back again and waiting for spring

No news should always be good news – but it’s not exactly what you are looking for, when you come back to this blog. So I have to explain, why you didn’t find any new post during the last 2 years.

Well, it’s mostly good news: since November, the wines from our 2011 harvest have found their way down into the barrel-cellar by going through the bigger model of our traditional wine-presses.

cleaning the wine-press after harvest 2011

What we call our “press cake” had a beautiful colour and went into the garden to join the compost.

press-cake

press-cake

We did the usual washing up and then stored it all away, hoping to need the bigger model again for the next harvest.

All you never wanted to know about pruning vines:

When the last autumn leaves had fallen, we started one of the most important works in the vineyard: pruning – which means preparing the next harvest, by deciding, how many buds we will have in spring, so how many grapes will be possible and finally which quantity of harvest we will have in autumn . At least that’s the theoretical part – between this decision and the final result, there are all the non controllable things that can happen – frost, hale, grape diseases or – like very often during the last years – wild animals in love with your grapes…

Bur let’s stick to the theory: I started with the grape variety, which needs the longest period to ripen its grapes: in our case, that’s the Mourvedre – starting late in spring and asking for a long sunny, but not too hot period in late summer and far into autumn, to give us it’s best.

old pruning scissors

old pruning scissors

For years, I used the traditional pruning scissors for this – till I started to suffer terribly from aching arms – especially, if I spend the day in the wines and the evenings at my computer…

electrical pruning scissors

electrical pruning scissors

And so I finally it was a great progress, to have electrical scissors with a battery back on your back, which have also the advantage, to leave one hand free, to collect the woods you cut away: makes work much easier -

electrocoup

electrocoup

and – joined with a orthopaedic arm stand for my mouse hand at the computer, I can say that my arms are like new:-) and I’m no longer afraid, when pruning season arrives…

pruning

pruning

As we want to obtain ripe grapes with concentrated flavours, I prune severely: 3 arms with only one apparent bud – so theoretically enough new wood in spring, to give 6 new branches with around 5 grapes for the whole plant to nourish.

Mourvedre pruned severely

Mourvedre pruned severely

As you can see, we use the traditional form for most of our grape varieties: it’s called Gobelet around here – it’s well adapted for varieties which have tough, upstanding branches which don’t need any external support in spring and summer – ideal for Mourvedre.

And our special climate so far during winter 2011/2012

and then, after a very mild period in December/January, which made us believe, that nature would start its spring circuit very early this year, buds nearly breaking out, even on grapes in some region, winter arrived heavily in February even in the South of France – with lots of snow in many regions, and in the Languedoc with cold winds and lower temperatures than we ever had since 1985  due to a well named Russian cold front and everything got paralysed:

ice wonderland at -10°C

so I had to stay inside and wait for better conditions to continue the work in the wines.

And off and away to show our wines!

 

Well, you may be reassured, I find enough things to do – there is cellar work and the preparation of our OFF participation in the great event of VINISUD 2012 next week, well named “Vignerons Hors Piste”, which means “outside the main stream roads”, but also skiing in deep snow away from the prepared  slopes….

hors piste - off the main stream roads

Vinisud is one of the biggest French wine-trade-fairs for professional buyers. It unites winemakers from all around the Mediterranean Sea in Montpellier, our Languedoc capital, and attracts many  international retalers and journalists. And as a small winery, we prefere a cosy off on Tuesday, at the Aeroport Hôtel, not far from the official expositon, where we are only 25 winemakers united in the same spirit of mostly organic winemaking and with more time and space, to present our babies to less but relaxed visitors than inside the great show. You can see some picture of our 2010 edition of this event on our common French blog.

So if you’re around in Europe and the South of France in February, on Tuesday 22, you’re welcome!

More information in English about Vinisud and it’s ons and offs on the very informative and sometimes even humorous blog of Ryan O’Oconnell , a young American guy, living as a winemaker and wine geek in the Languedoc.

I’ll tell you more about the results in my  next post… still waiting for spring to arrive….

 

 

busy month of August – some good ad some bad news

After the lazy Sunday there was a large gap without any news from Lisson. But that doesn’t mean, that I spend my time reading books in the shadow or bronzing at the nearby Mediterranean seaside (Narbonne Plage at only 60 km from here…).

No, it means rather that it has been a very busy month for me. With a lot of work going on in the vines – which always need cleaning, not to get overgrown by our wild herbs and to keep a salutary, easy drying “atmosphere” around the grapes.

This is Klaus’ work with the brush-cutter – as already shown in June in my article “Ty it up and keep it clean”. Normally there may also be some spraying necessary in the beginning or August (to do it later, would be harmful for the indigenous yeast on the grape skins).

But this year, after a short attack of oidium (powdery mildew – you remember?), we could put away the sprayer and it was not even necessary, to apply copper against mildew – as there wasn’t any (or at least only some small spots, which were quickly dried out by our tramontane winds). So you will have to wait for next year, if you want to see me reporting about my “man in blue” in the Lisson vines.

