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We need to pick at peak ripeness. This means the convergence of aromatic, phenolic (tannin, colour), and technological (sugar, acidity) ripeness. Our whole winemaking strategy is based on picking at the right time, and this necessarily entails a certain risk. In Bordeaux, in the autumn, the weather can sometimes be conducive to the spread of grey rot, leading to a loss of both quality and quantity. The equilibrium in the weather (sunshine, rain, wind, etc.) is often fragile!

I determine how ripe the grapes are in two different ways:

1 – analysing the grape must (sugar, acidity, and tannin levels…)
2 – tasting the grapes: This is a deciding factor when the analysis results are inconclusive! I send the pickers out when I can taste that the grapes are perfectly ripe (the human senses of smell and taste are more efficient than any laboratory analyses).

« The first thing that I did when I arrived at Château Smith Haut Lafitte was to sell the grape harvesting machines. » Daniel Cathiard, Owner of Château Smith Haut Lafitte.

Our grapes are entirely hand-picked, plot by plot, bunch by bunch, because this is still the best way to harvest quality fruit. All the bunches are harvested, examined, and sorted by one of our workers, and then put into small crates.

These are then directly transported to the cellars at Smith Haut Lafitte. The fruit is not put into large hoppers and great care is taken not to bruise the 10 kg of grapes in each crate prior to arrival at the winery. The grapes are removed delicately by hand and then gone over carefully once again on a sorting table.

At this stage, the white wine grapes go directly into a pneumatic winepress. The red wine grapes, on the other hand, go to be destemmed, and then onto the second sorting table (manned by 10 to 12 workers) in order to remove anything other than grapes.

« I want only whole, perfectly-ripe grapes with ripe seeds in my fermentation vats, in order to make the best possible wine. In this same spirit, we have just acquired state-of-the-art optical sorting equipment. This photographs everything on the sorting table and analyses it thanks to specialised software. Anything that does not have the shape or colour of a grape is rejected.. » Daniel Cathiard, Owner of Château Smith Haut Lafitte.

Château Smith Haut Lafitte – 33650 Bordeaux Martillac, France
Tel. +33 (0)5 57 83 11 22 – Fax +33 (0)5 57 83 11 21 – f.cathiard@smith-haut-lafitte.com
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