le tasting room

Loire wine tours, tastings, day trips from Paris & short breaks organised by experienced English wine trade professionals.

Saturday, 1 October 2011

Vintage 2011 Update - Pierre-Jacques Druet in Bourgueil

Yesterday we were in Bourgueil with Pierre-Jacques Druet, a maverick winemaker in Benais who makes one rosé and a range of red wines from the Cabernet Franc grape variety.

The rosé is unusual. Pierre-Jaques uses an old method of production called Guillage. When we arrived he was just preparing a batch of grape juice for fermentation. After adding a little bentonite (an absorbant clay that helps clarify the juice) he chills it down to about 1° and then transfers it directly to old wooden barrels.

Having a look at the machine harvester that brings in the grapes

This is one of the barrels that will contain the fermenting juice for the rosé

Cleaning the barrel with water before filling up with the clarified juice

Having a look from above - this wine has finished fermenting and the skins are being pressed to form the press wine

After the juice has been transferred to the barrels they are transferred to his ancient cellars about half a kilometer away. These cellars, like many in the region are made of tuffeau limestone that was quarried from the 10th century onwards leaving a labyrinth of tunnels all around the region. With a constant temperature of 12° (52F) all year and around 85% humidity, they are perfect for barrel maturation.

Guillage is an ancient method of winemaking that is little used in the region. Once the wine has been chilled and put into barrels, they are brought to the cellar and here the fermentation commences. Slowly, slowly, the yeast starts to do its work. As the cellar is cool, fermentation takes much longer than normal – 3-4 months or sometimes even longer. The barrels are kept full to the brim and each day they must be topped up and cleaned as solids rise to the top and are pushed out by the fermentation.

The result is a wine that has character, body, fruit and balance. A rosé that can be drunk with friends or accompany a meal.

Guillage - the barrels are wiped and topped up every day for 3-4 months

Solids rise to the top and around 10% of volume is lost as the fermenting wine spills over

Tasting a range of wines at the end of the morning

Pierre-Jacques is only half way through harvest. The grapes from vines planted on the sandy gravel flats have been brought in but his best parcels are taking advantage of the extra ripeness that will come over the next few days. He has a smile on his face.

You probably wouldn't even think to call in on Pierre-Jacques Druet if you drove past the winery. It's the ugliest red brick building and is quite difficult to find if you don't know where you are going. However, you are missing a real treat. Of all the producers we work with, he gives us the closest insight into his world. His passion for what he does shines through, he takes time to show and explain and what's more, his wines are excellent. Here he is talking us through the mechanics of machine harvesting, winemaking and technique of guillage.


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