Almost 3 weeks earlier than last year, on the 31st of July, we started picking Chardonnay for our Sparkling base wine! This is the earliest we have ever started picking grapes in the south of France and we have been the talk of the town! None of our neighbours could believe that the grapes were ripe at this early stage. As many of you will know, we need to pick the grapes at about 10 or 10.5 degrees of potential alcohol for the sparkling base as it then goes through a secondary fermentation in the bottle, usually gaining another percentage in alcohol and will then receive a dosage upon disgorgement. The final wine will end up at around 12.5 % alcohol, which is the ideal for a sparkling wine.
We started picking in our 20 year old block of Chardonnay, where the fruit was clean and concentrated. The yields were slightly lower than average on this less vigorous, more mature block, due to the dry conditions that we have experienced this year. We were also picking from our new block of Chardonnay, which we planted in 2012. This block has grown very vigorously from the start and in spite of the dry conditions in 2014 the yields for its first year of production were very healthy. It will be interesting comparing the juice and subsequent wine that each block has produced.
The temperatures soared over the following week and on the 7th of August we decided to start picking more Chardonnay from both blocks, this time for still wine. This was also 3 weeks earlier than last year! We also harvested our small block of Muscat Petit Graines in front of the Chateau at Sainte Rose, whose intense aromas in the harvesting bin and receival area always makes for a memorable vintage moment! We harvested over two days and then again four days later, ensuring that we have a full flavour spectrum from the two blocks of Chardonnay which we will cross blend in due course.
So as you can imagine we are relieved to have two of our six white varieties already safe in the winery and will be starting to pick Sauvignon Blanc later this week. Watch this space for a subsequent vintage update next week!