The grape harvest is both the end result of a year’s work among the vines and the start of vinification.
All the wine essential qualities are already present in the grapes but it is the knowledge and the art of the winemaker that will bring them to the fore during the delicate stages of vinification.
The grapes have been harvested, plot after plot, variety after variety ; they have arrived at the chai ; a parallel process will follow, according to variety and origin.
The various stages differ according to the resulting wine : red, dry white, sweet white, rosé and light red, sparkling.
Vinification of red wines
First the grapes are sent to a stemming device to separate out the stems, then the berries move to a horizontal press where they are broken to separate the fresh juice or must from the skins.
Juice, skins and pips are then poured into the fermentation vat.
There the must will sit while colour and tannin are extracted from the skin into the juice.
At the same time, due to the yeast contained in the grapes, the must starts to ferment.
The fermented juice is then separated from the skins, the pips and the deposit before being subjected to a second fermentation.
After which, the wine is drawn and stabilized.
Up to now the wines come from a single variety.
Each is tasted singly, then the wines are blended to obtain complexity, balance and harmony.
A period of 16 to 18 months ageing takes place in oak vats or barrels, this stage will bring wine to maturity and will enable to end the process before bottling.
Stemming separates the berries from their vegetal support. This optional stage limits the taste of herbs in the wine and produces wines that are less astringent; also it increases the wine taste and delicacy.
Vinification of dry white wines
In the Bordeaux region all dry whites are obtained from “blanc de blanc” grapes, that is white juice and white skin.
Contrary to red wine, in this case the grower does not want to extract colour or tannin; so there must be no maceration whatsoever.
Fermentation takes place with no skin and no particles at a lower temperature than that needed for red wine; it lasts 12 to 15 days.
Careful blending will balance the varieties; then it is the ageing process and bottling.
Vinification of white liquoreux
Liquoreux are obtained from air dried grapes or grapes affected by botrytis, or Noble Rot; they are richer than other wines in residual sugars (that is, not fermented) ; sugar percentage in the berries is increased through concentration.
Pressing the grapes takes longer because of the extreme concentration of the juice.
Fermentation is often stopped before its natural conclusion in order to obtain a balanced product.
Vinification of rosé and Clairet or light red wine
Rosé wine is not a blend of red and white wines , but comes from a must of black skin grapes with white juice that goes through a special vinification process.
This produces rosé wines by bleeding process; while rosé wines obtained by the pressing method soon after harvesting are much paler.
Rosé wines are obtained after a short maceration period of about 12 hours, the light red wines, half way between red and rosé are left to macerate for longer (24 to 36 hours).
Vinification of Crémant or sparkling wine
Those wines are effervescent, white or rosé.
After fermentation and blending, the wine must reach at least 10% volume of alcoholic strength.
A year later, the bottled wine must be subjected to a second fermentation after a sugar and yeast solution known as liqueur de tirage has been added to it ; this will remove carbon dioxide from the bottle (at least 3.5 bars) and will allow the aromas to develop.