the crystal, which sings, Pour, pour the wine! Pour again and
always, That I can forget the sadness of days...
Dans le cristal
qui chante, verse, verse le vin ! verse encore et toujours, que
je puisse oublier la tristesse des jours...
Nelligan (La romance du
Cycle of the vine
Adventures of a small grain of grape
all the stages of the vegetative cycle of the vine, the most important
is the starting of the vegetation towards the end of April because,
when starting early, the little grain of grape has all the chances
to reach an optimal maturation before the autumn does settle,
and the coldness of winter. It is considered that it takes at
least 160 days without freezing so that the little grain of grape
can become large and almost ripe; conditions which one finds only
in the southwest regions of Quebec. This is why it is so difficult
to make a good red wine in Quebec; the red grapes needing a greater
maturity than the white grapes. One thus needs very ripe red grains
so that the must used for the making of the red wine is not too
acid and sweet enough. On the other hand, the white wine will
be excellent even if the white grapes are not fully ripe; the
rate of acidity of the white wine being a little higher than that
of the red.
take notice! An early start increases the risks of a problem due
to late frosts. This is why a stretch of water such as the lake
of Two-Mountains is so beneficial to us at the beginning of May.
As the dominant cold winds come us from the west or the north
and that we are located at the south of the lake, we almost always
avoid the late frosts of May or the early autumnal freezes of
October thus lengthening the vegetative season.
June, it is the fecundation of the flowers and the birth of the
little grain of grape; flowering must be fast and especially homogeneous,
if not the little grape which will develop thereafter will not
reach its level of optimal maturity at the same time as his small
cousins on the other bunches. A good flowering requires one or
two weeks of beautiful dry and windy weather. To help us with
the pollination of the flowers, we count mainly on the assistance
of bees, which come to gather nectar on the flowers from the vines.
With this intention, we have moved an immense hive
of wild bees near the vines, which had elected residence in
the trunk of a large ash, which died in our wooded part on top
of the river. Indeed, bees can make up to half a kilometre to
find the nectar of the flowers. By having a hive near the rows
of vine, we thus support the birth of a greater number of little
the end of August, beginning of September, the maturation of the
grape requires heat, much of sun and very little rain. It is the
most important phase in the adventure of the grain of grape; if
all goes well, little grape will become big! A maturation which
trails in length fault of good weather or the rainy days will
support the development of parasites and fungus diseases such
as grey rot which could kill the grain of grape and thus put an
end to its adventure. The autumn is also the season which marks
the beginning of the aoûtement phase (starting from the
end of August, the term comes from 'août', the month of
august in French); it is the phase where the green stems of the
vine are transformed into wood, like the bark of the trees. Too
short autumns could not make it possible for the soft stems of
the vines to become bark, which would weaken them and would make
them vulnerable to cold from winter. Cutting the shoots during
the summer, the green vegetation that does not bare any fruits
also facilitates the aoûtement, the vine having less stems
to transform into wood.
at the beginning of October, the grain of grape becomes full ripe
and abounds in sugar... Soon, the vine grower will gather it.
It is the beginning of the grape harvest, which must preferably
be held in dry weather to avoid the dilution of the sugars in
the grapes. Indeed, when it rains, the vine is gorged with water
by rebound the grain of grape then contains more water. The must
thus obtained is slightly diluted and will have a lesser sugar
concentration. A wine grape that is ripe contains roughly 80 %
of water. But it is not unusual in the southwest regions of Quebec
to harvest grapes having up to 21, 22 Brix, i.e. 21 to 22% of
sugar in the grape. One measures the sugar rate before the grape
is harvested with a refractometer; a small apparatus in which
one deposits a juice sample and, by refraction, obtains a measurement
rather right of the sweetened potential of the grain of grape
(percentage of sugar). The experienced vine grower can also have
a good idea of the sugar rate and acidity of the grape by tasting
it. After the grape harvest, one makes a measurement by density
of the must to obtain the sugar potential to be transformed into
alcohol. Note that all sugar is not necessarily transformed into
alcohol; the sweet wines, the dry wines and the ice wines all
contain different residual sugar levels...
wine growers add sugar when the grapes are not ripe enough; it
is what one calls chaptalization. It is sometimes what the wine
growers do when the autumns are not sunny enough and that the
grape does not become perfectly ripe, or when one cultivates the
vine under less lenient climates of Quebec. The problem is often
double since these immature grapes are also too acid. One must
then deacidize the must by using calcium carbonate or other deacidizing
products. However, this remains certain; it takes good grapes
to make good wine... And one must have the good type of vines
to make good grapes... And there is the climate and the soil!
