Memories of the 2018 harvest

The harvest is launched...

During the two to three weeks preceding this annual event, the harvest was meticulously prepared :

The cave was cleaned as close as possible to perfection, the impermiability of the barrels and larger casks were checked, a complete study was made of the reception plan of the harvest and the positioning of our equipment… not to forget the training of the group of pickers who formed a team of complementary personalities, multilingual and entirely mobile according to each day’s menu : the form of pruning of each vine and the complexity of the sequence of harvesting of each vineyard plot. At the Domaine de Cazaban, our grapes are picked by hand.

I am with the harvesters in the vines, Joseph is in the cellar anticipating the arrival of boxes of fresh grapes.

I discover the team progressively, the personality of each member, their work rhythm, the implication of each one to follow the instructions : no leaves, no unripened grapes with inevitable excessive acidity, demanding selection of the grapes which will follow their processing in the tanks. The quality of our wines depends on our work from early in the season with the pruning of the grapes during the preceding winter ; our commitment to quality continues with the care which we take in picking the grapes and selecting the bunches.

The work in the vines imposes a high degree of attention, constance and close contact with each grape picker to ensure quality and pace. For the 2018 vintage we have harvested 84000 kgs of grapes for nearly 2300 hours of work between the 4th of september and the 3rd of October. That represents 250 pallet boxes that Joseph has processed by pressing the grapes directly and then transfering the must to the tanks.

The weather has been excellent during the four weeks, enabling a regular rhythm of picking with some days which were very long… Over the weeks, the pickers become tired and the marathonians could be distinguished from the sprinters. Each morning I prepared food to enable regular breaks for them during their daily work.

In the cellar, after the first few days of adjustments which enabled each member to establish his role and dissipate tensions linked to the stakes of producing excellent wines, the work sequencing took the right form. The pressing machines filled up, then were emptied, producing firstly rosé, then white juices. Our hands were cold in contact with the harvest maintained at low temperatures to avoid any oxydisation of the grapes. The settling of the must began, clarifying the juices. The alcoholic fermentations were ready to start.

Days follow the rhythms of this marvellous reaction which transforms juice into wines. We are particularly attentive to the control of temperatures to preserve and develop the aromatic profile of each wine, recording – sometimes with slight anxiety – the reduction of the density of the juices, witnessing the transformation of sugar into alcohol.

Reds followed on in a precise chronological sequence linked to the ripeness of the grapes of each vineyard plot. In all, there are 7 different grape varieties planted on 16 plots in a range of 20 kms surrounding the domaine. Whole bunches of grapes fill the tanks after complete destalking and the juice is macerated with the skins at a low temperature... The type and the length of macerations is determined according to the quality of the grapes and the range of styles of the resulting wines (structure and aromatic profile).

The cellar is gradually filled with the juices and their wines, accompanied with typical scents of fermentation which bring us pleasure and attract our curiosity.

Dame nature is in control as it is the intrensic quality of grapes resulting from the work in the vineyards which is at the origin of the style of an elegant wine. The experience and competence of the wine producer will develop its essence and personality. The tendencies and directions to follow for each tank of wine are determined and reveal clear perceptions to us for the multiple compositions of blends. We follow each tank closely and look after their evolution ; the variety of tank and barrel capacities will soon indicate a complementary creative variable to us.

The festive harvest dinner brings to close four weeks of continuous work in the vines. I feel very satisfied the following day : the grapes are in the cellar, I can at last relax.

Nevertheless, I miss something. I had got used to waking early, feeling the dew in the vines as the sun rose, the rythm of the boxes filling up with grapes, to the sound of the spruces, to the exchange with Joseph to organise the pace of work in the vines according to the capacity of absorption in the cellar, to the intense moments spent with the team of pickers which had become so enjoyable.

The regular work in the cellar will continue for four weeks, followed by the time for maturing the wines.

I am now thinking of 2019 and the work in the vineyard which starts again from scratch. I am filled with new ideas and projects for the next harvest, resulting from the experience that I have gained, to improve our methods and experience to stimulate even more pleasure.


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