The art of turning grape juice into wine
This is the domain of Karen who works here day in day out.
After an initial selection on the vine, the bunches of grapes are sorted again in the winery. They are spread out on a conveyor belt so that the sorting people can reject those which do not meet our quality criteria (skimpy bunches, foliage, etc.).
The bunches that pass the test carry on to the destemmer which strips the berries from the stalks.
After destemming, the grapes are tipped into vats.
Depending on the wine to be made, the harvest is either totally or partially destemmed. La Chapelle and Autre Versant are entirely destemmed.
For Prieuré, the syrah and grenache are fully destemmed and the mourvèdre 80% destemmed.
After the maceration phase, the natural yeast of the vine sets off alcoholic fermentation. This consumes the sugar and turns it into alcohol, releasing heat and carbon dioxide in the process. Yeast cannot control temperature and can be killed when it is warmer than 35°C; this would stop alcoholic fermentation. All our vats are equipped with temperature control to keep conditions right for the yeast to survive.
When carbon dioxide is released, all the solids (skins, flesh, pips) rise to the top and form a “cap” on the surface. In the course of alcoholic fermentation, the clear juice at the bottom of the vat is regularly pumped up over the cap to extract the tannins (colouring and structuring substances) from the grape skins.
Only red wines are pumped over.
Draining and pressing
When alcoholic fermentation is over, the clear juice at the bottom of the vat, known as free run juice, is drained off by gravity into another vat and the cap, now called “must”, is pressed.
White wines are pressed immediately, within an hour of harvesting, each variety separately.
After alcoholic fermentation, the bacteria which are active in the grape juice right from the start turn the malic acid into lactic acid. The tartness evolves into flavours that are softer and pleasanter in the mouth. This fermentation adds flesh to the wine and stabilises it.
At Bébian, this process is done in barrels for syrah and in the vat for the other varieties.