One of the perks of being a Domaine of the Bee Wine Club Member is that you are invited to be used as slave labour at harvest time.
16 of our Club Members came to Maury and had a gas over a gorgeous windy sunny weekend.
Picking for 3 hours, stomping grapes for 2 hours, and hour looking round the winery and then back to the Hotel Restaurant Riberach La Cooperative for a wine-fuelled dinner.
We decided to pick enough to fill one barrel. This requires about 500Kg of grapes, so we only needed to pick about 30kg of grapes each, but that can take surprisingly long…. especially when there are complex instructions about primary and secondary bunches to take on board (watch Amanda’s explanation here)
And we were keen to use the simplest possible method of fermentation for this special barrel – ‘whole bunch fermentation’.
This involves tipping the bunches into the barrel without removing the stalks, and gently crushing the bunches underfoot, to release the juice.
So we lined up to wash our feet, and then climb in to the barrel of surprisingly cold grapes, to give them a good old stomp.
The resulting wine will have a slightly lower alcohol, and will pick up some tannins from the stalks, which will give the wine a slightly ‘fresher’, and more pithy, green character. “Whole bunch” is becoming very fashionable these days, as some of the opinion-formers among the journalists and sommeliers look for reds that are a bit lighter on their feet.
Once we had worked our magic, we retired to enjoy a gorgeous dinner at the only luxury hotel in the region, in a refitted old wine co-operative building in Belesta, where many of the rooms are located in what were originally concrete wine tanks.
After we had finished with it, our barrel was lifted into a chilled container for 5 days, to keep it too cold to ferment, and to allow as much as possible of the colour and flavour from the skins to leach out into the juice.
Then, once the barrel had warmed up again to around 18 degrees, the fermentation started spontaneously, and took just over a week to ferment to dryness.
I made regular short videos to send to the harvest crew via WhatsApp. We’ve now downloaded most of them to our YouTube channel, which you can have a look at here
The wine is now fermented dry (well, there were 4g/l of sugar left when sampled on Monday 28/10).
A bottle of the fermenting wine was brought back by me for our Club Members to taste on the 2nd November at our Winter Tasting.