Sauternes - Winemaking
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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.

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