For a lot of our neighbours, friends and aquaintences in this area the biggest party of the year is approaching. It is the Feria in Beziers, a very Occitan/Spanish celebration that surrounds the Corrida or bull fights, which are staged in the ancient stone arena in the centre of the town. Beziers shares this heritage with other southern French towns such as Nimes and Arles, where the Spanish influence is very strong. Thursday 11th August is the start of the celebrations.
The team at Sainte Rose will however be celebrating quite a different event on Thursday evening. While Beziers celebrates the first night of the Feria, partying all night, Sainte Rose will be picking their first grapes of the harvest 2011. We’ll be up all night too, bringing the first lot of Chardonnay into the winery! Rest assured however that we will raise a toast, around the press, to vintage 2011 and our compatriots at the Feria!
Chardonnay is often the first variety we pick, followed swiftly by Sauvignon Blanc and Muscat. We do not however pick each variety all at once. We take some fruit early for fresh flavours and good acidity, then a later pick for sweeter flavours and richness of mouthfeel, the idea being to have the full flavour spectrum of each variety in the winery at the end of the vintage. The juice and subsequent wine will be blended at a much later stage depending on the style of wine we are producing.
Our decision to pick each variety is based on subjective and objective tests. The subjective test is, quite simply tasting the berries on the vine. Are they soft and do they have flavour or are they still hard and acidic? The objective test is using a refractometer, which through refraction follows the ripeness of grapes by measuring must weight. With the refractometer one can see the sugar content of a sample of berries and with that, one can estimate final alcohol percentage.
So as those partying in Beziers consume wine, we will be producing it and so begins our most important period of the year!