My Last Day in Roussillon
It’s dark at 6am and then still dark at 7am but I managed to drag myself out of bed to set off with Georgia to collect grape samples again. Typical though it rained whilst out, so the grapes were a bit wet which could skew the results. Nevertheless we took them back for analysis.
After a couple of hours work, by 9am, my tummy was ready for breakfast, so I popped along to the Boulangerie for a pain au chocolat and picked up some fresh, juicy strawberries from the local market that had a floral sweet touch. Yummy yum!
So here’s a brief guide to sample analysis:
- Squish the grapes in the bag to get the juice flowing, every single berry must be squished
- Pour the juice, preferably without bits, into a glass
- Use a pipette to drop juice from each wine in turn on the Refractometer and look through the lens to read the alcohol level, clever stuff.
- Wipe the instrument clean and do the next juice.
- Check the pH level using the new nifty pH meter, stick it in the juice and wait.
- Check the TA, titratable acidity, for the acid level, by filling 10ml juice in a glass and adding 5 drops of indicator, which will react with the reagent that is added to the juice turning it blue/green, once the colour changes read the reagent level and divide by 1.9 to give the acid level. Simples!
At that moment in early September, the alcohol levels were not quite right for picking and the skins still a bit too tough. The conclusion was that we would need to wait.
My afternoon was then spent doing something quite different from sample analysis. I joined Jonathon at the local Intermarché supermarket for the ‘Foire aux Vins’, a promotional wine event that is common at this time of year, known as ‘la rentrée’ when schools go back and the long summer break is officially over. Jonathon had a stall and was trying to entice the French public for a taste of his wines.
The stalls were outside, creating a French market feel where people could wander around, taste the wines and chat to producers. As well as tasting the wines, which were then to be on offer in the store, customers could try some meats and hot food from a pop up kitchen. However, the rain kept falling and eventually everyone was forced inside.
Most of the customers had driven to the store and seemed to be in a rush plus it was still the middle of a week day. We were also placed next to a rather energetic sausage selling lady near the entrance/exit, which admittedly made trying to attract people’s attention to taste our wine a bit of a challenge.
Customers were also offered the chance to enter a competition to win their weight in wine and were encouraged by the man with a microphone who wouldn’t let them leave until they did so. Strange indeed but an eye opener into French supermarket sales techniques.
It proved to be a long hard day and certainly one of the more challenging wine fairs I have worked at.
Once back at the winery I felt a bit wiped out, the early starts and late evenings were catching up on me a little. However, a glass of Treloar One Block Muscat and La Terre Promise perked me up before dinner.
It was interesting to try the wines that Jonathon had picked up on promo at the ‘Foire aux Vins’ at Intermarché today. A 2009 Bordeaux from Chateau Picardy at 2.86 euros surprisingly wasn’t too nasty for that price and the Bourgogne Pinot Noir, Louis Chavy, 2010, was pretty decent at 8 euros but unfortunately the Mercurey 2010 Pinot Noir was corked.
I thoroughly enjoyed my week at Domaine Treloar and feel I learnt many new things about life running a vineyard and winery. Although participating in the harvest was my original goal, in some ways the delay turned out to my advantage because I was able to do more of a variety of jobs and learn about those all essential jobs in order to prepare the winery before the harvest. Each trip so far this year has provided me with new skills and experience of another aspect of the wine making process, so it is all fitting together nicely like a jigsaw puzzle.
Thank you to Jonathon and Rachel for looking after me.
Day 2 in Roussillon
Up early in the dark … Yes, it’s dark in this part of the world at 6am, all the French pickers had arrived so Jonathon and Rachel got everyone registered and off we went to the vineyard. It got light pretty quickly and by 7.10am we were off picking the Grenache Gris, which is the most wonderful dusky pink colour, and some of the Grenache Blanc.
The vines are called ‘Goblets’ because of their shape, they aren’t tied to any wires or trained, which I thought would make it hard to pick as you have to bend down and kind of hunt under the vines greenery to find the bunches but it wasn’t as bad as I thought. Two people work together on either side of the vine and put the grapes in a bucket. Once the bucket is full you empty it into a crate at the end of the row.
Bunch selection was explained as it’s important not to pick bunches that look diseased, are not fully ripe yet or are hard and underripe, known as ‘grapillons’. The Roussillon has plenty of snails I noticed and it’s equally as important that they don’t end up being picked with the grapes.
Once we all got into the flow, we worked through the rows quickly and the group worked well together. A couple of the slower pickers got teamed up with me and Georgia, not that we were especially speedy, but more to help gee them along a bit and it worked. The first parcel wasn’t too difficult and we were done by 9am, ready to go to the next vineyard.
