This is a very important moment for a vigneron : here is what you've been waiting and worrying about for months : the harvest has been picked and sorted and it's all safely in the press. Gerard (picture onleft) gives a last check on the Pinot Gris grapes before the heavy lid is put on top. Let the winemaking begin !
The most surprising experience for me was for sure this family winemaking party, it took place in a side building along Gerard's country house and it was also very professionally done, like a miniature winery and a case study to imagine how people made their wines together in their farms the old times.
there's no chronolgical order in this post, this pressing of Pinot Gris having taken place after the one for the Chardonnay. Like in a real winery, Gérard would share his time between the vineyard and the chai, driving both ways with the boxes in the van. Sometimes we would call him on his cell phone and ask for empty boxes when we had a shortage of containers. We were eager to see the chai and the press side of this adventure, and I could experience it on both days.
Gérard bought this used press in the north of France and had it shipped here. It looks big but it's almost a bit small already as his vineyard surface was augmented by several rows of Pinot Gris which are now also picked and pressed. There's a small plaque on the press, it was made by the établissements E. Bartherotte in Golfech (Tarn & Garonne département). There must still be thousands of such presses rusting in barns all over France, and they're not too difficult to repair and renovate (you just change the wood staves), like I learned when visiting Claude Courtois who recovered many of them.
You can see here Philippe putting in place the heavy lock weighing on the grapes.
The press puzzle is being put back in place. After the two heavy metal tops are positioned over the grapes, you need to put these big wooden beams so that the weight distribution is evenly spread when the screw is activated. Philippe (who drove me here from Vincennes with his wife Carole) seems to be quite an expert in the whole process, he could abandon his career in architecture and start a new life in the wine trade...
Now the pressing can proceed.
The wine is going to ferment here in the vat (the juice pictured here is Pinot Gris if I remember) with an addition of lab yeats. Gerard also adds some SO2 at this stage, to prevent the bacteria from harming the juice.
Gérard adds SO2 at this stage, just after the pressing, to prevent a surge in bacteria activity. This is a routine procedure for most wineries, particularly when there has been lots of rain and incidences of bad rot before the harvest. In spite of a careful sorting by us pickers, there's a risk of bacterial infection and the SO2 will prevent that. Gerard uses relatively-low doses here : 4 grams per hectoliter. He diluted some SO2 in wine beforehand and pours the tube in the vat.
Thomas left continental France with his girlfriend the following day for a long stay in Mayotte in the Indian Ocean.