Rosé at dawn - harvest with pics

Rosé at dawn - harvest with pics

Posted by Gavin Quinney on 16th Sep 2020

Here's another midweek harvest update, and this time on our rosé. To avoid any confusion, the title refers to the timing of the harvest and is not meant as a drinking suggestion.

This morning, in fact, we completed the harvest of our red grapes for making rosé by bringing in some Cabernet Sauvignon. It's the last of our holy trinity for making the pink stuff - the first two being Merlot and Cabernet Franc - and below is a photo diary.

Sadly we sold out of 2019 rosé at the end of May, so this doesn't really count as a sales pitch. There are a few bottles left in various mixed cases.

All the best

Gavin & Angela Quinney

PS There’s a photo album of just the pics - click here.

The 2020 Sauvignon Blanc harvest lasted, on and off, from 25 August to 10 September. (If you missed it in last week’s photo diary, click here to see it.) Halfway through we made a start on our red grapes for making rosé.

As with our whites, we like to harvest the red grapes for the rosé at the coolest time of the day.

We had pretty chilly mornings at the start of September. It feels like a good time to harvest for all sorts of reasons.

Our rosé is a blend of three red grape varieties. First up is Merlot because that ripens earlier. The fruit from these young vines are in this year’s rosé for the first time – we planted them in 2015. The first batch for rosé was 3 September.

As we saw with the whites last week, Margaux likes to be close to the action – even at 6am.

For rosé, we prefer to only harvest enough grapes each morning to fill the 5,000-litre press, on the left.

The fruit from the Merlot vines in front of the Château tends to go into the Rosé now. We usually decide half way through the season as to which parcels will be for rosé and which for red. We then harvest the grapes much earlier for making rosé as we want higher acidity and lower sugar (and therefore lower alcohol). But the grapes have to be ripe so it’s a fine line.

This was Saturday, 5 September. I don’t know why we often get the machine rolling next to the house on a weekend during the harvest, but we do. The grapes were just about right.

2020 is an early harvest all round, though we’d have waited at least another ten days if we’d decided to go with the red here. We have often picked this for making red in early October in the recent past.

Pavie is fine with the machine at a distance, above, but he’ll make a bolt for it as soon as the beast gets too close.

The cat is the only other member of the household up early.

Margaux taking it easy, with Daniel checking we haven’t missed any rows.

Straight off to the winery.

It’s another gorgeous morning as the sun comes up.

With the press now full, time to stop. And press.

Nelly washing the trailers.

Time for a quick coffee and a chat with Guy, who drove the machine.

Guy’s back bright and early on Monday, to finish the parcel and so we can fill the press once again.

Another beautiful day, with a chilly start. Ideal.

Where’s a drone when you need one? Standing on the tractor for this shot.

I took this photo of the last of the Merlot bunches in this block. There are quite a lot of grapes here, and the higher yield is good for making rosé. For red, you’d normally want fewer bunches and greater concentration. It’s one of the reasons we chose rosé for this block. Another is that our rosé is popular.

This is not a scene you’d be likely to witness at a Premier Grand Cru Classé at seven in the morning. Then again, the most prestigious châteaux in Bordeaux aren’t famous for their rosé.

Cru Artisan.

The process is lovely and quick, and extremely effective.

You need kit, and for everything to work mind.

No hands in here, thanks. And if you ever take pics like this with a mobile, make sure your hands aren’t slippery.

The grapes are lightly crushed and go into the press. We only use the juice from the lightest pressing as it goes too dark after that.

The pink juice, after settling, is cool fermented in a stainless steel tank (or cuve). The darker juice from the press is fermented separately. It’s a sort of Clairet, or dark rosé.

Once we’ve harvested the Merlot, it’s now for the next variety to ripen, the Cabernet Franc. While the Merlot gives the rosé the fruitiness and roundness, the Cabernets add some zip, crunch and, well, minerality? Through trial and a lot of error, we like to blend all three.

These vines were planted in 2015 and the grapes went into our 2019 rosé, which everyone seemed to like.

The morning of the harvest. Cabernet Franc is a noble variety in Bordeaux, especially on the right bank, and is a key component of the greatest Saint-Emilions like Châteaux Ausone, Cheval Blanc and Angelus. (The rest of the blend being Merlot.)

It would be fun to pop along – they’re less than 30 minutes away by car – and harvest a few rows like this. The downside would be a short spell in prison. Oh, and they’re very nice people. Anyway, back to the rosé.

It is not recommended that you take photos of harvest machines like this. Or for your mind to wander at the crucial moment.

All in. Can you see, on the right, where the branch was tied down back in mid-March, shortly before budbreak and the start of the growing season? Seems a long while ago now.

And off go the grapes. This was the bottom of the slope, near where the deer eat too many of the young shoots.

The last trailer of Cabernet Franc as the sun comes up, from the top of the slope.

And finally, the Cabernet Sauvignon. This is the last of these three main red grape varieties in Bordeaux to ripen.

Ange checking up on some older Cabernet vines, a week before harvest.

Cabernet Sauvignon is rightly famous for making up around 90% of the blend of some of the greatest wines from Bordeaux’s left bank, like Châteaux Latour, Mouton, Lafite and Margaux. Let me tell you, it grows well there. But these vines do a fine job and are at the heart of our rosé.

Another early start.

Grape skins, ready to be collected by the nice man that takes them away.

What’s left. The pale pink juice goes darker when it ferments than at the start and at the end. Still, ’tis a pretty thing to behold. And delicious already.

There’s a photo album of the pictures here.