We can only congratulate the vine growers of Quebec for their
courage and who, in spite of unfavourable climatic conditions
for vine growing, succeed in making out wines which make Quebec
more and more famous! I raise my glass quite high. À la
vôtre! Bottoms up! Cento anni! Beifall! Cheers!...
grains of grapes being used for the making of the white wine are
then crushed (one separates the grains from the bunch), and are
pressed. The juice collected, called must, is then put in a tank
where it will ferment gently thanks to yeasts. The yeasts can
be natural, (they are on the bloom, the skin of the grape) or
the wine maker can decide to add his own combination, which will
give a particular type of wine; more or less alcoholic, soft or
fruity, very dry, dry or sweet. Certain yeasts have a capacity
of transformation of alcohol into sugar which can go up to 18%
of alcohol, others will stop at 11%, thus giving softer wines
with a higher residual sugar level. In combination of yeasts,
the winemaker can use different techniques to stop fermentation
therefore preventing all of the sugars contained in the must to
be transformed into alcohol; thermal shock or the use of sulphites
are methods often used
the red wine, the grapes are crushed and put in tanks with a certain
percentage of the bunch, the carrying stem and stalks, and ferment
for a period determined by the winemaker; approximately one to
two weeks according to the color and the type of wine being made.
The skins thus macerating in the must give to the red wine its
color; of a pale ruby red to the heavy red which stains. It will
also give its olfactory or tannic qualities. Several techniques
are used by the winemaker, which will give wines different textures
and taste; carbonic maceration or oxidation in an opened tank.
The must, which is now wine, is then pressed and transferred in
a tank where fermentation will be completed.
variety of grapes have the characteristic of having the skin red,
violet or black, but give a amber colour juice or a juice without
any particular color when pressed; it is the case of the grapes
from the Pinot Noir vines. Indeed, the skin of the grape Pinot
Noir is dark, almost black, but the juice which runs out at the
time of the crushing and pressing is rather of neutral color and
can be used to make out white wines, like the Blanc de Noir made
in Champagne when they are pressed like white grapes, or some
of the famous the red wines of Burgundy if the winemaker lets
the black skins macerate in the must to give colour. The more
one leaves the skin in contact with must, the more the wine will
be of a darker color. A bleeding is carried out to make rosé
wines; the winemaker uses the same technique as to make red wine
but he ' bleeds ' the tank after a few hours or days of maceration
while letting run out the juice when the color rosé is
obtained; this must will then continue to ferment in another tank
to give a rosé wine.
the arrival of winter, the vitis vinefera are cut very short then
are ridged to protect the vine which, otherwise, would not resist
our rigorous winters. If the little grain of grape wants to be
born the following year, it is necessary to protect the stock
carrying life. Indeed, the vitis varieties (such as the Pinot
and Riesling) most rustic will see their buds (primary and secondary)
dying or being seriously damaged by the cold from -18, -20 C (according
to studies made in the state of New York). If the primary and
secondary buds do not resist during the winter, the vine will
never bare fruits and could die, because the fruit-bearing buds
are on the vine shoots of the previous year. As our winters are
cold and that mercury goes down easily to -30 C during the winter
in the southwest regions of Quebec, it is imperative to protect
these Vitis varieties. To protect our Noble type of vines, we
use straw mixed with sheep manure (of our
ovine herd) which we cover with a bank of soil of approximately
the adventure of the little grain of grape is not yet finished.
Certain grains of grape are selected for the making of ice wine.
