Wednesday, 28 September 2011

Adventures in Wine Land 2

Apologies that these Blogs are so fractured and slow to come out but I am sure you can appreciate that it's a little difficult to remember through the haze and even harder to read the notes I made at the time!

Day 3 - I hurt. A lot. My hands are shredded, my career as a hand model is over. Holiday? Despite starting before dawn and finishing well after sunset I am getting a real perverse pleasure out of this. However if you were thinking of a middle aged, middle class holiday tilling the good earth etc in a The Good life meet A Year in Provence- think again. If however you enjoy 16 hours of manual labour in ferocious heat and the constant stickiness of a wham bar in august come on over! Another must is to enjoy the works of Lily Allen. These guys love Lilly Allen, don’t get me wrong I love Lilly- petite girls with a wicked look in their eye and bags of attitude- I’m there, bit 6 hours of the same album got to be a bit much- they seem to enjoy ‘fuck you’ more than most as Bruno explains- the concept is universal and easily translated! So I take control of the music in the shed… Soul and Funk Wednesday is born in St. Trojan!

The up side to all this is trying the ’99 Malbec / Merlot which is awesome, and if the 1999 doesn’t get you going the 2003 definitely will. Both are subtle and well balance with a smoother texture than I am used to with standard Bordeaux. The normal thin, slightly sharp edges of the newer wines has softened in the bottle and the fruit has intensified nicely.

This is unlikely to be the taste notes of the 2011 vintage as it is not a good year for Bordeaux, the long hot spring and wet summer has forced the harvest early on account of the grapes ripening too fast. The warmth of the spring has developed the grapes quickly so the sugar levels are quite low. The wet summer them filled the spaced in the grapes left by the sugar with water. This means that the a lot of this year’s Bordeaux will be quite low in alcohol and a little thin on flavour. The Colombard and Semillion we have picked were a mottled colour and an unusually small. Despite this we generate several hundred 20kg cases of the grapes and press them up to 150 bar `9your tires run to about 4 bar). The juiced is sweet and clear, a near miracle from such damaged grapes. Enzyme will be added in a couple of days to further clear the liquid so the juice is even better. Michael ‘the nose’ of the region arrives to test all of the new pressed juice and some of the wine ageing in the cells. He is pleased with the result and happy that the fermentation is beginning after only 24 hours, in turn Bruno is pleased and so we clean with Bobby Womack at full volume!

In the next two days we manage to generate 7,500 litres of Malbec for the Bordeaux blend that will most likely end up as 80% of the finished product. The merlot is picked later and kept separately so that the nose can return and advise as to the % of the blend. Everyday we cycle the liquid at the bottom of the tank up to the top to keep the tannins moving through the wine and as an organic solution to the problem of ‘crust’ forming on the top of skin of the wine.

Finishing after midnight on the 4th day as the red had begun to ferment after only 36 hours in the tank, the co2 coming off the tank is palpable so we seal it ready to turn all 14.5% sugar to alcohol.

As much of the work at L’ Hospital is done by hand as possible the only nods to the intensive factory farming now so familiar in this region are; a tractor, it’s small and silver and it’s a Lambogini! ‘The Giraffe’ a long conveyor system to feed the grapes into the top of the tank via ‘Big boy’ - the machine that separates the grapes from the stalks. Not forgetting that all of these step would be much slower without ‘the beast’ a high power quad bike the type beloved by all young farmers and not a little beloved by Romain (Lapain Bleu).

Anywhere from 4- 10 pickers work in the lanes and the boys pick up the filled ‘cagette’ with the quad and bring them to ‘the shed’ to be loaded onto the giraffe to be picked thorough by hand to remove leaves, stick, animals large and small and any grapes that do not pass muster.

They pass up the giraffe through big boy and into the tank, the only other element added is a little sulphur to preserve the wine, most wines do this and the organics use a great deal less than the ‘super market’ brands that fill their wines- particularly the whites with sulphur. The result of which is effectively a UHT wine and a terrible headache. L’ Hospital does not do UHT, their wine will keep and keep well thanks to the traditional techniques used in this area for centuries.

More to come...

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