Winemaking

“Good wine is made in the vineyard.”

in the vineyard

Good wine isn’t made in the cellar, but in the vineyard. So that means that as a winemaker you must pamper your grapevines as if they were your 100.000 love children. 24 hours a day, 7 days a week and 12 months a year you must protect them from diseases and scary critters (by organic means of course), and create for them an environment of lively bio-diversity in which they will feel happy and at ease. Our vineyards are a little grape-paradise full of happy buzzing bees, merry burrowing badgers and tirelessly copulating rabbits’.

the winemakers

All the wines at Chateau La Tulipe are vinified by a team of specialist oenologists. Top-oenologist Bruno Lacoste, American winemaker Caroline Shipley and French oenologist and manager Paul Bordes make sure that the wines are made to the strict specifications of Ilja and Klaas Gort.

Nous sommes bio!

Over at Chateau La Tulipe we put a lot of energy and money in gathering the knowledge that will allow us to produce our wine in the most sustainable and honest way possible. This often means we travel down the longest and bumpiest road, but we know that organic agriculture is the only viable way forward and so these investments are of vital importance.

One of the misconceptions about organic wine production is that no pesticides are used. Quite the contrary. The organic winemakers rulebook stipulates only that no SYNTHETIC pesticides can be used. In practice this means that some very toxic and dangerous substances, such as copper sulfate, are used freely and frequently by winemakers who are certified organic.

Because viniculture without any pesticides at all is simply impossible, we at Chateau La Tulipe have decided to use, instead of the dangerous yet ‘organic’ copper sulfate, a minimal dose of a biodegradable synthetic substance that is not harmful to bees and definitely not to humans. We only use this as a last resort in emergency situations, for example in case of prolonged rainfall that is causing mould. As well as that, a few years back, we have started tests with crossbred grape varieties that need 95% less pesticides.

Managing plants in a sustainable manner is not just about pesticides, there are many other factors at play: the environment of the vineyard, pruning methods, and the treatment of the soil are all of crucial importance, yet largely ignored by the inspectors for the organic certification.

In the cellar

It’s tough going in the cellar after the harvest has been brought in. The grapes are harvested in October. We stored them initially in steel cuves and over the course of a two month period they have been transformed into wine. A hectic time. But now all is calm in the wine cellar. Not a single sound to be heard.

 

Oak barrels

We use oak barrels. After two months in the steel tanks the young wine moves to the oak barriques where it will remain for an aging period of 16 months. Aging wine on oak facilitates a slow maturation process, during which the wood adds subtle aromas like vanilla to the wine. As a result of this the structure of the wine becomes more complex and the flavour more nuanced. Aging on oak also adds more tannins to the wine which increases its strength and helps develop its longevity. Maturation on oak adds a gentle wood aroma to the wine and causes the tannins and colorants to mingle, which gives red wine a rich and full-bodied flavour and a deep ruby glow.

However, all this is not exactly easily done. After the oak for the barrels has been sawn into planks, it needs to air dry before it can be made into barrels (barriques). Only after three years of drying can the manufacturing process begin. Making the barrels is a very specialized craft, so it doesn’t come cheap. A new barrique (measuring 225 liters) will cost around £600. And what is more, it can only be used for three years. After they have surrendered their most beautiful wood aromas to the wine, they are sold to winemakers who don’t quite have the same standards of quality.

assemblage

Assembling wine is a fine art and a sought after mark of quality in which France has a long and rich history. The blending together of different grape varieties is a delicate magicians craft that takes years of practice and the patience of a tortoise. We first need to unpick the building blocks of each individual barrel: structure, tannins, acidity, scent, colour, fruit, complexity and flavour. After a maturation process of about a year and a half, the thirty different flavours (of the thirty different plots) need to be unified into a single wine.

Cliquez ici for a report on the assemblage of Chateau la Tulipe 2012 (with video) and cliquez ici for a short doc on the blending of the 2010 vintage.