Once the machine harvester has been through the vineyard & shaken the grapes from their stalks we find there is a healthy harvest still on the vine. Last year we made grape juice. This year Micaela is in the vineyard in front of La Grande Maison with the hand picked grapes (cabernet franc) with which we going to make a Vin Rouge.
Considering it was a wet summer this year the grapes are looking really healthy and disease free. September and October have been warm, dry and sunny so perfect ripening conditions. Using the refractometer the juice measured 12.5% potential alcohol. So looking good.
After taking grapes off their stalks by hand Sue is now pressing the grapes using the traditional “foulage aux pied” method (treading by foot) Pressing the grapes in 30 litre plastic barrels using this method allows some of the juice to be released from the grapes thus facilitating the start of the alcoholic fermentation.
Sue assures me she has washed her feet first!
After foulage, sulphur is added to protect the juice from oxidation & to protect it from bacteria. A warm solution of grape juice is prepared to which yeast is added & when the fermentation starts this is added to the batch & stirred in. The lid in place but not firmly shut as a lot of carbon dioxide will be released.
Each day the barrels must be then turned over to ensure maceration.
In order to measure the rate of fermentation a hydrometer is used which measures the density of sugars in the wine so that as the sugars decrease (because they are turned into alcohol) the density decreases until it reaches 0, which represents dryness, therefore the production of a dry red wine.
Later the grapes will be pressed by passing them through a home made pressoir and transferred to a sterile container. We now want the wine to undergo a malolactic fermentation which will turn harsh acids into more palatable softer acids. This sometimes occurs naturally during the alcoholic fermentation but if the conditions are too cold as they have been this year and there are insufficient malolactic bacteria present it will not start so we will introduce ,malolactic bacteria in the form of :”lees” from a neighbours winery where malolactic fermentation has taken place. This should be complete after 15 days at 18oC.
We will continue to monitor the wines progress over the coming months before it is time for racking and later bottling of the first Cuvee La Grande Maison.