The key requirement of the Winemaster: Respect of the Vines and of the Terroir for High Quality Wines.
Philippe has chosen “lutte raisonnée”, a balanced approach to viticulture that is both sustainable and environmentally friendly.
CULTIVATION OF THE VINES
The cultivation of the vines follows a cycle beginning at the approach of winter with the pruning of the vines.
This work starts in November and lasts throughout the winter months. During the pruning one or two of the healthiest branches in each vine are selected to support the following year’s growth, and all others are cut. Discarded shoots are burnt on the spot in wheelbarrows.
By March the work shifts to the maintenance of the wires and poles supporting the vines.
March is an important month because it is also when seedlings are planted into the soil to make for new vineyards.
April and May are busy with the disbudding of less-than-optimum new growth, and the picking up and tying of fresh, fruit-bearing branches.
The fields are plowed during these two months continuing on through the end of July.
In order to protect the vines against diseases, spraying is done intermittently from mid-May to the end of July. Spraying minimizes the risk of mildew, a brown rot of the leaves, and odium which attacks the grapes.
For more specifics on each task and its timing, see the Calendar of Vineyard Labor published by BIVB, the Burgundy Wine Board.
Consulter le calendrier des travaux de la vigne en Bourgogne (source BIVB)
The harvest starts when the grapes reach complete maturity at the end of the summer. Maturity is deemed complete when all three components of the grape, i.e. the flesh, the skin and the seeds reach full ripening. This stage is also referred to as phenolic maturity.
In our part of Burgundy, the harvest generally starts in early September.
Once picked, the grapes are sorted to discard all traces of rot or insufficient ripening. The remaining clusters are ideal for wine-making and are placed in stainless steel bins. It is time to start the vinification.
Our goal for both our Red and our White wines is to achieve wines that are at once precise, delicate and representative of their terroir.
VINIFICATION AND ELEVAGE OF WHITE WINES
White wine grapes are pressed into juice upon arrival in the Cuverie, the wine-making part of the winery. The juice is immediately pumped into vats and stabilized at a temperature of 12 degrees Celsius (54 degrees Fahrenheit) to aid sedimentation. After about 24 hours this juice is de-silted and the bulk of the sediments is removed from the bottom of the vats. What remains is a “clear-run wine”, a liquid which will be the base from which the wines are made and refined.
This liquid is then transferred to casks where the alcoholic fermentation starts on its own after 3 to 4 days. It lasts between four and six weeks at a natural temperature of 20 to 24 degrees Celsius (68-75 degrees Fahrenheit).
At this stage most of the sugars of the white grape juice are converted by yeast into alcohol and carbon dioxide. The carbon dioxide is released into the atmosphere.
The young wine is later refined inside oak barrels for a period of up to 12 months depending on the appellations. This is the beginning of the maturation process, a term whose French equivalent, “élevage”, is now commonly used in English as well and refers to the concerted effort by winemakers to refine their wines to maturity.
At Prunier-Damy Vineyards oak barrels are used for a maximum of five years, and each year between 5 and 30 percent brand-new barrels are rotated into the stock. While the Saint-Romain White on average needs six months in oak barrel to develop its fruit and freshness, the more complex Auxey-Duresses and Meursault appellations require several extra months to mature. Appropriate oak barrel ageing is a key component of the maturation process at Prunier-Damy Vineyards.
The length of time spent in barrels is not strictly determined in advance. It is a function of the desired richness and acidity of the vintage. For this reason each vintage, i.e. each batch of wine, must be tested with some regularity to determine what steps to take. The second fermentation, named malo-lactic fermentation, begins as soon as the alcoholic fermentation is concluded.
At last, sometime between August and September of the year following the harvest, the White wines are ready to be bottled.
As earlier mentioned, our goal for both our Red and our White wines is to achieve wines that are at once precise, delicate and representative of their terroir.
VINIFICATION AND ELEVAGE OF RED WINESIn the very first stage after the picking, red grapes are cooled down to a temperature of approximately 8 degrees Celsius (47 degrees Fahrenheit). This temperature is kept constant for 4 to 6 days to start a soft maceration before the start of the fermentation. During this phase a slow treading of the grape is done, taking care to avoid squashing the seeds, which would be the source of overpowering astringent and rustic tannins.
The next phase is the alcoholic fermentation, the hot stage of the process: for Red wines it can reach temperatures of 33 or 34 degrees Celsius (90 to 93 degrees Fahrenheit), during which the color, tannins and aroma of the wine are extracted from the pressed grapes. The alcoholic fermentation occurs naturally and lasts an average of 5 to 7 days. When all the sugars are transformed into alcohol, the temperature progressively decreases to 24 degrees Celsius (75 degrees Fahrenheit). At that time the vintner tastes the brewing wine to judge the appropriate moment to pump the “free-run wine” off into tanks and to press the remaining skins to extract the “press wine”. Both liquids are then blended and then decanted 48 hours later before being transferred to oak barrels for the “élevage”.
The élevage, including the secondary fermentation, will take place in the barrels over the next 8 to 15 months. Similarly to white wines, the exact length of time in oak barrels depends on the appellations, and the particularities and density of the wines.
Oak barrels dedicated to Red wine are used for a maximum for six years at Prunier-Damy Vineyards. We believe that this lifespan best preserves the delicate aroma and nuances of Pinot Noir. While few new barrels are used for the maturation of our Villages appellations, the Premier Cru (“1er Cru”) wines as wells as the Pommard and Volnay appellations are aged in 10 to 35 percent new barrels.
Prunier-Damy Vineyards does only one decanting of the wine from the lees, after about one year of ageing in oak barrels. At that time the vintages are assembled and the wines are progressively monitored and prepared until bottling. No filtration or artificial clarification is done to our wines.
Our Red wines are generally bottled in December and January of the year following the vintage year.