Vinification from A to Z

The heart has his reasons

Around the 15th September, everything begins with the white grapes, which are tasted to assess their maturity. As soon as they are ready, the process must begin quickly. What happens next is a race against the clock to get the grapes into the wine storehouse as quickly as possible to avoid any oxidation which would turn the juice brown. To prevent this from happening, dry ice, placed in the container releases carbonic gas (CO2) which protects the grapes by creating an oxygen-free atmosphere. The technique then used is maceration. Before pressing takes place, the juice remains between 10 and 17 hours in the vats. This is to reduce acidity and obtain more intense flavours. After pressing, the must obtained, which is a mixture of clear juice and juice with more sediment, is left to stand and cool in a full vat (free of oxygen). It is then mixed with a nitrogen cane for lubrication purposes. After this comes the fermentation stage. Placed in empty vats, natural yeasts are then added to the juice, which is maintained at a temperature of 17°. Over a 3 week period, the sugars progressively turn into alcohol. In order to give the white wine a fuller flavour and to avoid it being too dry, the process is stopped when the residual sugar rate reaches 1.5 to 2g. It is at this point in the process that a wine grower's knowledge plays a major role as a few hours too long can alter the taste of the finished product! What follows is the stage called "ageing on lees". The lees refer to the residual yeast deposits at the bottom of a vat of wine. This technique, whereby the wine is not separated from its lees, is used to enhance flavours.

Red grapes are harvested a few days later, around the 25th September. Harvesting begins with the Merlot and Cabernet Franc grape varieties and continues a week later with the Cabernet Sauvignon variety.

For the varieties mentioned above, the first stage of the winemaking process involves a cold pre-fermentation maceration for one week at a temperature of 8°. This process, which has the advantage of preserving the unique character of red wine, adds something extra by developing a more intense, rounded flavour. The grapes swell and increase in size in their juice and their skin becomes softer. The must begins its fermentation over a 3 week period at a temperature which is defined, depending on the variety of grape. The juice (juice drawn directly from the vat) is extracted and separated and the fruit is drawn off and pressed. This "pressed" juice will be filtered before being blended with the free-run juice. Ageing will last 2 years.

The production unit at Château Vrai Caillou was completely refurbished in 2000. 10 000 hectolitres can be stored in stainless steel vats, which each have a capacity of 250 hectolitres. For reds, there is a batch of 15 small cement vats, each one with a 80 hectolitre capacity. Cement has the specific nature of allowing a completely natural micro-oxygenation.

At Château Vrai Caillou, teamwork is a hugely important aspect of the winemaking process. Everyone helps out and contributes their own personal knowledge and skills.