Our philosophy on winemaking is make the best wines possible each year while being as natural as possible, using minimal quantities of sulphur dioxide and avoiding chemical addtions and fining agents.
I believe that great wine is made in the vineyard and 50% of the work takes place there. For information on our vineyards and viticultural practice, see Vineyards.
I predict the ideal picking date by monitoring the sugar content, acidity and tasting the skins. Because we are small, we are able to select the best day to pick each block - or even part of a block - and still harvest by hand before lunch.
Hand-harvesting gives us the advantage of being able to sort out the diseased, damaged or unripe bunches in the vineyard. It also means that we only harvest grapes, not leaves, twigs and snails!
The bunches are picked into small cases rather than tipped into a trailer. This stops the berries splitting and letting the juice oxidise in the heat on the way back to the winery.
Having perfect fruit arrive at the winery means I do not have to add much sulphur dioxide, if any, to combat oxidation or rotten fruit.
All the grapes are destemmed on arrival but not passed through a crusher as I don't believe in macerating the skins at this stage. From the destemmer, white grapes go directly into the press and red grapes go directly into traditional concrete fermenters.
White grapes are gently pressed and drained by gravity into a chilled stainless steel tank filled with carbon dioxide to allow the solids to settle overnight under refrigeration. The next day the juice is racked into its fermentation vessel, again under CO2.
The aromatic white wines made from Muscat are fermented in refrigerated stainless steel tanks for around 2 weeks. After which they are stirred on their lees (the dead yeast cells) every few days for around 6 weeks in order to remove astringency and give the wines a nice silky texture.
The more complex La Terre Promise is fermented in barrel using natural yeast. The barrels are stirred for several months to increase the complexity of the wine and give it better texture.
The white wines are fined only with bentonite to prevent protein haze and filtered to remove the solids. At bottling the wines pass through a membrane filter.
They are not cold-stabilized and therefore small, harmless tartrate crystals may appear over time if the wine is stored chilled.
The red grapes are fermented separately by vineyard and grape variety. They are chilled as they enter the vats and allowed to ferment naturally for a few days before adding yeast to make sure the fermentation completes and removes all the sugar. Every day I pump wine over the skins, or plunge the cap down into the wine. Once fermentation has finished, I taste the wines each day to decide exactly when to press them end the maceration on the skins.
After pressing, the red wine is allowed to settle in tank. Sometimes malo-lactic fermentation occurs naturally at this stage and if so, I leave the wine in tank until it is finished. Otherwise I rack each tank separately into barrel and wait for malo-lactic fermentation to commence naturally.
I replace around 1/5 of my barrels each year with new ones. I choose barrels from specific French tonnelleries which suit the style of wine I want to make. These are ones which give a subtle toasted, charred oak aroma to the wine and improve its texture, rather than those giving an overpowering caramel and vanilla aroma.
Some of the red wine is blended early and aged in stainless steel. The wines are left to settle and age for around 9 months before blending decisions commence. I don't believe in using consultants to determine the style of my wine and decide the blends by laborious tasting of different combinations of grape variety, vineyard block and barrel type. It's a tough job but someone has to do it!
Once the red wines have been blended, they are allowed to settle for a month before bottling when they are simply filtered to remove any solid particles. This means that the wines will throw a sediment as they develop in bottle.
I use a mobile bottling line who comes to the winery. For a small prodcucer this is the best solution as we get the advantage of high-tech equipment and a professional who operates the chain every day while also having complete control over the process.
We use high-quality natural corks which have been treated by microwave to reduce the risk of TCA, the chemical responsible for corked wine. If you find one of our bottles to be corked, we will happily replace it either directly our via the merchant you bought it from.
Our early-drinking wines are sealed using the DIAM cork which is guranteed to be free of TCA.
We've also chosen to bottle all our wines in light-weight bottles for environmental reasons and to protect the backs of our buyers! We are sure our customers are people who are more impressed by the contents than weight of the bottle!