The weather was breaking as were the dynamics of the vintage. The intensity of the work and the intimacy of the relationships amongst the team members was soon to dissipate and morph into aloofness. Many of the harvesters were planning their next move, others were waiting to resume a more viable everyday life. Colds were flying about the winery.
Meanwhile many of the wines were nearing the end of fermentation and preparations were being made for their transfer into new vessels. The used empty oak barriques were taken out of storage and wheeled outside in front of the winery. There, they were filled with water, emptied, steam cleaned and rinsed out, ready to receive the new wine. Water from the barriques was tasted to make sure that the wood was not imparting any unpleasant flavours and to correctly match the barrels to different wines. New barriques were also prepared and selected according to cooperage and toasting.
In the winery the whites were progressing nicely. Fermentations this year started off particularly quickly. Vats big and small, of different shapes and materials, were scattered on the floor space, accommodating the various grape varieties: Fendant, Petite Arvine, Roussanne, Ermitage, Completer, Païen, Humagne Blanche etc… The newly pressed white juices were left in tanks to settle. Thanks to gravity and cooler overnight temperatures, unwanted particles drop naturally to the bottom of the container. A day or so later the juice is racked, i.e. the clear juice is separated out by being transferred to another tank leaving the deposit behind. Racking is also carried out after fermentation to separate wine from the lees.
In spite of tiredness, spirits were rekindled for the harvest festival. Everyone gathered, fresh and clean, in festive clothes, to celebrate the 2014 vintage. Cups were kept full to accompany “raclette” (melted cheese) and potatoes, salads and marinaded barbecued meats served in the barn on a single long wooden table. Deserts – portuguese specialties – were prepared and brought along by some of the pickers. Marie-Thérèse Chappaz gave an emotional address to her team, thanking them for their hard work and reminding them that her wine would not be possible without them. Many bottles were enjoyed, from the Domaine and from other producers, though Marie-Thérèse’s regular workers refuse to drink any other wine than hers.
At the end of the week nature gave out its final burst of heat of the season and the weather was glorious. The interns left, and on the same day, starlings in the thousands migrated off down the Rhône valley in huge clouds.
Harvest on location at the domaine of Marie-Thérèse Chappaz, Domaine La Liaudisaz, Fully, Valais, Switzerland (www.chappaz.ch).