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November 4th, 2011

Fermentation: stems or no stems?


Fermentation with or without stems? The answer may seem obvious given that destemmers have been considered a true improvement and the elimination of everything but the grapes has been a “must” for great wines lately. And yet …

During our recent working vacations in California and Burgundy we met a handful of winemakers that swear by whole cluster fermentation. Seduced by their wines we decided to see if this approach could help us go further in our quest for freshness, balance and minerality.

With absolutely no point of reference, we first invested in some 500L puncheons to start experimenting on a small scale. So beguiled by the initial results, we decided to experiment on a larger scale and this year we have fermented some tanks of Cinsault, Grenache, Syrah and Mourvèdre using the whole cluster approach. Of course everything we’ve gleaned from this adventure only relates to one vintage – a vintage of outstanding phenolic maturity, but we are already very excited about the wines!

After malolactic fermentation, the noses are amazingly open, with an incredible degree of freshness and complexity.  The mouth-feel shows a lot of silkiness, even if the final is, at this point, a little more tannic than the corresponding wines made from destemmed grapes.  I think these wines will require some aging during which their already impressive complexity should increase further. See you in 2013 to taste these promising 2011 wines!

If you’re interested  in discovering a little more about this harvest experiments, you can check out this video on Youtube.

 

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  • France
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