Seasons of our vineyards
- An initiative journey
- Winter in Provence is harsh
- I love the spring, anything is possible
- Its summer, choosing to relinquish
- Finally fall!
An initiative journey
For 15 years the journey has been long, and very initiative. Of course there was first of all meeting other winemakers, then friendships made. My colleagues initiated me to the correct maturity of the grapes. The precision that wine making brings to preserve the purity of the fruits in vats. The first six years at Saint Prefert, step by step with some of the most illustrious winemakers in my village, where without a doubt the most intensive years. The page was blank, everything had to be written down. We drafted the partition with the help of many hands. Like a child who is learning to ride a bike, I pedaled for the first time in the vineyards under their approving gaze.
Then in 2009 came the time of maturity, I could move on by myself. Observe my vineyards and receive the lessons alone, vintage after vintage. Every year is a new blank page, you never know what's going to happen. The first quest is to learn to know and breathe the first feelings of a wine in the making.
Hence, the seasons of our vines are the permanent mystery that I seek to pierce relentlessly.
Winter in Provence is harsh
It's time to prune in the vineyards. The rain, wind, and sometimes snow put a strain on us in the heart of winter. Because pruning does not wait, all alone in their fields, the men slowly continue their work. Vine by vine, tirelessly taming them. Each gesture is precise, because we depend on this precision for next year's harvest. The branches are then burned at the end of the fields to prevent any contamination. At the end of March, pruning is finished. Spring is approaching. Neither to poor nor to rich, our soils offer us a diversity over the years in succession, but none are alike. The heat brings extreme character, the intense moisture an unsuspected freshness. Between the two there is a harmony and balance that always surprises us. In the coolness of our underground cellar, the wines of the previous autumn are refining and hide with elegance there power behind a subtle veil of finesse. Soon after several months, they will be bottled.
The grape varieties affirm there character, develop there aromas, and spend the winter separated. The Grenache and Cinsault give warmth and softness, the opposite for the Mourvedre and Syrah that give strength, longevity, color, and openness. The Counoise and Picpoul give a touch of unexpected complexity. The personalities of the wines announce themselves. New and used casks and half barrels will reveal these first aromas...
Its spring and our wines need to be aired. The operation of wine racking will interrupt their winter rest. Then the wines will find the calm of our cellar in clean casks and barrels. Time ennobles the fruits of our work, while paying homage to our grapes and the soil that bear them. The wines of Saint Prefert are among them, and we take the greatest care to keep them in the cellar at a constant temperature ( 10° to15° C 50° to 59° F ), and protect them from light. It is with great honor that all of our wines are bottled at the winery.
I love the spring, anything is possible
For a few days now, the whole of nature has awakened. The first buds are bursting. I beseech the sky that the north wind (le mistral) will blow strong to sweep away the first risk of frost...
This is the time for the first plowing and replanting of new vines. A hive of women and men busy themselves like bees in the vineyards, who are awakening a little more every day.
The first green buds grow longer, bowing to the ground in the Grenache fields. While the Mourvedre and Syrah point their leaves straight to the sky. The Clairette stands proudly with its rosy leaves pointed towards the cypress trees. Diseases and parasites awake in turn. It's time to organize the protection of the vineyards, this will last until the month of August.
Be careful with the old vines!
The complexity of great wines are often based on a marriage of old vines and young spirited fruit. I insist once again << be careful with the old vines, we have to protect them! And delicately accompany the development of the youngest ones. >> The old vines are the memory of our terroir, the young are the future. In particular the grape variety Grenache, which is the heart of our vineyards and the soul of our wines. It has a longevity that exceeds a hundred years. I entrust in our head of culture Loic, to organize with care the replanting of each new vine. One by one selecting which field they will complement the most. Maybe a generation later they will produce a great wine of my wishes.
The passion of man is combined with the magic of our soil. Saint Prefert practices organic winemaking, so the micro-life will reveal itself. Thanks to repeated plowing, we get the best of our soil and grapes.
Its summer, choosing to relinquish
I have to rise to the challenge of the heat, drought, and wind.
The sun rises around 6:00 am, and it's already hot. Rain has not fallen for weeks, and we have to work despite the heatwave that overwhelms the vineyards and exhausts the body. In the early hours I send my team to water the young vines planted this year. We must promote the survival of the young roots that suffer from thirst. Tractors plow tirelessly to eliminate weeds that compete with our vines to draw water from our soil.
Thirsty and intoxicated with health and sun, the vines don't stop growing. We must channel this energy without breaking the momentum... because to many clusters could affect the desired concentration of juice in the grapes. The head of culture chooses the most experienced men and woman at our winery to start the green harvest. They select the clusters on the vines that are worthy of conserving to mature in small numbers until autumn. With a steady hand they eliminate the clusters not worthy... my heart is racing...this gesture is sure to remove the fruit, but my heart still remains in turmoil with each green cluster thrown to the ground. Choosing to relinquish.
The oldest vines have gone into survival mode, leaves folded down and their pores closed to reduce evaporation. Around noon I scan the sky, not a cloud on the horizon. The lowest leaves begin to dry up on the vines. At 1:00 pm, because of the extreme heat, work for the day is finished. It's time for a well-deserved rest, to avoid the hottest hours of the day. Everyone goes home, it's the sacred time for a nap. The deafening song of the cicadas paralyzes the vines until late at night. The rounded stones still burn at the base of our vines, while the first pearls of dew appear at dawn. I sleep in peace, everything is looking good.
At the transitional point of July and the first days of August, the first clusters of grapes are turning a tender purple. The grape veraison is announced. My team leave for a few days of rest. There will probably be a thunderstorm of two around the 15th of August announcing the September equinox. But for the moment rest is needed even for me. Our trust is with nature now. I'm going to take it easy, sleep and regain strength. It will soon be time to focus on the biggest rendezvous of the year. The harvest.
The pressure is rising... we have to keep a cool head.
It's the end of summer, in a final assault the heat overpowers the vines and stops the growing process to focus on ripening the grapes. Now we have to wait. Nature so silently progresses towards maturity which the bees, birds, and insects detect well before us. The grapes mature, but they are not ready yet...Tirelessly, with my team at my side, we taste grain by grain, field by field, before deciding where to start the precious picking. When the Rousanne grapes turn a brutal brown, this is our sign that we can start! The pressure is rising, we have to keep a cool head and resist. Year after year experience proves it.
The sensation of sugar in the fruits rises every day and yet the phenolic maturity is still not complete. The stems still need time to turn brown. The grape seeds need to lose their bitterness and offer a crunch to the fruit, explosive aromas, perfect acidity, and velvety tannins... And one morning everything is there, in a wise and precarious balance. It's time to harvest.
Here we are, the first harvesting teams are busy. We harvest in the cool morning to avoid the afternoon heat. There is no rush, each harvester works at his own pace to gently deposit the grape clusters in crates. Not one cluster should be damaged before arriving at the winery... to make sure the first aromas and tastes will be preserved. Everything is done to capture these fragrances that will bring complexity to our wines.
In the cellar everyone is at their post. My cellar master Helene pilots this incessant ballet of crates of grapes in the hubbub of laughter. It's the triumph of these great days and we savor the victory... Waiting a year for this, a year of hard work to harvest the perfect fruit. It should not be damaged.
During the four weeks of harvest, I know that the beautiful days of September are decisive for the quality of the vintage. I watch day after day for the storms of October, so much feared for their devastating rains that can harm our grapes. The first clouds coming from the Mediterranean Sea refresh the heavy atmosphere as summer comes to an end...
The harvest will last on an average three weeks, sometimes four, the time it takes to have perfect maturity in every field.