The sun was heating up now and the vines at the next vineyard were much larger in comparison with plenty of greenery to wade through and huge bunches of grapes, so we had to be careful not to snip a finger or two off, which would not only be a painful loss to myself but could have added some interesting flavours to the wine! It’s satisfying knowing these grapes will make La Terre Promise 2013, so when I drink some of that next year I’ll know I had a hand in making it, a wonderful feeling!
Jonathon and Ruth next to the last trailer load of grapes for the press
Whilst the rest of the gang continued picking, Georgia and I headed back to the winery in the Land Rover … and I’m pleased to report there were no driving incidents! We headed back to load the press, firstly emptying the grapes into the destemmer, which Georgia kept an eye on, whilst I had the joyous job of washing the crates out as they were emptied and restocking them ready to load in the lorry to go back to the vineyard. We completed 3 loads of grapes and then the Champagne 2000 press was kick started into action. The juice from today’s picking went into one of the temperature controlled stainless steel tanks.
One thing is for sure so far I’m pretty dirty and soaked most of the time, it’s hard work but there is great satisfaction in getting it all done.
The work didn’t finish there though. After lunch we had to make sure everything was washed down so no grape juice was around for fruit flies to be attracted to. Boy that felt like an age, the press must be spotless and it feels like you’re just pushing the grape skins around but never removing them. So much water gets used, something I was highly aware of in South Africa too, I believe the water goes into the river here, hence the need to take care what goes down the drains. Any stems or grape bits that end up on the floor are swept up and taken to a specialist recycling centre, not washed away.
Finishing around 7pm, we could relax and have dinner. My body was telling me it needed to lie down but after such a buzzing day, I got a second wind once fed and given a glass or two of Le Ciel Vide and Three Peaks.
Read more in the next in this short series when I get down and dirty in the tanks that will soon house the red wine.
Kel’s experience lending a hand at Domaine Treloar in the Roussillon last year coincides with Ruth’s journey to the same Domaine a year later – this week in fact, so what better time to introduce this particular producer and tell you a bit about why we like their wines so much.
Jonathan Hesford and Rachel Treloar own and run this winery in a lovely corner of The Roussillon in the very south of France and make a range of wines to match.
Both gave up their New York City careers in the wake of the 9/11 event, living only blocks from the heart of the attack on the Twin Towers, they decided to change direction and head for a life making and selling their own wine. Initially moving to New Zealand, whereby Rachel can claim Maori Royalty in her blood, Jonathan spent time learning his trade with Neudorf Vineyards, becoming Assistant Winemaker, and qualifying at Lincoln University (NZ).
Moving to France in 2005, they found an old winery with parcels of mature vines in 2006, which is now established as Domaine Treloar and has enabled them to create for themselves the types of wines that they enjoy.
Domaine Treloar produces a complete range from white, rose, red and fortified. The wines have names that are representative of either the 9/11 events, Bruce Springsteen or Rachel’s Kiwi heritage, for example, their flagship red Tahi means “1” in Maori.
We have enjoyed all their wines with particular favourites:
La Terre Promise: Grenache Gris, Macabeu, Carignan Blanc – Medium bodied, dry white wine, well rounded and balanced with a fruity honeyed nuttiness (even a touch of wet stone) and mineral edge.
Three Peaks: Syrah, Mourvedre, Grenache – Lovely deep ruby colour, red and black fruits, strawberries and blackberries, violets and chocolate, hints of rosemary underpinned with smooth silky tannins.
Motus: Mourvedre – Dark sour cherries, raspberries and blackcurrants, dark chocolate, notes of black olive and white pepper. Well structured wine.
Muscat de Rivesaltes: Muscat à Petit Grains – Late harvest, sweet Muscat, dried fruit aromas of orange peel, apricot and honey, rich mouthfeel and a nuttiness to the finish.
Kel arrived last year just in time to lend a hand with picking the Mourvedre, as the harvest had arrived earlier than originally expected. On the other hand, this year it looks as though it will be a few weeks later! However, we are sure that Ruth will be kept busy.
Vineyard downtime last year was utilised by constructing decking for the gîte holiday accommodation and by all accounts is still looking good too.
Also last year, Jonathan was experimenting with a batch of Carignan grapes, of which Kel had a go with punching down the cap the good old fashioned way by … feet. This has now been bottled under the title of Le Maudit which translates as The Damned! Something that we are looking forward to trying.
If you want to know what wines from the Roussillon are all about, then Domaine Treloar would be a good way in which to be introduced, as we think that they are a great example of how to make fabulous wines from this part of the world.
No doubt Ruth shall have a tale or two to tell when she gets home, including an update on all those wonderful wines.