The good news is, that our grapes went on changing color during all the month, from green to a mixture of green, mauve, purple to nearly black – as we grow mainly red varieties:

Mourvedre 08/01/09

Mourvedre 08/01/09

Mourvedre 08/21/09

Mourvedre 08/21/09

Mourvedre 08/28/09

Mourvedre 08/28/09

You can see, that the branches too changed color, they have become ridged and more wood-like during the last 4 weeks and can now support the growing weight of those grapes. Even the stems are becoming less green, which is important, because we don’t destem after harvest, so if they stay too greenish, we would have a risk of “green” tastes in our wines.

We also had to work on our electric fences, as every year. One of the biggest problems of our vineyard in the middle of the woods is not linked to diseases or even – keep your fingers crossed – bad weather, but is linked to grape lovers, we didn’t count on when we cleaned the hillside to implant our vines: I’m talking about wild boars, badgers and all the other grape lovers on four legs…

Amy from La Gramire talked about them last week – and I wish her more luck than we had, in spite of our solidly fixed 5 fences with batteries and solar panels: when they really smell our fruit – and they know exactly, when it’s is about to contain enough sugar to be considered ripe enough, to give us good wine, they arrive from the woods all around and brave the fences (or dig underneath), and can make a tremendous damage in only one night:

they are inside...

they are inside...

Cot (Malbec) 08/21/09

Cot (Malbec) 08/21/09

Pinot 08/21/09

Pinot 08/21/09

Merlot 08/28/09

Merlot 08/28/09

So the bad news is: nearly one third of our harvest has already disappeared, gulped up by all those animals, who don’t have any serious enemy left – except the hunters, who killed already two of them in the middle of August besides our vines, but who are “overrun” by the enormas amount of wild boars around in our area, since they tried to augment their number about 20 years ago by setting free a cross-breed of domestic pigs and wild ones, which has invaded everything ever since – and as they can give birth to twice as much piglets and bring them up without any problem, as our mild winters and all the oak and chestnut woods, which are no longer cultivated, give them more than they need to eat… cultivating fruit, grapes or even a vegetable garden is about to become impossible in our area…

And it doesn’t help and console me, that some people take it as a proof, that organic farming is superior to conventional farming, as even boars prefer non chemically treated grapes – even it it was true (and so a very “natural” labeling) – it doesn’t give me back the result of a whole years work and it won’t fill my barrels and the bottles later…

So: Good luck to you, Amy, I will keep my fingers crossed for your Roussane!

And you may all do the same for our late riping grapes as Mourvedre, Cabernets and Petit Verdot, who are not yet sufficiently ripe to start “rescuing” them…

new wine and pyrotechnics

While the work goes on in the vineyard, cleaning the wines as well from additional shoots as from ever sprouting grass and wild herbs, to cerate a dry and fungus clean environment, we had the chance to choose an ideal day for working on the new wine from 2008: high pressure, dry and cool wind…

The wines have finally finished their malolactic fermentation in the barrels. While in “modern” winemaking, grape juice is normally inoculated with preselected bacterias, you can buy in any enological shop, we don’t use these king of products and count on the naturally present lactic acid bacterias of our wines. As they don’t work under a certain temperature, it may happen, that the malolactic fermentation stops during winter and we have to wait till spring or even early summer, like this year, till it starts again.

While it’s not finished, wines may be a little bit cloudy and when tasting it, you can easily feel the “spritz” of the carbon dioxide liberated during the process. There are more exacts methods, to follow the evolution, which we use too, like the malolactic chromatography test kit, which economizes us the journey to the next laboratory at Bziers (60 km).

This time, I just tasted and was sure, that everything was finally all right:-)!

Pinot and Mourvedre 2008

Pinot and Mourvedre 2008

So I spend an afternoon pumping over from one barrel to a clean one, paying attention to the coulor of the juice while doing so, to prevent to pump the solid parts, which had been separated by cold and gravity during winter and gathered on the bottom of the barrel.

colors of yeast

colors of yeast - couleurs lie de vin

These solid parts, made of yeast and other bigger compounds, have a beautiful color and we gather them in the end, to fill them into bottles for a good friend, who likes to use them in special sauces accompanying dear…

The wines looked clear, no sparkling on the tip of the tongue, a much rounder mouth-feeling than during winter, when we did the last tests.

reflections of wine 2008

reflections of wine 2008

The moment when the malolactic fermentation is finished and we pump the wine slowly into freshly cleaned barrels, is also the moment when we put for the first time sulfur dioxid (SO2) into our wines, to protect them from bacterial deviation during the next 10 or 12 months they will stay in the barrels.

contains (very few) sulfites

contains (very few) sulfites

When bottled, their remains very few SO2 in the wines, for the 2006 and 2007, it was less than 10mg of total So2 – so we could even have omitted the warning “contains sulfites” on our labels – but as we use it during wine elaboration, we preferred to mark: contains less then 10 mg/l on our labels, to inform allergic wine drinkers.

