News from the vats: Bordeaux 2008

0000022The rains have arrived in Bordeaux and luckily all the grapes have been picked, squashed, fermented and now the wine is undergoing its post fermentation maceration period. The fermentation lasts around a week on average and then the wine is left on its skins for approximately another two weeks. For each vat the density of the sugars in the juice are recorded daily along with the temperature. The sugar density starts at 1090 and ends at 994 when all of the fermentable sugars have been converted into alcohol. It is measured with a hydrometre.

It is during the post-fermentation maceration that the alcohol in the wine helps to further extract the tannins and colour from the skins (remember the juice itself is clear in red and white grapes).

The other phenomena that happens during this maceration period is an enrichening of the wine, literally thickening of the feel of it in your mouth. This is due to the breakdown of the dead yeast cells (lies) membranes (mannoproteins) which enriches the wine giving it body and structure. These mannoproteins also acts as a stabiliser for the wine.

Throughout the fermentation and maceration this extraction is helped by pumping over (remontage) of the juice/wine onto the cap (chapeau). Once the wine is made (ie is ‘dry’) the winemaker is continually tasting the different cuves checking to make sure that the wine is gaining in body particularly in the middle of the palate but not drying out the finish too much. The winemaker is vigilant against any bitterness from the tannins. Over extraction in a vintage like 2008 will bring a hardness to the wine and overpower the fresh fruit flavours of this light but very aromatic year. Definitely do not want the particularly astringent tannins from the grape pips (particularly as these were not very ripe this year). As soon as you are not gaining anything it is time for the ‘ecoulage’ run-off and pressing of the grape skins.

I tasted the progress of the vats with Franck Moureau at Chateau Beard La Chapelle, St Emilion Grand Cru during this maceration period after the fermentation. Interesting to see the effect of the thickening out of the wine but also how the tannins start to impact the wine.  Interesting to see the reduction in sweetness and development of the alcohol. Before that tasted Cuve No 1 as the fermentation progressed at sugar density of 1090, 1040 and 994 (end). During this period this winemaker used his hand for the juice to pass through during pumping over which seems to have helped with colour extraction. The colour is deep this year with high phenolic content. Wait to see if it holds.

The winemaker controls the speed and degree of this extraction through the number of times during the day that the wine is ‘pumped over’.  Towards the end of this period it is every two days –  always ensuring though that the cap is kept moist with some spraying of wine at regular intervals. Evidently each vat is not the same.  They are from different parcels picked at different times, from separate grape varieties, varying soils and vine age. The pumping over programme can differ for every vat.

So to sum up where we are today. Yields at least 30% down, good sugar/alcohol levels, good colour, good aromatic potential, high acidity levels. Waiting for the Malolactic fermentation to start and this will reduce the total acidity levels (with the tart malic acid turning into the softer lactic acid). Need this to happen before conclude how serious this problem is and what to do about it.

Franck Moureau, Chateau Beard La Chapelle, St Emilion Grand Cru

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2005 Château Beard la Chapelle, Grand Cru St Emilion

Tasting Note: Refined Grand Cru St Emilion with well-integrated smooth tannins and rich but fresh black cherry flavours. Attractive long finish showing its pedigree. Serving: For the 2005 Beard make sure to open the bottle at least four hours before serving. Ideally decant. This enables the wine adequate time to breathe and open up. Serve at a cool room temperature (14 to 17°C). This wine is well-matched to;

· Roast lamb, beef or duck

· Even milder flavoured game such as pheasant, guinea fowl and rabbit

· Harder cheeses such as Pecorino, Comté, Manchego and Brebis

The Terroir: Seventeen hectares of parcels in the Commune of St Laurent de Combes in St Emilion with a range of different soils inlcuding the Pieds de Cotes (foothills of the limestone plateau), clay and sandy soils. 90% Merlot with remaining 10% being made up of aromatic Cabernet Franc.

Winemaking: Winemaking is traditional with lengthy fermentation and  maceration. The wine is then aged in French oak barrels


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