Tag Archives: Maury

Wine Club Harvest Weekend

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.

Harvest team proud of the morning’s work….

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.

First into the barrel – John – the man with the whitest shorts….

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

Visit our You-Tube channel to watch a few videos that follow the fortunes of our intrepid barrel

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.

The easiest way to track fermentations is using ‘specific gravity’ measured with a hydrometer – the density of grape juice is high, and as dense sugar turns to less-dense-than-water alcohol, the density drops from around 1100, to around 995. The pale grey line that started being tracked on the 14th October is the Wine Club Members’ barrel.
Nearly dry – at about 1003, this wine will be dry when it reaches 992-995

We host 14 MWs in the Roussillon

MWs gathered on the boundary between Corbieres and Roussillon

Ever since I first drove up the road from Cucugnan, past the castle of Queribus, and then down to the village of Maury, I have been smitten.

And ever since then, I have brought countless hapless visitors to the same spot, and watched them fall in love too.

The village of Cucugnan

For some rather foolish reason, about a year ago, I stuck my hand up and volunteered to organise an ‘MW trip’ to my favourite region.

Now, the MW trip is one of the best perks of being a Master of Wine. Essentially, for a modest contribution towards costs, MWs can enter the ballot to gain a place on one of 6-8 trips that are run every year to different wine regions.

The idea of the trip is to condense the best wines and best producers in a region into a very focussed and intense visit. The outcome should be that every MW feels fully up-to-date with what is going on in the corner of the wine world that they are visiting.

But my secret plan for this Roussillon trip was to make sure that they too fell in love with this stunning part of the world.

Our first visit was to the hugely inspiring pioneer of the Roussillon – Gerard Gauby, who has torn up the rulebook of biodynamics and written his own. He told us that “If Steiner [founder of biodynamics] was a Catalan, he’d be doing what I am doing”

Gerard and Ghislaine Gauby

Everything Gerard does has ‘love’ written all over it – love for nature, love for biodiversity, love for the people who work with him, and love for simple wines, naturally made. He has pioneered something he called ‘agro-forestry – inter-planting rows of vines with rows of olive trees and fruit trees, and this helps to encourage the wild birds that eat the destructive insects that give rise to grape diseases.

An inspiring and fascinating visit.

The next component of my secret plan was to coax the unsuspecting MWs away from wine for a brief hour, and plunge them into the cauldron of Cathar history that is the castle of Queribus. Never taken in battle, this stronghold could be held against all comers with fewer than 20 men.

The Cathar fortress of Queribus

With incredible views of the whole region, and buffeted by gusts of wind that could lift a child off her feet, we were lucky to climb to the top on a day of stunning visibilty.

No-one escapes Queribus unmoved.

Later in the week, we added into the mix a masterclass on ‘Vins doux naturel’, the famous fortified wines from the Roussillon, a walking tour of historic Perpignan, a ‘sea and mountains’ safari in Banyuls, a dip in the sea at Collioure, a night in the world’s only hotel built in a revamped co-operative winery, and countless excellent tastings, lunches and dinners.

And, of course, the chance to taste some Domaine of the Bee.

With all this planned, I hoped we had the recipe for a visit that the MWs would remember for many years to come

I think it worked!

We had some very effusive thank you notes from almost everyone on the trip, and the feedback forms are coming in think and fast studded with enthusiastic exclamations.

No other MW has, to my knowledge, yet bought themselves a vineyard in the area, but it is only a matter of time…..

The good, the bad and the ugly – a pre-harvest report from Justin

As harvest approaches, I have been out and about among the vines examining the ripening fruit. Everything that has happened since the beginning of the year has left its imprint…..

THE GOOD

We had a reasonable flowering this year, and so we have a good number of bunches. The grapes are pretty large and tightly packed. This is mostly a good thing, but can be a risk for rot if the weather stays humid and warm, with no wind.

