The 2009 E. Guigal harvest kicked off on Monday the 7th. I hope ya’ll enjoy enjoy the photo homage below …
… I spent 12 hours hiking through Guigal’s 30-something hectares of Côte-Rôtie vineyards. Many of the vineyards were planted on 45-degree slopes! Additionally, the temperature reached 35 degrees Celsius and the sun was blazing! I accompanied Marcel Guigal, his two viticulture directors (Daniel and Stephane), and Guy, the General Director and winemaker of Vidal Fleury. All five of us picked our way through the vines, taking grape samples, in order to measure the potential alcohol level, which allowed Mr. Guigal to schedule the date and order of the harvest for each individual parcel.
… the Condrieu Viognier grapes arrived at Guigal’s harvest reception. I work hand-in-hand with the two guys in the middle, Aurlene and Jean-Michel (left to right). They’ve been on the wine making team at Guigal for 4 and 15 years respectively.
… Eve, Philippe Guigal’s wife, and Philippe’s godson sorting Syrah grapes. Overall this year’s harvest has shown nice maturity, fairly good potential alcohol levels, and a small quantity of moldy and under ripe berries.
… France Channel 3 arrived to film footage of a Guigal special that should be airing some time in January.
.. I hereby christen myself the Messiah of the snail world. I easily saved over 20 lives during the first week of harvest.
… another live saved. I’m still waiting on a call from PETA for an exclusive interview of the latest animal rights guardian… ME!
… Viognier grapes being loaded into the destemmer and then pumped into the presses!
… a fresh arrival of Viognier into the press.
… a close up. As you can see the grapes are alive, prepping themselves for the native yeast fermentation, which initiates naturally a day or two after the harvest.
… regarding the Viognier grapes, during the entire first week, Monday through Saturday, I manned the presses from 8 to 9pm, while at the same time eating dinner with the Guigal family. A boring job but somebody has to do it. Every 10 to 20 minutes we have to pump the freshly pressed must into the stainless steel vats in order to avoid over-oxidation. I learned that pressing grapes is a science in itself. Guigal discovered about 10 years ago that a slow and calculated press over roughly a six-hour period yields a much larger amount of high quality must than a quick, higher pressure press. In essence the press is divided into 3 stages, a low press, a medium press and a high press. Each stage lasts between 1 and 2 hours, according to the program that Philippe Guigal has set. During all three stages (T4, T5, and T6), the entire pneumatic press rotates intermittently in order to break up the berries and allow for a complete press. The first press yields the purest, highest quality must; however, the second press also yields very good quality must that imparts structure and complexity. These first two presses are pumped directly into the stainless steel vat. The final high pressure press yields only about 200 liters of must. It is separated from the first two presses, and is pumped directly into an oak barrel. This final must is much lower in quality, as the proportion of harsh tannins from the skins and seeds is much higher. PS: I must disclaim, to ensure that I don’t divert any attention away from the Guigal family, that Philippe and Eve, manned the presses every night after dinner, from 9pm until 12am – 2am!
… regarding the Viognier grapes, after one day in the stainless steel vats, a layer of cloudy, sediment-filled must collects at the bottom of the vat. The cleaner must is racked off and this bottom layer must is pumped through a filter that utilizes “Randalite” filter aid, which to a layman looks like flour. As the must passes through the filter, the excess filter aid is collected in a bin.
… a fresh arrival of Syrah after being pumped directly into the stainless vat, skin and all! The berries will be pressed in about one month, as soon as the fermentation and maceration is complete.
… the famous and EXPENSIVE “La Landonne” grapes freshly pumped into the vat. The Landonne vineyards are special in that they have a very high phenolic potential. In order to exploit this quality throughout the vinification, first, all sorting is done in the vineyard by the harvest team. No sorting is done at the grape reception. Second the stems and all are pumped into the vat, so that the maximum phenolic potential can be reached. Third, in order to maximize extraction, you’ll note the smaller vat mounted on top of the main vat. When mounted together, due to the natural must expansion during fermentation, an automatic system of continuous pumping over ensues–i.e. continuous extraction. And voila… one of the most sought after wines in the world is created!
… filling the newly cooped oak barrels with water. The barrels are left soaking in water for about 48 hours. This is an important part of the prep work involved in aging wine. The water causes the oak to expand, sealing any gaps that may have remained in the barrels. After all, it is only a very slow and controlled oxidation through the porous oak fibers that is desired.
… no this is not me rehearsing for the sequel to “I know what you did last Summer”. This is me preparing to rinse and wash the presses, after finishing the final press of Viognier. Oh man did I EVER get soaked!
… you’re looking at a Filtrox AG wine filter. All of Guigal’s wine is pumped through this filter just before bottling. First Kieselgur filter aid (which also looks like flour but is essentially crushed rock) is mixed with the wine. Second, the wine-Kieselgur solution is pumped through the multi-layer stainless steel filter on the right. And out comes a freshly filtered, protein-free wine.
… Guigal’s public tasting room, situated at the end of the main barrel aging cellar. In front of you are the super star wines of Guigal. In no particular order–Landonne, Mouline, Turque, Ex Voto, Chateau d’Ampuis, l’Hospice, and Doriane.