As for the white wines, we also focus the same meticulous, almost fanatical attention on winemaking:
The way we sort the grapes is an excellent example of our respect for the ripe fruit throughout the winemaking process.
Putting into vat: The whole, uncrushed berries are taken to the appropriate vat via a small 3 hl mobile vat. The grapes fall into the vat by gravity flow, yet another example of the estate's emphasis on quality: The fruit is treated totally gently this way.
Pre-fermentation maceration: when the grapes are put into vat, we lower the temperature for cold maceration prior to alcoholic fermentation. This is ideal for bringing out colour and aromas.
Fermentation: Alcoholic fermentation begins spontaneously thanks to indigenous yeast. This yeast “eats” the sugar and transforms it into alcohol, carbonic gas, and heat. The solid matter rises and forms as cap at the top of the vat. The temperature also rises at this time. The art of winemaking consists of maintaining the right temperature and contact between the cap and the juice.
« I can indeed choose a pressing method which is soft and long-lasting, an extraction of the juices under low pressure, without risking oxidation and thus we are able to extract all the qualitative potential of our grapes. » Fabien TEITGEN, Technical Director
Post-fermentation maceration: The vats are kept at a temperature of 28°C and left on the skins as long as it takes for the wine to form its tannic structure and acquire the right degree of richness. We monitor how maceration is going by regular tastings.
Running off and pressing: We run off the free run juice (part of which goes into new oak barrels), separating it from the solid matter in the vat. This is then used to make the press wine. “We put the wine into barrel at an early stage when it is ‘still warm’. This definitely enhances the interaction between the wine and the oak. This is better integrated and more understated as a result.”
Barrel ageing: The secondary, or malolactic fermentation takes place partly in vat, and partly in barrel. This is essential for stabilising red wines.
We keep the wine on its lees for the few first months of ageing and decide what winemaking operations to do based on weekly tastings. We rack the wine very little.
« When we monitor the extraction with precision, we don't need to proceed to multiple rackings (soutirages) because we don't have any bad tannin to remove. Therefore we preserve the full potential of the wine. » Fabien TEITGEN, Technical Director
Bottling: We bottle our fine red wine after 16-18 months ageing in an oxygen-free atmosphere to maintain ageing potential.
In few dates (click for more details)
2010 – New bottling lines
Bottling is the final step in the production process, and it is highly important that this be done right to ensure the wines will keep well. The introduction of oxygen at this stage could prevent our wines from improving over time. This is why state-of-the-art machines are used to fill bottles containing inert nitrogen gas by gravity flow – there is no contact whatsoever with the air. Futhermore, the slow rhythm is conducive to a very precise, high quality operation.
2008 – Introduction of a new generation winepress
In order to protect the grape must from oxidation during pressing (especially for the white wines), we purchased a new winepress that locks in freshness and keeps the juice in perfect condition away from oxygen thanks to a layer of inert nitrogen gas.
2004 – Whole grape fermentation
Grapes are no longer crushed. The bunches are destemmed and only whole, round, and healthy berries are put, uncrushed, into small wooden fermentation vats. Alcoholic fermentation takes place slowly both within and surrounding each grape, which brings out wonderful fruity aromas.
2003 – Red wines entirely made and aged in oak barrels
In keeping with our policy of treating the raw material with the greatest respect, the château ferments several lots of Merlot and Cabernets Sauvignon entirely in barrel. These grapes are put directly into barrel, where both alcoholic and malolactic fermentation take place. This helps the new oak to integrate beautifully with the wine's intrinsic fruit and aromatics.
2001 – Ageing on the lees
Quatre à cinq personnes s'activent sur un deuxième tapis de tri positionné en aval de l'érafloir, pour éliminer la moindre particule végétale oubliée par ce dernier.
2000 – A new vat room adapted to plot-by-plot fermentation
All of the former glazed steel vats were replaced by new 80 HL wooden vats and a few small insulated truncated cone-shaped stainless steel vats. Thanks to the vats' conical skirt tapered toward the top, the cap acts like a sponge that is softly pressed with each variation in level that accompanies pumping over.
1998 – Wooden fermentation vats
Wooden vats, also cone-shaped, hold 110 HL of wine. These replaced the steel tanks. The château has invested enormous time, energy, and money into making a concentrated wine thanks to the thermal inertia of wood and the exchange of aromatics between oak and wine during fermentation.
1994 – Partial malolactic fermentation in barrel
Starting in 1994, malolactic fermentation has partially taken place in new oak barrels. Paradoxically, this makes for more delicate and better-integrated oak flavours.