Yesterday evening, we took a break, as it was the night of the fireworks at Olargues, to celebrate the 14. July – Bastille Day French national holiday..

And even if the fireworks in our small village (500 habitants) may not be as big and impressive as at New Orleans, New York, San Francisco or Paris, it’s always nice to assist at these moments, when all the street lights go out and the event starts on the old devils bridge across the river Jaur.

I took some photos with my small pocket camera – they are not of professional quality, but two of them reminded me the emotions I felt when tasting the young wines from the barrels the other day.

Pinot Noir explosing

Pinot Noir exploding

The Pinot Noir – future “Clos du Cure 2008″, exploding with much strength and warms in your mouth, not yet totally decided about where to establish its harmony amongst tannines, fruit and alcohol.

And the much darker Mourvedre, who will be the future “Clos des Cedres 2008″, deep, profound, but already surprising by its harmony and freshness – revealing a beautiful deploying fan of aromas which lasts for a small eternity even in the emptied glass….

Mourvedre deploying its aroma fan

Mourvedre deploying its aroma fan

much adoo about a well known German wineguide

Much adoo in the German wine blogging scene, as well among winery blogs as even more on blogs written by wine journalists, about the protest action of a bunch of renown German top wineries against the demand of the publisher of the most influent wine guide to German wines, who asked for the first time a participation fee, to help them, to edit their guide.

Even if it was underlined by the editor, that there would be no direct connection between mentions in the guide and the contribution of 195 Euros, which should also give the right to communicate about an eventual entry in the guide, this new practice arose a lot of protest and many colleagues were wondering, whether independence of the guides judgment would be really guarantied.

Lisson wines, which are French wines, were never concerned by this guide (neither by their French pendant, as we were never asked to send samples). So I can’t even tell, whether they practice the same policy in France – at least I’ve never heard about it, but that may simply mean, that my French colleagues are used to this kind of fee, as it seems to be normal, that you pay, when participating in one of the well known wine competitions, to get a gold, silver or bronze medal in your category, which you can stick to your bottles afterwards or announce proudly on your Website.

If you want to know more about the German storm in a glass of wine, you can go to the blog of Johner Estate, where Patrick Johner had the good idea to write in English about the trouble and translate also the protest letter of his German VDP colleagues. There is a kind of blog-press-condensation in English on the winerambler’s blog.

As I said, Lisson wines don’t figure in these main stream guides in France. Very few journalists or guide publishers seem to know, that they exist – which isn’t anomalous for a very small winery in an area beyond AOC Appellations (we are north of Saint Chinian and Faugre, further up in the mountains), and does deliver it’s rare wines under a Table Wine label.

So I’m always surprised, if somebody tells me, that he has found Lisson in a printed guide – and you can imagine, that I don’t hesitate, to buy it and look up, what they’ve written about us.

One of them was a guide about natural wines with special terroir expression, edited by Jean-Paul Barriolade, Carol Rouchs, Franois Morel et Marie-Christine Cogez-Marzani

Vin Vignobles et Vignerons

Guide on natural wines. Vin, Vignoblesaet Vignerons

Guide on natural wines. Vin, Vignobles et Vignerons

The other one is le Guide de l’amateur des vins naturels ( The natural wine lovers guide), author Dominique Lacout, edited at Paris by Jean Paul Rocher editors. Which is nt only a guide to natural wines, but also to winebars and restaurants all over France, where you can find their wines.

The natural wine lovers guide

The natural wine lovers guide

Neither of them asked for samples, to review them, but it seems, that the authors “came across” our wines by the recommendation of other wine-lovers – they didn’t ask for a “participation fee” neither, just some further information about the wines, once they had decided to include them into their guide.

They are not the kind of wine writers, who classify everything with stars or points, it’s not a competition, it’s just meant for the passionate wine lover, who is looking for wines made by vintners, soucieux de leur terroir, attentives la vinification, souvent en agriculture biologique, voire biodynamique prennent des risques en faisant des cuves atypiques ou sans soufre… attentif at their terroir and during vinification, often involved in biological farming, even biodynamic farming methods in the vineyard, who take risks by elaborating atypical cuves or without sulfur...

I was rather proud to find Lisson directly besides Didier Barral and other more well known natural vintners of the Languedoc…


Welcome to the english version of my winemaker’s diary from the South of France

hand mit Knospe Cot

Lisson is a small wine-producing estate in the Jaur Valley, close to Olargues, Languedoc, in the South of France. Two hectares of vineyards nestling in a forest of chestnut trees and ever-green oak.

This blog will try to keep you in contact with our daily work in the wines and in the cellar. You’ll learn about the birds and the bees and the flowers and the trees – and some of our wines – about Olargues, our next village, our beautiful region – our prides and deceptions – what we read and what we listen to… and anything else that will cross my mind, when I think about what could interest you wine-loving readers out there and help you, to know us better.