"Rosé may be the easiest wine to drink...but certainly the most difficult wine to make !"
I did not know how those gleaned grapes harvested mid October would do but it seems that they were actually quite good for rosé. True is that this 2013 vintage was late and true is that acidity is a key word for this atypical crush so late harvest
Well, Alcoholic fermentation is now over and the tasting of the first clear wine shows a great potential. 12.8%, high acidity, grapefruit hints and a pale colour are all what I enjoy in a rosé...
Even if the "image" of rosé wine is not still to the level it should be (some people still don't consider rosé as a wine + there is still a bad confusion with the white Zin), true is that it has made a lot of new fans in the last decade. Maybe because (thanks ?) to global warming and a more times to enjoy it, maybe also because some glamorous people have invested in our Region and are using all their marketing tools to promote it but the real explanation is simple : Quality.
And, if rosé is considered the easiest wine to drink (and I agree on this), it is also probably the most difficult wine to make. High tech' and cold monitoring are actually the two main ingredients for success. After having picking beautiful grapes early morning, it is important to direct press right away. And a pneumatic modern press helps a lot getting the essence of the juice without extracting too much material and color.
Once you have harvested your grapes, preferably early morning at fresh temperatures, you want to bring them right away to the press for a direct press. And a modern pneumatic press really permits to increase the juice quality since to makes a very gentle work without extracting too many solid parts from the grape skins.
But the most important part is what we call "débourbage à froid" (cold settling). This operation consists in separating as quick as possible the clear grape juice (which is the one meant to ferment) from all the sediments caused by the press. In effect, the thick part which settles at the bottom of the tank is not offering the best aromas to the wine so we do not want the wine to be altered by dirty hints. The problem is that we do not want fermentation to happen before this separation is done and that we need a little time for the settling to happen. An option is to use sulfites which kills bacteries and delay the start of fermentation but the problem is that sulfites do not only kill bacteries... It kills aromas...and once you use sulfites, you often have to use super active industrial yeasts to re-activate fermentation...and this will create artificial aromas and kill terroir expression.
So, the recipe is to use cold devices that will permit to bring your just pressed juice to a almost freezing temperature and this will not only stop any fermentation start but also accelerate the settling and so leave the grape juice less time in contacts with oxygen, which is always a plus especially if, like me, you don't add any sulfites which are also an antioxidant.
Once you think your grape juice is clear enough, it is time to pump it from the top until you reach the "bourbes" which can eventually be filtrated and give some "fat" to the wine. And when your clear grape juice is on its own, it is now time for fermentation to start ASAP in order to avoid oxidation of this juice so you will need to warm up your grape juice very quickly up to 65° F. And to start the fermenting process ASAP, you can either use industrial yeasts (but as I said above, it kills your terroir expression) or you can use a "pied du cuve" which is a small amount of grape juice already fermenting and that will make you whole tank start fermenting and then be protected against oxidation. I have used this solution and it worked right after.
Another great asset of temperature monitoring is that the longest the fermentation happens, the more aromas you will extract. A regular fermentation happens at about 75° F but if you can maintain it around 60° F, then it will make it happen longer, especially if you do not use industrial yeasts made to make super fast fermentation for super industrial wine process...
Once fermentation is finished, which means that there is almost no sugar left (FYI, the grape juice starts at about 220 grams of sugar per liter and ends when it is below 3 grams), you will want to let it by itself and use again some cold device to accelerate the settling of the lies, which is one outcome of the fermentation. Once those lies lie down the tank, you will have to reproduce the same operation of pumping the wine from top until you reach the deposit of lies that you will get rid of. And for the pumping, the use of a high tech material avoiding any oxygen input is always a plus.
It wil be now time to let the wine sit in its tank and let time operate. Cold temperature will permit to naturally have tartar cristal deposit and, when Spring is around the corner, it will be time to bottle the wine without filtration in order to keep all its natural assets.
As you see, quality rosé and high tech' are deeply linked. Of course, the most important is the grape quality but as you can see, there are many ways to spoil it with delicate operations and there are now very interesting tools to bring the initial potential to its best. As much as I consider myself as an old school winemaker, I have learned that you have to use modern tools sometimes in order to stick with quality.
A Big Thank You to Patrick and Pascale from Domaine Antiane (a new garage winery in Bandol) who have accepted to host our grapes, juice and wine inside their new cellars and with all the very best materials I could ever dream to have...when I have my own tools.
On a side note, I have decided to experiment making a fuzzy-sparkling rosé. I have used the "Pétillant Naturel" method which consists in bottling the almost wine when it is almost done fermenting. The carbonic gas produced during the end of fermentation in bottle will create the sparking. This wine will probably be a bit blurry since I won't have a chance to clarify it but it will be a natural wine and, I am sure, fun to drink.
We all hope now that summer will come as quick as possible in order to enjoy this beautiful wine when higher temperatures and sun are back.
Jean-Marc - Mas des Brun
Wine - Olive Oil - Honey....