Monday, 24 September 2012

Home made grape juice (and natural wine)

One of the best alternatives to wine, especially at breakfast, is decent grape juice. It also goes brilliantly with muesli.

Inspired by a friend while picking grapes this is my version.

1. Pick some organic grapillons with the permission of the vigneron. Grenache or Carignan from Mas Gabriel are perfect. Grapillons are small bunches from later flowering and are less sweet than ripe bunches. More importantly, vignerons don't generally pick them as their unripe green tannins makes red wine bitter.

2. De-stem the grapes in a clean bowl. Fingers are good at this.

3. Blend the grapes in a blender. This is quick but aggressive - quite a few skin tannins will be extracted.
For a gentler approach try treading them with your feet.

4. Sieve into a bowl. The juice can then be bottled (used plastic mineral water bottles or similar are ideal) and stored in the fridge.

The remaining skins, pips and stalks can be spread on the vineyard, although technically they should be left in a designated place to be collected by the local distillery.

Note that following has not been attempted by the author.

To make a natural wine use ripe grapillons and after step 4 just allow the juice to ferment. You don't need to add anything else as I'm told it won't be natural, although bio yeast nutrients are acceptable. Using a closed glass fermentation vessel like a demijohn should reduce the risk of the fermentation going wrong.

The above makes deep rosé, although rosé from Carignan will look like red wine.

To make a deeper red wine wine delay step 4 by a couple of weeks but be careful not to over extract. For white try white grapillons. For sparkling wine simply use a pressure proof bottle and omit the fridge bit of step 4.

Bon chance.

Wednesday, 19 September 2012

Pressing matters

This is the first time I've seen a pneumatic or membrane press in action. A team of 8, including me, took 7 hours without a lunch break to pick a full load of 30 hl. Whole bunches of Terret, mainly blanc with some gris, go on a conveyor to fill the press from the top. After a 2.5 hour cycle juice for around 2,000 bottles had been extracted.

Regis Pichon (Domaine Ribiera) and Emile Heredia (Domaine des Dimanches) load the conveyor
The machine is a cylinder that works by inflating a long membrane that gently presses the grapes against perforated ridges on the opposite side. The resulting juice collects in a tray underneath and is pumped away. For an excellent short explanatory video by Charles Simpson of Domaine Sainte Rose look here on YouTube.

David Caer (Clos Mathelisse) loads the press
The press is shared between several small wine makers in Aspiran, part of the Pézenas terrior. This model would cost over €20,000 even second hand so realistically isn't affordable for start-up vignerons.

The juice collects underneath and is pumped into a cuve.
For Domaine Ribiera this is the last harvest bar some minute quantities of late harvest Grenache and Clairette. Terret is a relatively late ripener, especially as most of these grapes were picked from north east facing parcels. The potential alcohol is just over 10% with plenty of acidity.

Sunday, 16 September 2012

Fons Sanatis Reds

I was so impressed last year with the Domaine Fons Sanatis B… d’Agniane 20.09 (a Vermentino) that on spotting some reds from the Domaine in a caviste I didn't hesitate to give them a punt.

Fons Sanatis Couderen 20.09 turns out to be Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon. Had I known this my bias against producing a Bordeaux blend on such prime terroir would have vetoed the purchase.

Dark, brooding and concentrated without much Cabernet blackcurrent but plenty of classic Merlot fruitcake. Good acidity. Really quite hard tannins are prominent and coat the mouth. Challenging, or at least a shock, to drink on its own but with Merguez sausages laced with harissa followed by cheese it stood up and interplayed brilliantly. Not at all Bordeaux in style is has a herbal streak to it. I also couldn't detect any change to the wine the next day.

If I had another bottle I'd keep it years with the hope it would layer itself out, but I won't be buying any to lay down. Around 12€.

Another bottle in the selection was Senescal L’Art Amont 20.09 I took along to a vendanges lunch. The grape is Aramon, a variety that was once a monster yielding workhorse of the Languedoc. Today it's unheard of which is curious given that in 2008 there were 1719 Hectares of the stuff in the Hérault which amounts to 1.8% of the land under vine. By comparison this is comfortably more than Picpoul and Viognier. It's a hard wine (apparent unoaked) that reminded me of Vin de Table from early holidays in France back in the 1970s. This 2009 version eliminates the rustic and volatile characteristics of those days, but at 15€ is of course seriously priced. I look forward to trying it in slightly more analytical circumstances.