Sauternes - Winemaking
The low yields which automatically result from
high sugar concentrations and intense aromas are partly due to the
action of botrytis, which is capable of reducing a potential harvest of
40 hI/ha to just 18 hl/ha. Furthermore, the effects of botrytis would
be wasted on characterless, poor quality grapes which result from the
application of intensive production techniques. The most important
technique is to prune back the vines severely, in order to respect the
tradition that has been handed down over the centuries: one to three
glasses of Sauternes per vine.
From the harvest right through to bottling,
Sauternes winemakers show a real passion for their profession. It goes
without saying that no estate mixes grape varieties before
fermentation. The blending process comes much later. Direct or indirect
pressing requires great care and careful adjustment, irrespective of
whether the traditional vertical basket press, the horizontal basket
press or the pneumatic press is used. The first pressing, which
provides three quarters of the must, has an excellent flavour although
the two subsequent pressings have a higher sugar content. Operating
gently and slowly, with great respect for the grapes, the pressings
produce the real quintessence of fine wine grapes with a well-balanced,
slightly sweet taste, full of sugars.
The fermentation process can now begin, using
natural local yeasts, in barrels. The wine is carefully monitored at
all stages. Fermentation calls for maintaining a temperature of between
20 and 22°C. In theory, it will stop naturally when the yeast
produces an alcohol concentration sufficient to inhibit its own action
or kill itself.
The ageing process for great growth wines is very
long eighteen months to two years in most cases, and sometimes up to
three years. The wine truly develops its character during this period.