The harvester at work in the vineyard.
The chardonnay grape
The stalk remains on the vine after the berry has been picked by the harvester
Emptying the grape berries into the trailer from the harvester.
The destalking machine
The auger below the destalking machine that sends the berries to the press
The press where the berries are pressed into juice for fermentation
The nectar to be fermented into wine
Well we have started the grape harvest today here in our part of the Loire valley. Its early as I said it would be and first to be picked is the Chardonnay grape for making the Saumur brut and Cremant de Loire. The Saumur is machined picked and the Cremant hand picked. Today our winemaker Francois Letheuil from Domaine de la Saugourde is machine picking his Chardonnay for the white Saumur Brut.
The grapes are picked slightly green ie not fully mature at about 11%potential alcohol as the wine has to go through the second fermantation when about 1.5% alcohol is added in the bottle with the addition of sugar and yeast. This is the ‘Methode Traditionelle’ way of making sparkling wine as in Champagne. Better still is the ‘Methode Ancestral’ which has no added sugar or yeast and is made by stopping the first fermentation by lowering the temperature of the wine when there is sufficient sugar still in the wine to allow the remaining amount to be fermented in the bottle to produce the bubbles. This method is better in my view as the grapes can be picked at maturity and so the resultant wine has more flavour and structure.
Anyway back to the harvest. Francois has his chardonnay vines in our village of St Macaire du Bois so its a walk up the road to have a look and to take some pictures.
The modern machines are able to pick the berries off the stalks in the main and any leaves that are in the pickings are removed in the machine from the berries and some juice that ends up in two containers at the back of the harvester. The harvester straddles the line of vines as you will see in the pics. When the machine is full it tips the grapes into a trailer that takes them back to the wineroom. Here they are tipped out of the trailer into a machine that removes any remaining stalks and leaves before the berries are augered into a revolving pnuematic press. Inside there is a bag that is expanded within the confines of the press and the berries are squashed inside and the juice runs through small holes on the outside of the revolving drum and is collected in a tray underneath and then either sent straight into the vats for fermenting or sometimes drained into an underground container to allow the bigger sediment to settle before being pumped into the vats.
The juice ferments and thereafter the wine follows slightly different methods as every winemakers has his own way of vinifying his wines. At some stage the wine has to be drawn off the vat leaving the solids and some wines are left ‘sur lie’ to obtain as much of the flavours as possible. Some winemakers use a stirring system to help impart flavours from the lees.
The wine needs to be aged and left to develop in the vats. Again winemakers age for different times and some age their wines in barrels. Some even ferment in barrels. So you see that is why proper non manufactured wines taste so different from one another, even when made from the same area and with the same grape.
Our winemakers only make proper wine from the grapes of one vintage. They do not blend between years nor add substances in order to make the wine taste the same every year like these big conglomerates . How natural is that. Try our natural wines at gfwine.co.uk. Cheers.