Sunday, 11 September 2011

Rosé in a day at Mas Gabriel

The plan, with the timing dictated by grape ripeness tests, was to pick for the rosé at Mas Gabriel over two days immediately after a couple of relatively tame days picking some parcels of red. Forecast rain changed the plan to pick and, this being rosé, also press in just one day. Plenty of pickers ensured a measured pace in the vines - the limiting process being transporting the cagettes (red and grey containers in the photos) to the cave and finding a corner to store them. Part one then was complete by lunchtime.

Every available container is used for storing grapes - Carignan, Cinsault and Grenache - ready for pressing.

The rosé is made the same way as the white. The de-stemmer ejects whole grapes into the empty white container - the only container other than the bath not storing grapes. The whole grapes, along with their separated stems, are then popped into the basket press to be gently pressed with the exuded juice pumped into a cooled cuve to settle overnight. That's it. Problem is there's well over 200 cagettes worth of grapes that, in the end, required three pressing runs.

The basket press in action. Surrounding it with a glass perspex screen (most visible on the top) not only catches skins as they are squeezed out, but also keeps in the carbon dioxide regularly dispensed over proceeding to minimise oxidation. It may look dramatic, but the press is very gentle and very slow. Just to be sure, the juice is tasted frequently towards the end of each pressing for any trace of bitterness.

Juice collects in the white bucket and is pumped away to a cuve through the purple tube.

The basket sits on a trolley so it can be wheeled out of the press mechanism to be topped up with more grapes and eventually emptied.

Despite these precautions, skins can be ejected indiscriminately - in this case on Peter's second shirt of the day. Even the ceiling took a minor hit.

I calculate the skin contact with the juice to be about 90 minutes on average. Long enough to give the wine a seductive colour plus impart a hint of grape tannin.

At the end of each pressing the cage and staves are removed to reveal a "cake" of skins and stalks. It's prised apart and loaded onto the tractor to be returned to vineyard.

The stalks help the release of juice during pressing.

Answers to what's being said on a postcard

Rather like a big party, there's all that washing up and cleaning to be done at the end, and some happy winemakers.

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