Sunday, September 25, 2016

Harvest Diary 2016 - The extremely rare Carignan Gris

We have a very small vineyard of 60 year old Carignan Gris at Domaine Jones and I always look forward to harvesting it.  The Carignan gris is a bit temperamental and takes its time to ripen so this is always the last white grape to be picked. Well it's not officially white but gris.

Carignan blanc on the left, Carignan Gris on the right -multi coloured vine!
Its late ripening is probably why Carignan Gris isn't so popular down here and most has been ripped up.

Wikipedia and Wine Searcher both say that there is less than 1 hectare planted in Languedoc Roussillon so if that is really the case I must be one of the world's largest producers with a total production of 800 bottles per year.


Here I am checking to see if the grapes are ripe the evening before harvest.

They tasted delicious so we picked and then pressed and out third vintage of the rare Carignan Gris 2016 is bubbling away happily in a tiny 500 litre vat.

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Harvest Diary - break down

Midway through the picking and starting to feel the weight of all those grapes - or perhaps lack of them given the very small vintage this year.

The week started badly with my Citroen Dyane having a bad Monday and blowing up half way up the hill in Paziols.

It is now resting in the yard, feeling very sorry for itself until Bjorn the german mechanic opened her up and tickled her insides.

She still doesn't want to go back out into those vineyards though.

The week saw the departure of Julia, the arrival of Bjorn, Dan, Ele and Holly and a quick visit from David.

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Harvest Diary 2016 - rain does not stop play

6.00 am          Alarm rings but already awake listening to the sound of rain.  Rain was forecast but until it actually happens you are never sure - forecasted torrential rain has too often than not turned into a light shower but today is going to be different - it is actually raining big time.

6.15 am         Coffee and croissant

6.45 am         Down to the La Gare Winery to get the first press of the morning on.  Lovely muscat grapes bursting with sweet juice.  50 cases loaded in the press by hand - no need to go down the gym.  Full body work out and 10 000 steps before 12 am.

Team Jones ready for action in the rain - Tassy, Steve and Pauline (Vinesmiths).
7.30 am         Washing the empty cases in the rain doesn't have the same attraction as in 35° heat but team Jones is on the job (thanks Tassy).  I'm just reliving memories of childhood caravan holidays in Wales and relieved to finally have some rain.

9.00 am          First press of the day finished.  Time to gently pump the lovely juice into the tank to settle and empty the stalks from the press (thanks Steve).  Sounds easy but need to push press out of winery, empty stalks or as many as possible into tray, then shovel others off the floor into tray.  Then one lucky member of team Jones needs to get their wet weather gear on and get inside the press with the hose and give it a good rinse out.  I think I'll get the kettle on!

Well earned coffee break 

9.15 am         Press clean (thanks Pauline) and pushed back into the winery, 50 more cases waiting to be loaded.  The challenge for team Jones today is 4 presses before bedtime!  Thanks team Jones.

Smiling through the clouds

Friday, September 9, 2016

Harvest Diary 2016 - rack and roll

Friday 9th September

It's time for a bit of racking to get the grape juice ready for fermentation. The grape juice has been chilling nicely in the vats for a couple of days and now we want to start fermentation. but before we do that we need to take the clear juice off the crud that has deposited at the bottom of the tank.  If you don't you get what is known as a dirty ferment and we don't want one of those.

Sounds easy and it is at least for the first 5 minutes but as you get nearer the bottom of the tank the danger is that you disturb the sediment with a false manoeuvre and it clouds the clear juice. I am the queen of false manoeuvres so this is a job for Steve or Monsieur Jones who both have longer arms than me.

Vive les Pompiers

The morning after the fire I saw one of the many pompiers exhausted in front of her fire engine, socks off and large heavy fire fighting boots put to one side.  She had been up all night fighting the flames along with 300 other pompiers from Tuchan and further afield.

I had been scared just looking at the flames from a safe distance so to actually be on the front line with 30 ft flames ravaging the tinder dry vegetation springing up willy nilly as the wind gusted must have been horrendous.

I know that this year I will be putting more than a couple of euros in the pompiers collection box.

Wild Fire

On Monday the 5th of September the siren went off in Tuchan.  It was long and drawn out and seemed to go on forever.  The siren is to call the Pompiers of Tuchan to the fire station and usually it is just a short, sharp blast.  But this time no – it just went on and on and on.

The day was particularly hot – 35 ° C and very windy with gusts of up to 50 miles an hour.  The newspaper had published a high risk fire warning for the Corbieres as the garrigue scrubland is tinder dry after months and months without rain.

When we looked to the skies we saw a small cloud of orange smoke behind the Mont Tauch mountain behind our village.  An hour later and the fire had reached the plain between Paziols and Tuchan and split into two.  One fire was heading for Tuchan and the other for Paziols.

The photos were taken from our vineyard just behind our house.

We tried to check on our vineyards that were in the path of the fire but the roads were blocked off by hundreds of fire engines and police.

The fire was big but distant, the fire fighting planes had arrived and were dumping hundreds of litres on the flames so we went home to have dinner.

But oh my... when we returned a couple of hours later we were in for a shock....

A line of flames was advancing unrelentlessly along the flanks of the Mont Tauch mountain and the wind was blowing it back towards the village.

As night fell the planes could no longer fly so it was down to the pompiers on the ground to try and contain the fire.  Over 300 firemen and women fought all night to prevent the fire doing more damage. 

We stayed there looking at the fire just praying that it didn't get any closer.  We had a plan that if the fire came over the next ridge we were going to evacuate down to the Station winery on the other side of the village.

Fortunately it never came to that but when we woke up the next morning the scenes of devastation where difficult to take in.  It is best described by the following photos.  Some of the pictures are taken  in my vineyards but we were very lucky.  Only a small percentage of our vines were affected.  

Sunday, September 4, 2016

Harvest Diary 2016 - a pressing question

It's been all go last week at Domaine Jones as the white harvest starts to come in.  Lovely but small berries of Grenache Gris and Grenache Blanc from our vines in Maury and in Tuchan have been hand picked in to our blue harvesting crates and brought back to the Gare winery.  

Temperatures have soared reaching 35° by midday so we are only picking in the early morning and then chilling the grapes down when they arrive at the winery.  They get to spend the evening in an air-conditioned container just next to the winery.  It’s a rather chilly 5°C but given the extreme heat in the vineyards you can almost hear the grapes' sigh of relief.

Crates of grapes on their way to be chilled

Given the small size of the berries this year we have decided to press whole bunches rather than destemming like we have in previous years.

Leaving the stalks on means that the grapes have something firmer to press against as the big balloon in the pneumatic press expands and the stalks also help as drainage channels for the juice.  But we definitely don’t want any stalky flavours so we selected a very gentle cycle.

Whole bunches of Grenache blanc going into the press