04 September, 2015

A taste of grapes

Chardonnays of 2015. Looking good as you can see.

But when are they perfect? Or rather when do they reach the optimum level before they decline?

Sugar and acidity-samples
To decide this a network of winegrowers all over Champagne collect samples, measure the sugar and acidity and report their resultats to the technical department of the Comité Champagne. The technicians of this interface between winegrowers and champagnehouses analyze and combine this into a rather general result and share it with us all during the last weeks before grapeharvest.

We combine these general facts about the yields and the year with our own samples, experience and ideas to reach a conclusion on how to proceed.

A bit of history:2011
Believe me, it is not an easy task. The risk is always that disease, bad weather or other problems arrive as you wait for the perfect level of sugar.

In 2011 Champagne saw an even earlier grapeharvest than this year. That year started out very very early, thus the vines performed the different stages much earlier than usual. However, the summer was not great, which slowed down the maturation. As the weather changed, some decided to postpone the grapeharvest some days. We were amongst these. Others wished they could have postponed too.

To taste the grapes
In Avize, the big coop of l'Union Champagne decided to re-create an old technique of tasting the berries. They imported this from the Bordelais-region, where tasting the grapes is part of the decision proces. I guess, the technique must have existed in Champagne once upon a time, since the idea of tasting the berries to constitute the mix of vines for the blend is one of the techniques ascribed to the legendary Dom Perignon as far as I remember. There is no written heritage from his hand of course, but it could be fun to investigate a bit more.

Anyway, l'Union Champagne has used this technique on top of the others since 2011, and they say to our regional newspaper l'Union, that they are able to retrieve the character of the grape in the final wine.

The parameters are the intensity of the acidity and of the sweetness, the intensity of the taste of "green grass" (herbacité), the lemony maturity, the intensity of the fruit, the maturity of the fruit and the intensity of the astringency.

We both find this quite interesting. And worth trying.

Grapes to be tasted
Next weekend our plan is to pick grapes for another plot champagne. The final wine will be in our hands.

Thus the second step will be to taste the grapes. The first step?

Get the grapes.

They are right here:

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