(The grape harvest of ice wine, this winter 2005/2006, was carried
out on January the 2nd and 3rd whereas mercury oscillated between
-10 and -12 C). The shivering grains in the nets are collected,
and are crushed and pressed outside whereas they are always kept
frozen. The grains of grape then take the texture of a ' very
dense slush', which is holding together like a block of slushy
snow, because the water inside the grape is always frozen, but
not the sugars. This cluster of very sweet ice is then pressed
outside in the cold; some extremely concentrated juice then run
out of the press and is collected. The frozen grains of grape
give a must, which makes approximately 40% in sugar; density being
established in the neighbourhoods of 1174 on the densimeter...
Approximately six times more grains of grape are needed to make
a single bottle of ice wine!
is the end of the adventure of the little grain of grape
Towards the end of winter, the vines, which do not have winter
protection, are cut to bring them back to a more reasonable proportion
and to limit the number of future bunches of grapes on the stocks.
We preserve only 12 to 25 bunches of grapes by vines, according
to the variety; the less there are bunches of grapes on the stocks,
the greater is the sugar concentration in bays. A vine gives on
average a maximum of one litre of must; with one litre of must
one makes one bottle of wine of 750 ml; the winemaker needs the
equivalent of six vines to make only one bottle of ice wine. This
is why it is so expensive...
spring at the beginning of April, the winemaker removes the winter
protection of the vines. The hillock of ground just as the sheep
manure mixed with straw are then removed, the manure being used
to fertilize the vine for the season. It will be hidden later
in the ground at the time of the many mechanical weeding with
the grubber. If the cold of winter did not kill the stocks and
if the buds were not damaged too much by the removal of the winter
protection, the adventure of the little grain of grape will start
The cycle of the vine (short version)
year the vine develops according to the seasons, and follows a
vegetative cycle that can be broken up into several stages.
In mid-April, the sap starts to appear at the end of the stems,
which were cut towards the end of the winter; they are called
the tears. According to the soil and the type of control of the
vine chosen, each stock will lose a few litres of sap.
the beginning May the blossoming of the buds occurs; it is the
débourrement. It starts earlier for type of vines like
Baco Noir and Chardonnay, and later for the Sauvignon Blanc, whereas
that of Pinot Noir occurs between the two extremes.
Following the period of growth of the branches and the sheets,
the foliage develop, then appear small bunches with tiny buttons
which will grow bigger and become flowers.
· The Flowering
The flowers appear towards mid-June and last from ten to twenty
days during which the vine is very vulnerable to freezing.
flower fertilized becomes a grape; the proportion of fertilized
flowers depends much on type of vine and the assistance of the
pollinating insects like the bees.
During the summer, each grape grows in volume without any important
change in its chemical composition, if not slight increase in
Ripening and maturation
general, in mid-August the skin of the grape starts to change
color: of green dark, it becomes, according to type of vine, greenish
white, gilded, orange or purplish. It is the beginning of the
maturation itself, during which the grain will continue to grow
bigger. The maturity of the grain of grape corresponds to the
balance between the maximum output of sugar which it can contain
versus the degree of acidity. Maturation lasts until October.
vine shoots start to become hard like bark as the vine starts
to eliminate water in the tissues for winter preparation; i.e.
the soft and flexible stems are transformed gradually into wood.
· Grape harvest
It is the gathering of the bunches of grape which the winemaker
presses thereafter to extract the juice called must.
· Late grape harvest; Passerillage
If the winemaker decides to delay the grape harvest, he then notices
the desiccation process (loss of a part of the water which the
grain contains) of the grape and, consequently, an increase in
the sugar rate. Indeed, when the grape becomes very ripe, the
exchanges cease between the grains of grapes and the vine. The
skin of the grape becomes permeable, and the water contained in
the grape starts to evaporate. This process is know as the passerillage
· Harvest of ice grains of grape
the winemaker leaves the grains of grape on the vine and then
harvests them at temperatures varying between -10 C and -12 C,
he concentrates even more the sugars because, under the effect
of freezing, water present inside the grape is frozen solid. When
the winemaker presses these grains of ice in the cold winter air,
he then obtains a super concentrated must with roughly 40% sugar