Every morning, I make coffee and watch the sunrise over the vineyard. There is a slight mist and fog, the sky is pink and the land is silent. This is seriously theraputic. For the first few days, it scared me to have this much quiet… but I have grown to love it and it feels so amazing to be one with nature.
At 8 am everyone starts to show up at my Chateau and the work day begins. Katrine meets with Cedric (the enologist) and they go over the plan for the day. I sit in on this meeting…. even though they are speaking in french I try and pick up bits and pieces of what they are saying. They go over what needs to be done at all four of the vineyards… this can change throughout the day depending on emergencies or wine behavior.
Then, Cedric and I are off to whichever vineyard is priority that day. We have to get the winery (or as the french call it ~ cellar) ready for the harvest that is coming in. The tanks need to be set at a certain temperature and sterilized.
These are the tanks that the wine is pumped into. Some are stainless steel. All are temperature controlled. This is crucial that the temperature remains cold. The reason… we need the grape juice to remain cold because we are trying to prevent fermentation from starting immediately. We want to control when it starts. In fact, Cedric added dry ice to the grapes and juice the first day… the temperature was rising and it was a problem. He will also add sulfites to calm the natural yeast down. The attempt is to COLD SOAK the wine. This means no chemical reactions are taking place yet, The grapes sit in their juice to bring out as much aroma as possible.
When the grapes are received from the harvest… they go to the sorter machine (last post) and then there is another machine that is churning them and bursting the skins open. This is known as foulage. At this point it is important for us to measure the sugar and acidity of the grapes. We have a tool called the refractometer to do this. If the grape juice is read to be too acidic ~ we make adjustments.
Next, Cedric will decide when to allow fermentation to start for each tank. The temperature will be raised and an initial burst of oxygen will be pumped into the tank to get the yeasts awake. In simple terms, fermentation means : the natural yeast that is on the grapes will convert the natural sugar in the grapes to alcohol. Once fermentation begins…. we will take another measurement. We can actually measure the density and we can read the amount of sugar in the juice. Therefore, we will know the alcohol percentage~ as the sugar will eventually be converted to alcohol. We take a sample from the tank and measure with a hydrometer (it looks like a thermometer). (Below)
For the wines in these vineyards we want 13-15% alcohol. Other vineyards will be different and it is up to the winemaker to control the harvest to get the percentage of alcohol desired.
Sweet Wines ~ So, the yeast will convert sugar into alcohol up to 15% ….but let’s say that there was 19% sugar in the grape juice. The yeast will convert up to 15% into alcohol and the remaining 4% will not be converted, thus leaving us with 4% sugar. This is known as residual sugar and produces a sweet wine. The reason is the science. The same sugar that feeds the yeast will also kill it at 15%.
Okay, I think that is enough science for this post. Each day I am learning more and more and it is so interesting to me. What else?!
Well, I am continuing to enjoy five course meals … lunch is multiple courses as well 🙂 I am having the best experiences EVER!
This is Cedric (the Enologist ~ basically he works on the scientific part of the wines… how they are developing, sugar and acidity balance, tannin adjustment, harvest control, etc.)
We started yesterday with a glass of the famous sparkling white wine of Saint Emilion. We visited the caves where this is stored in the center of the town.
Then, we headed over to Cedric’s friend Jerome’s vineyard to have a three hour lunch overlooking the vines. Oh MY GOODNESS. These guys know how to have a good time.
Started with Pastis and Olives. I took a few sips of the liquor that tastes like anise/licorice but it was mighty strong for me. Then, we popped open a bottle of Alsace Muscat to sip with our oysters and salted butter baguette. The guys made fun of me as I continued to spread the butter on my baguette… they don’t understand how irresistible the butter is here compared to the states 🙂
Next, we had roasted duck and fried potatoes. We opened a bottle of my favorite Saint Julien Merlot.
The simple life. Beautiful food. Beautiful surroundings.
After our beautiful time at Jerome’s Vineyard … Cedric invited me to spend time with his family. His wife is so lovely and welcomed me into their home. I also got to meet his two adorable children. I will cover more of this next blog post!
More to come! Off to go watch bottling happen at the Peyrou Vineyard.