Monday, 26 September 2011


The red wine has finished alcoholic fermentation. In fact, it had largely finished after just 6 days, a bit quicker than expected. We have just got the analysis back from the lab and figures are 13,64% alcohol, pH 3,53 and total acidity (expressed as sulphuric) 4,87. The wine hasn't gone through MLF yet.

We did 2 pumpovers a day during fermentation and left the lid off the tank all the time to stop the must from getting too hot. Average fermentation temperature was 27°C. We also carried out délestage (rack and return) twice at the height of fermentation. This process helps extract colour and fruit although to be honest the colour was very deep anyway. It also oxygenates the must and keeps the ferment going. Another reason why we did délestage was to control the temperature. Also, it was interesting to see how much free run juice there was.

People often remove pips during délestage but as the grapes were mostly whole there weren't any pips to remove. Did put a filter (yes, it is an Ikea bin!) in the bac and had a filter on the hose going from the bac to the pump but, no, there weren't any pips. Just lovely, deep coloured, fragrant fermenting juice.

The wine is now macerating on its skins. The cap of skins is still at the top and I do a daily pumpover to keep the cap moist and aid gentle extraction. Then the lid is put back on the tank to keep those pesky fruit flies away.

The grapes have gradually broken up during vinification and more pips are in evidence. I taste the wine twice daily to check its evolution. The colour is v deep and there are nice cherry fruit flavours. Black cherry. Over the last few days the tannins have become more pronounced, the flavours have filled out mid palate and there is more length of flavour.

Not sure when we will press. With such a small volume I don't think that a really long post ferment maceration is appropriate. We'll just keep tasting and see.

Saturday, 24 September 2011

Winemaking at Château IBJ

For the last 12 years the grapes have been sold to the co-op and gone into the soup to make rosé. So we have no idea of historic wine quality.

The varietal is Syrah and we want to make around 500 litres of Red and 150 litres of Rosé (because we like it).

After destemming, we put the grapes in the 1000 litre tank and lightly sulphured it, around 3g.
After about half an hour we bled off 150 litres of grape must into a 200 litre tank and chilled it as much as our technology allowed. Very sophisticated technology - frozen bottles of water and a wet cotton sheet! We added approx 4 gs of enzyme to aid settling or debourbage. We then covered it and left it overnight. After about 12 hours it looked like this. It is still grape juice at this point.

Back to the red wine. After we had bled off the rosé, we then added 250g of yeast to the red grapes. Lallemand Lalvin GRE selection ICV, which is a selection originally from Cornas and promotes fruitiness in Rhone style wines.

We mixed it into the grapes, covered the tank (but not airtight), and left it overnight.

By 7am the next morning the wine was starting to gently bubble and hum and had warmed up to 26°C. I felt like a parent with a newborn baby!

Friday, 23 September 2011

Harvest time at Château IBJ

After 20 years in the wine business (how time flies), 7 of which have been spent in the Languedoc, I couldn't resist any longer. Yes, we bought a vineyard. Since May this year we have been owners of a small but perfectly formed hectare of Syrah vines. 15 years old, and in a beautiful spot on the other side of the hill from our house in the Minervois village of Mailhac.

The vines came with a share in the local cave co-op so we sold some of the grapes there but kept back 3 rows for ourselves which we have vinified in the corner of the garage.

The bit for the co-op was harvested on the 9th September (hubby's birthday).

The grapes for us were harvested a week later on the 16th September.

Here is our neighbour and consultant winemaker, Didier.

The grapes were destemmed

And then poured from the bins into a 1000 litre tank. They just fit!

More on the vinification in the next post.