We taste the grapes and we test the juice for sugar and acidity before we decide on the best time to harvest. This is the most stressful period in the whole wine making process. The vineyards are visited almost on a daily basis to check the grapes and the decision to harvest is always a difficult one as we need 48 hours to organize a team of harvesters. We handpick the grapes in small 15kg boxes.
The White Wine
The Chardonnay grapes are crushed but not de-stemmed and pressed slowly and gently. The must is fermented in French oak barrels one third new and the wine is aged on the lees with frequent bâtonnage for about 12 months. The malolactic fermentation occurs naturally.
The Red Wines
We de-stem and crush all the grapes and we pump the must with a peristaltic pump in stainless steel tanks not larger than 125hl at controlled temperatures.
The vinification starts with a few days of cold soaking and the fermentation lasts between 8 to 10 days starting at a low temperature and ending at about 30 degrees centigrade. This is followed by a maceration period that can last up to three weeks. The whole process can be as long as 40 days depending on the nature of the grapes. Our decision to press is based on tasting appreciation. The malolactic fermentation occurs naturally in the barrels. After a gentle and low pressure pressing, the free run wine and some of the press wine are mixed according to the quality of the press wine.
The Grand Vin is a selection of our best tanks and is then aged for 20 to 24 months in 100% new French oak barrels made exclusively by Seguin Moreau of Cognac, the leading French cooperage. The different varietals are aged separately until the spring and sometimes later, before we decide on the final blend. The barrels are placed in an underground cellar excavated in the rock. The barrels are topped regularly and the wine undergoes two rackings. The wine is unfined and unfiltered to fully preserve its flavors.
The Petit Castel is made according to Emile Peynaud’s recommendation: that when you have only one wine you put all your grapes in it. When you have
a second wine you can chose the best for the first wine and thus make a better wine – whatever is left over becomes the second wine. Over the years we have managed to make a very good second wine that does not lag far behind its big brother – the Grand Vin. The Petit Castel is aged 16 months in the barrels previously used for the Grand Vin.