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Allô allô, Bonjour!
The Year is drawing to a close. We’re nearing a time in which we look inwards and make time for self-improvement. Hence this generous edition of Slurp! wholly dedicated to personal fruition. So you better brace yourself!
2011 has not turned out to be a great year for us. The drought meant that the grape vines could not get enough water to their grapes. As a result they remained unusually small. Our accountant was shocked when he reported the figures: reduced production due to the drought has resulted in 15.000 fewer bottles of wine compared to previous years.
The good news: Oenologist Michel Rolland is content. He has been tasting the harvest of our competitors in the area and way beyond and has found our wine to be remarkably good. ‘On va demarquer’ he asserts. ’We will surpass the rest.’ But I guess in a way that was inevitable with that wonderful summer and those fantastic Dutch grape pickers that came along to help us.
Thanks you all so much again!
Wine making course
There aren’t many other products as suitable to be shrouded in mystery as wine. Unnecessary fussiness and illusions of grandeur seem to be attached to it as if by an umbilical cord. But is the production of fermented grape juice really that big a deal? No. Not at all. What follows is an introduction to wine making for the aspiring wine maker.
Decent wine is a matter of healthy grapes. Don’t pick them to soon, but leave them hanging for as long as possible. Be patient and wait until they’re all sweet and juicy. Then carefully remove them from the vines and tenderly lay them to rest in crates, so the fruit doesn’t get damaged (which would prompt the fermentation process to take off prematurely).
Invite a troupe of merry Dutch grape pickers to come over and manually relieve the grapes of their stems, which will prevent the wine from developing any unwanted tannins.
The grapes are not to be pressed at this stage but are instead deposited in new French oak barrels.
Now we add dry ice: the solid form of carbon dioxide (at minus 78 degrees Celsius). This again helps to postpone the fermentation process and allows the juice to extract the maximum of colour, fruit and taste from the grapes. When the ice melts it once again turns to gas; so the wine isn’t watered down.
When the barrel is full, cooper Vincent Darnajou makes sure the grapes aren’t going anywhere.
To induce the fermentation process the barrels have to be heated with a little heater, so we erect a tent in the wine cellar.
In order to mix the dry-ice with the grapes, and make sure the fermentation doesn’t happen too fast, the barrels need to be rolled backwards and forwards along wooden tracks. Seeing as grapes are living beings, and most likely of the male gender, only attractive women should be allowed to take on this task.
A month later the fermentation is complete. Maitre de chai, Philippe, releases the young millésime 2011 from the barrels and pours it into plastic buckets.
The fresh wine tastes lovely right away, so much so that some of the weaker specimens among us might not be able to contain their basest instincts. Beware of this.
When all the wine has been stored in a stainless steel cuve, the lid comes off the barrel and the grapes that have been left behind are put into the press. At this point again we carry out a quality check.
The empty barrels are cleaned and disinfected; the wine will be put back into them in a while.
The wine press is set to ‘baby’ mode. In this mode the grapes are carefully bruised rather than brutally crushed. This procedure allows the leftover juices to be released but prevents the tannins from being squeezed from the skins. The resulting wine will be soft as a virgin and smooth as a woman’s breast.
With the help of some medical gauze, Fréderic prevents the seeds from entering the wine.
The wine temporarily stored in the cuves is assembled with the wine from the press and is then poured back in to the refreshed barriques, after which our very own cooper Klaas sentences it to solitary confinement for twelve months.
Eventually the initial twelve proud barrels will be reduced to a meagre six barrels.
The grape skins are deposited onto a massive heap at the gate, a tax contribution to La République Française, they’re collected and distilled to make medicinal alcohol.
This way of working is only applied to the production of our top quality ‘Troismille’. Using this process for all our wines would propel the prices upward to unrealistic levels.
Barrel making course
Where the production of wine is eagerly cloaked in the exquisite scent of prestige and stature you never hear anything about barrel making. And this while the craft of cooperage is excruciatingly difficult. Below we offer you a quick introduction to barrel making for the aspiring cooper..
Chose, from your collection of staves, the correct amount required for one barrique and place side by side on the table. Each stave is minutely different from the next one so please continue to rearrange until you have before you a perfectly seamless flat barrel.
Rest the selected staves in the correct order upright against the table.
Take a metal hoop and place the staves inside it. The staves want but one thing: to come crashing down to the floor. Prevent this. Control the cluster of obstinate wine boards with one hand while dancing around the setup like a ballerina. Meanwhile keep tapping the bottom of the escaping staves lightly with the side of the left foot.
Push the remaining five hoops around he top of the barrel and fasten.
Light a fire of oak logs in the barrel-tightening-machine and place the half-finished barrel over the flames.
With the help of the claws of the machine, force the bottom staves together until they’re tight.
Hammer the six rings into position.
Drill an opening in the barrel so the wine can be poured in and out.
Fill the barrel wit water, put it under pressure and check if it’s properly water tight.
Brand the barrel with the mark of your employers.
Voilà. Time spent on making one barrique from scratch by Vincent Darnajou: one hour, sixteen minutes and twelve seconds.