Posted by Jeremy Seysses
Much to my horror, my recent trip to the United States and Canada revealed to me that some people have actually been reading this blog. While it was not a shock that people visit WineSpectator.com, the fact that anyone would labor through my heavy prose and factual notes was a total revelation. In any case, in an attempt to satisfy my fan base, here's a recap of the end of harvest.
In my last post, I wrote about our harvest party on Oct. 4. With all the grapes in and the fermentations going, the winery heated up and filled with the heady smell of alcohol and carbon dioxide. We try to extract flavors by punching down the must in the early stages of fermentation, before the alcohol builds up. Tannins are very soluble in alcohol, so you extract much faster and in much greater quantity later in the fermentation. In the first few days, many tanks are getting punched down as often as three times a day, eventually dropping to one or none later on. Towards the end, we might replace the punchdown by a short pumpover, just to wet the cap.
Extraction was very good in 2008. The colors came quickly, a good indicator that the grapes were ripe enough, and the tannins followed. I feel like I should elaborate about color and tannin—two important things in a red wine:
• Color coming out quickly in Pinot is indeed an indicator of the grapes being ripe, but in overripe grapes, it tends to be less easily extractable. It is only one indicator among many. It is also quite unstable, and a wine with lots of color after fermentation will not necessarily be a wine with a lot of color in bottle. I personally find that there is a very poor correlation between color and quality in Pinot Noir.
• Tannin is a tricky element. There are too many examples of tough, over-extracted wines here in Burgundy. However, I also taste too many Pinots, mostly from outside Burgundy, which feel under-extracted, tannin-wise. This is a personal point of view, but a wine needs structure and focus, and tannins are crucial in providing those elements, even more so in high-alcohol wines/vintages. Not to the point of hardness, but to the point where the sweetness of the wine is complemented by the tannic structure. For me, that is one of the pivotal points where a winemaker gets to exercise his or her judgment.
It was obvious pretty quickly in 2008 from the first tanks that there would be no need to force anything out of those grapes. These were "givers." The question rapidly turned to "How far can we push it?" or rather, "How far should we push it?" In the end, we waited until the wines were very close to being dry before beginning pressing on the Oct. 12 with the Echézeaux.
When all the grapes come in quickly, it follows that they reach the end of their fermentations close together. This led to big days of emptying tanks and pressing musts while carrying on with the usual winemaking tasks for the rest of the winery. Our interns Tim and Christopher, as well as my brother Alec and I, kept very busy until we were done pressing. We went straight from this high-pressure schedule to a phase of waiting for the pressed wine to finish fermenting the little bit of sugar that inevitably comes out at pressing, especially with whole-cluster fermentations. We want to be completely sure that the wines are dry before putting them into barrel. It is important from a sanitary level, and we have had issues with reduction for red wines that have finished their fermentations in barrel.
As I write this, we've already finished putting the wines in barrel. They are concentrated, tightly wound Burgundies, full of energy. If you were to taste them today, they would feel tough and acidic, which is completely normal pre-malolactic fermentation. But the fruit is pure and the tannins are elegant and well-bred, albeit currently emphasized by the malic acid. I am very enthusiastic about the quality and look forward to watching these wines grow and change during the élevage. My only regret is that there isn't a bit more of them… .
At this stage, it is high time for me to thank my vast readership—I know of at least four people and a rumored fifth that have been reading my blog—and sign off. It has been a pleasure.
From Morey-St.-Denis, goodbye!