Vinification

The revelation of a " Terroir"

Vinification means the fermentation process whereby the sweet grape juice is transformed into an alcoholic substance, rich in complex aromas and savours that evolves in time. We vinify the wine from each individual vineyard plot separately.

This very crucial period cannot really be called the ‘creation’ of the wine. It is merely the natural fermentation process which starts the minute the grapes are harvested and ends when the fermentation process is complete, one to two months later.

To vinify is to capture the originality of the ‘terroir’ through the fruit in a given climatic context.

The climate is never the same from one year to another and has an influence on the many different facets of the wine, giving a multitude of different combinations of colour, aromas, flavour. It is the essence of the word ‘vintage’. 

To vinify is to reveal the true personality of a vintage.

For a vintage to be successful a number of factors have to be observed: 

In the past, there was no way of influencing the fermentation process. Great vintages stood out from normal years, for their aromatic qualities and ageing potential, but especially due to their rarity. Nowadays, modern vinification techniques make it almost impossible to fail the vinification of a vintage.

The challenge today is to manage to adapt the modern techniques to our traditional winemaking in order to achieve a good wine. It is unfortunate to say that by wanting to achieve flawless, perfect wines this is leading to standardisation and uniform wines that have lost their proper identity and originality. Productivity has become important. We have to produce wine and succeed a vintage at all cost, wines must be ready to sell rapidly with no risks, which is after all natural for a living product like wine. It is therefore all the more important to make the right choice of vinification techniques and produce a wine with character.

To vinify is to make the best choice

Our approach is to keep the technical methods to a strict minimum in order to preserve the subtle aromas and flavours of the fruit.

  • The choice of perfect grape quality :

Good selection of the best grapes, elimination of any unripe or damaged berries, together with careful identification of the grapes from each individual vineyard plot.

  • The choice of the simplest methods : 

Provided the modern winemaking techniques are used sensibly, they are essential for improving the quality of the wine. We do believe however, that too much technology kills the originality of a wine and leads to standardisation in general.

After picking, the grapes are transported on a conveyor belt to the crusher, the grapes are drained and the excess juice is removed. The grapes are then transferred to the fermenting vats. We consider concrete vats to be the most efficient way of maintaining a regular fermentation temperature, due to the inertia of the concrete, without having to use costly and complicated cooling methods.  

  •  The choice of natural fermentation conditions :

In the past the fermentation process just had to take its natural course according to the temperature and climatic conditions. Today, the modern physical and chemical techniques are able to regulate this process. The winemaker now has the choice whether to take time for the fermentation to happen naturally or speed up the process.

Alcoholic fermentation, is the first step whereby the natural sugar present in the grapes is transformed into alcohol by the natural yeasts contained in the grape juice. This happens in three stages ::
  

  1. The starting off process : we do not induce fermentation by using industrial yeast, but let it start off naturally. This takes from 3 to 4 days from one year to another. This short period is essential for the release of the natural fruit aromas
  2. The development: the fermentation process takes place over a period of about 8 to 10 days. The sugar is transformed into alcohol, increasing the temperature considerably and thereby releasing carbonic gas. Every year, in order to ensure good concentration of the grape matter, the fermenting wine is run off or ‘bled’ from the vats. This takes place within 60 to 72 hours from the start of fermentation and will result in rosé wine.
  3. The post-fermentation maceration period: This stage, which takes from 8 to 10 days, is very important as is the final stage where the wine extracts its precious tannins and colour from the juice. The red grape juice, which is white to start with, takes on progressively more and more colour throughout the fermentation process from contact with the skins and pips which are rich in colour. The higher the temperature during fermentation, the more concentrated the extraction of this matter will be in the wine.

Our principles : " The cap (top of the fermenting wine in the vat) should remain " immersed’ at all times. The juice is frequently run from the bottom to the top of the vat to improve the extraction of grape matter throughout the wine in the vat, irrigating the grape matter, rich in aromas and colour and oxygenating the juice as it does so. In modern winemaking, this process implies the use of highly complex technical intervention including adding yeast to accelerate fermentation as well as special enzymes and heating of the wine to increase the extraction of colour and flavour. This intervention can be considered to correct or prevent unforeseen problems that may occur during fermentation, but should not be carried out systematically in order to increase productivity and eliminate any possible risks, as they may prove to have dangerous consequences.

Whatever the vintage, there is always the temptation to extract as much as possible from the grapes, to give the wine a greater concentration of flavours and colour, which often results in it losing its original character , that of the terroir and completely alienating itself from the notion of vintage itself!

The malo-lactic fermentation takes place after the alcoholic fermentation 

This is due to the bacteria that transform the malic acid, which is little affected by oxygen, to lactic acid, which is very sensitive to oxygen. At the end of the initial fermentation when the fine wine has been separated from the grape matter which will be pressed to give the press wine.  Both wines are then put back into the cement vats which are still warm from the alcoholic fermentation. This residual heat will be sufficient to start off the malolactic fermentation. This can only take place at a between20°Cand25°C. and carbonic gas is released. The effect of this malo-lactic fermentation on the taste of the wine can be noted only when this is finished, in December or January. For this to be effective, the wine has to be aired sufficiently beforehand. The wine is drawn off twice at an interval of 2 - 3 weeks. This phase is essential and has a very creative effect on the wine. It enables the winemaker to use his talent to make the very best of the vintage.