Plenty of grapes in our Carignan vineyard

IMG_3969IMG_5262IMG_3976IMG_5150 This year’s grapes are much larger than normal…. on account of the summer rain

THE BAD AND THE UGLY

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Dead vines at the top of La Roque

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Grenache Blanc grapes that have been hollowed out by wasps

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We like slightly shrivelled grapes – they taste AMAZING – but these ones have gone too far, because the stem has died (possibly because of the wind)

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Sudden vine death syndrome. Happens to Grenache from time to time. Quite a lot this year. This vine was alive 3 weeks ago….

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The brown ‘burn’ on each leaf is a clue that the Downy Mildew in August has damaged the leaves. Some of the neighbour’s vines are completely brown though….

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Hector looks magnificent, as always….

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Some of the negative effects of the other kind of mildew ‘Powdery Mildew’ or Oidium. The grapes don’t ripen well, and split. We won’t pick these.

2 weeks to go to harvest – we are keeping our fingers crossed for warm sunshine, cool nights and a drying breeze.

At the moment, the Carignan has reached 13.5 degrees – but the skins and pips are not yet ripe, so we are hanging out for another degree, which should take us to about the 13th / 14th October

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This is a randomly chosen sample of one grape from each of 100 different vines in our Carignan vineyard.

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This is the view through the refractometer…. 13.5 degrees

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Last night, we had nearly 100mm of rain. Not what we are looking for, but if it stays dry from now on, we might be OK…. fingers crossed!

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A gourmet weekend with Domaine of the Bee

Pat interacts with the trompe l'oeil murals in Maury

Pat interacts with the trompe l’oeil murals in Maury

What happens when you go to a charity dinner, have a little bit too much to drink, and then raise your hand during a charity auction?

Ask Pat Horgan, one of the directors of the Haig Housing Trust, who, during one of the charities own dinners, in a fit of generosity, bid for ‘a weekend with Domaine of the Bee’.

I suggested that they come out to the Roussillon during ‘Les Amorioles’, the annual stroll through the vines around Maury, accompanied by a 6 course lunch.

My job was to make sure that Pat and Linda had a lovely time. From the moment that we discovered that we were sitting next to each other on the Ryanair flight to Perpignan (what are the odds of that!), I realised that this was not going to be a difficult task, as they are both irrepressible enjoyers of life.

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We popped up to see Katie Jones and Jean-Marc in Tuchan, and tasted some about-to-be-blended Domaine Jones, as well as walking off with 6 bottles of Katie’s delicious white 2013.

Our table at the Auberge du Cellier was waiting for us, and we were royally treated to the tasting menu which was absolutely delicious, and it is clear why Pierre-Louis and his team havepicked up their first Michelin star recently.

Lightly roasted spring garlic

Lightly roasted spring garlic

The next day dawned bright, and went on a tour of the three Domaine of the Bee vineyards before heading down to Maury for ‘Les Amorioles’. These ‘Balades Gourmand’ are all the rage in France at the moment, and on a half-decent day, there can be few lovelier things than to be out and about amongst the vines, taking a very gentle stroll from one beauty spot to the next, and at each one to taste 6-7 wines, and snack on the next course.

Big fat raindrops threatened to ruin everything, but the rain was warm, and kindly avoided absolutely pissing down, and somehow it served just to bring out the smells.

Pat and Linda wear protection

Pat and Linda wear protection

I remember exclaiming with one glass of particularly ‘garrigue-scented’ red at how clear the smell of thyme and rosemary was, when I realised that I was standing on a patch of thyme, with one foot on a rosemary bush.

Five hours after we set off, we popped the last mouthful chocolate, knocked back the Domaine Pouderoux Maury, and found our transport to take us down to Chateau St Roch, where Domaine of the Bee is now made, for a barrel tasting.

Resting at Chateau St Roch after a barrel tasting

Resting at Chateau St Roch after a barrel tasting

Pat and Linda – thanks for your company, and see you again next year! If anyone else wants to join us – just say the word….