pressed.

Grenache Gris is one of my favourite grapes, its pinkish colour marks it out and many of my favourite white wines from the Languedoc, and especially Roussillon, are made with the grape. The bunches were healthy, the wine should be very good.

In the afternoon we used the marc from the Grenache Gris. It was passed back through the destemmer and the grapes placed into a container with a little bit of water. This will make a piquette wine, a light quaffing wine. I was surprised to read a couple of days later that piquette wines are the new trend in the USA. It is something of a tradition in Puimisson. On Wednesday the piquette was already fermenting when we looked in the container.

There still remains much to do in the cellar but this was definitely the end, the final cases are in. I think.


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That is the spirit

Alambrics at work

Alambrics at work

One of the by products of winemaking is the grapeskins, pips and stalks left over after pressing. This is called the ‘marc’ and can be used to make brandy or eau de vie just as fruit is used in some parts of France. The Hérault has more vines than any other French département so there, naturally, a huge amount of marc left in the autumn. A new distillery, L’Atelier du Bouilleur, has opened in the area at Autignac, the only private distillery in the Hérault. Although private it is run on a cooperative basis and overseen by Quentin Le Cléac’h and Martial Berthaud. They use methods developed in Cognac and by the expert Matthieu Frecon.

Rafle ready to be distilled

Rafle ready to be distilled

Jeff has decided to send his marc to the distillery and Quentin kindly agreed to show me around and explain the distilling process. The building was the former site of a large state run distillery and some of the huge industrial tanks remain. Quentin works on a much smaller scale and is passionate about his work in just the same way a winemaker is about his métier.

Quentin at work

Quentin at work

Alcohol running free after the first heating

Alcohol running free after the first heating

The marc is heated and the alcohol which runs off (see above) is at about 30 degrees proof. It is reheated to bring the level up to around 6o degrees. Many of the winemakers of Faugeres are using the distillery to produce their eau de vie Fine De Faugeres and the faith placed in L’Atelier by producers such as these and Jeff so soon after setting up shows that Quentin and friends have quickly shown their skill. Quentin prefers to use organic grapes though not all Faugeres producers are organic so the eaux de vie are not wholly certified as organic.

The proof (sorry) is in the drinking though and therein lay a problem as I don’t drink spirits. However in the interests of yourselves, dear readers, I sipped some of the finished bottles. Those in the picture are fine de marc and are clear. Other bottles were amber coloured after being aged in barrels previously used in winemaking. I must admit I enjoyed the sips I took. There was no aggression in the drink which is what I expect from spirits. Instead it was smooth, had fruit aromas and left a pleasant, clean aftertaste. My wife, who does like eaux de vie, thought they were excellent.

I am sure the Atelier will continue to flourish, its products are already on sale in Paris and around France. Worth seeking out.

Quentin shares his work

Quentin shares his work