Tasting Note: Palladius 2005, The Sadie Family, Swartland

I’ve been a little quiet, these days, and it’s not because I haven’t been thinking about wine. On the contrary, I’ve been coordinating (and hosting) the 14th edition of the Vendredis du Vin, the French-language equivalent of the Wine Blogging Wednesdays. We had a great time with this collective tasting on unusual wines, which led us to discover the likes of gewurztraminer and petite arvine from Languedoc, or a peculiar wine blended from Rhône grenache and pinot noir from Burgundy – a great kind of sacrilege. If you read French (or can make good use of online translation tools), it’s worth a visit. You can see the summary on my French blog.

I could almost have included the magnificent Palladius 2005 from Eben Sadie, one of the most prominent winemakers from South Africa. Sadie took his first professional steps in winemaking, along with Tom Lubbe, at Charles Back‘s Spice Route project in the late 1990s, before (more…)

More Pressing Matters at Matassa – and a walk through the vineyards

Instead of picking a few grapes in the vineyards of Domaine Matassa, I spent more time in the cellar making myself as useful as I could, and truly learning just how physical winemaking can be.
Let’s just talk about one of the many tasks I took part in during the end of my stay there : transferring a cuvee from its original tank and taking it off the marc (the grape skins, pulp and pips that are left to ferment with the red wines after the juice has originally been pressed out of them), before the wine is put into oak barrels to continue maturing over several months, often well over a year. The cuvée in question was El Sarrat, a combination of syrah and mourvèdre that is a new addition to the Matassa line-up (the first vintage, 2006, fruity, supple and balanced, was just bottled and a large shipment sent to UK chain Waitrose – lucky Brits !).
I assisted Cédric, a quiet, careful vigneron who has been working with Tom Lubbe at Matassa since the very beginning, in 2002, in first getting a new stainless steel tank ready, and a pump to transfer the wine from one tank to the next. While the wine was being pumped away, I also pulled some leftover juice from another tank of grenache, so that those few dozen liters could be added to the El Sarrat we were transferring.
After the fermenting juice was run out of the tank of El Sarrat, I climbed in and (more…)

First steps in Matassa

I’m spending some great time with Tom Lubbe at Domaine Matassa in Calce, at the heart of the mountaineous back country behind Perpignan, in the Roussillon. I was hoping to do full days of harvesting, but the forces of nature decided otherwise. More precisely, boars had started to eat their way through the two mountain vineyards that Tom had been keeping for last, and the grapes had to be brought in earlier than ever before, to avoid losing the lot. There are still a few grapes here and there, which I’m looking to get to tomorrow, but the huge, eighteen-hour days of harvesting are done with.

There’s plenty of other work to be done in the cellars, though. Bottling and packing cuvées from previous years, moving wine from one tank to the next, or from tanks to barrels, or doing the pigeage. Pigeage consists of punching down the chapeau (the hat, litterally) of grapes, skins and pips that is fermenting in the tanks with the juice. It notably helps control the temperature of the fermentation, as the chapeau gets hotter than the juice. And it helps work the tannins and flavor components into the juice.

In a small domaine like Matassa, an exceptional biodynamic operation whose wines show freshness rarely seen in such warm climate, this is done by hand. Or rather, by feet. And legs. The technique consists of (more…)

A last taste of Canada (for the week)

I’m sitting at the Montreal airport, getting ready to take off towards Barcelona and Perpignan, for a week of grape-picking, vineyard and winery work at Domaine Matassa, one of Roussillon’s hidden gems. Tom Lubbe has been kind enough to welcome my underqualified self for this, and I thank him kindly.

I’ll also be visiting Laureano Serres, a young producer in Terra Alta, 200 kilometers west of Barcelona. He’s done picking, but I should see the winemaking at work and get a sense of how he works old vines of macabeo and garnacha and all.

Both producers are biodynamic, which should be a lesson in natural winemaking and ecology.

In the meantime, I’m having a glass of Inniskillin chardonnay – the truly Canadian one, I think. It’s not overly wooded, nor overly fruity. It’s not bad. But I should be drinking better stuff, and learning much more about winemaking, over the course of the next few days.

So cheers to all. I’ll post about the experience soon.

Published in: on September 26, 2007 at 6:10 pm  Comments (1)  
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