We aim to make red, white and rosé Côtes du Rhône wines that embody and express our exceptional terroir here in the southern Rhône valley. A great wine is of course the fruit of the labours both in the vineyard and in the cellar, hence we see winegrowing and winemaking as one seamless endeavour.
It all begins in the vineyards, where the vines receive daily care and attention. Our team brings a wealth of hands-on experience and viticultural know-how to the winegrowing, together with an intuitive affinity with the soil and appreciation of the subtleties of “terroir” that has been handed down from generation to generation.
Throughout the year the team maintains the 50 hectare estate, methodically adhering to a calendar of activities that follows the natural cycle of the vine, from the moment when the vine stock awakens from its winter slumber to the harvest the following autumn. These activities include removing dead vines, planting new vines, pruning and removing surplus shoots. Our aim throughout is to strike the right balance between human intervention and the natural cycle of the vine in order to allow each terroir to express itself authentically.
This starts once we have established that we have the optimum conditions for harvesting (for example that the grapes are perfectly ripe and that they are healthy and without rot). The majority of the grapes are picked by machine, resulting in a harvest of remarkable quality. Each plot is harvested separately, depending upon the grape variety, the colour and the ripeness.
We vinify each grape variety separately and, where possible, vinify the grapes from similar parcels of terroir in the same vat.
White wine grapes :
Upon their arrival in the cellar the grapes are kept as cool as possible. They are then destemmed and gently crushed (to release the first portion of juice) and placed in the wine press under inert gas to protect them from oxidation. The resulting “must” is then chilled to 3° Celsius to separate larger particles from the juice. Yeast is then added to the clear juice to begin fermentation. The juice is fermented at low temperatures (10°C) to preserve the fruity aromas in the wine. After a fermentation lasting between 15 and 20 days the wine is “racked” (drained) off the heavy sediment at the bottom of the vat (the “lees”). The wine then rests on its fine lees to allow the flavours to develop. We block the second (malolactic) fermentation of the wine to ensure it retains its freshness.
Finally the wine is allowed to stabilize and mature until it is bottled in December.
Red grapes - rosé wine:
The grapes (Grenache, syrah, cinsault) used for our rosé wines benefit from the same protection from potential oxidation and the same temperature control as our white wines grapes.
The grapes are harvested early in the morning to preserve freshness. The bunches are destemmed and the grapes crushed, then the grapes are left to macerate in the juice just long enough for the skins to impart colour and aromas to the juice, these aromas developing fully during fermentation.
Some of the resulting pink must is then bled from the vat and chilled to separate out larger particles from the juice. Yeast is added to begin the fermentation, and then the rosé is fermented in the same manner as the white wine described above.
Temperature control for white and rosé wines is essential in order to impart fully the characteristics of the grapes to the ultimate wine and to capture the elusive aromas. Excessive heat would evaporate off aromas and increase the risk of oxidation.
Red grapes – red wine
Maceration and Fermentation
Although the temperature at which red wine grapes are harvested is generally deemed to be less of an issue than it is for white and rosé wines, we place particular importance on the temperature of our harvested red grapes.
To avoid wasting too much energy chilling hot grapes from the vineyards, we pick the grapes as early as possible in the morning before the heat of the day arrives. We chill the crushed juice for a few days prior to the fermentation in order to impart good colour, aromas and tannins to the juice from the skins and the pulp of the berries. The colour and aromas will then develop during the fermentation process.
After a few days we halt this pre-fermentation cold maceration to allow the temperature of the juice to increase and (after the addition of yeast) permit the fermentation to begin. The temperature of the must is carefully controlled during fermentation, where we strike a fine balance between the need for heat to draw our colour and tannins from the skins on the one hand, and the preservation of delicate aromas on the other.
Tannin and colour extraction from the skin is facilitated by a regular “remontage” where we pump the juice from the bottom of the vat over the skins that have risen to the top of the vat. Depending on the grapes and the level of tannin required in the wine, we generate extra extraction by plunging the skins down in to the juice (“pigeage”).
The fermentation finishes once the natural grape sugars in the juice have been fully converted into alcohol by the yeast.
The grape skins macerate in the juice for a period of between five and thirty days
(the “cuvaison”) before the “free-run” wine is drawn from the vat. The wet grape solids are then manually removed from the vat and deposited in the wine press to press out what we refer to as the “press wine”. There will be some unfermented sugars pressed from the skins so the press wine will finish its fermentation separately. The press wine, having been extracted directly from the wet skins, is much higher in tannin than the free-run wine. It is therefore also aged separately and may later be blended with the matured free-run wine once initial tastings have established the desirability of blending.
Very soon after the fermentation (and separation of the juice from the skins), the wine will undergo a second natural transformation, known as the “malolactic fermentation”, where the acidity in the wine will convert to softer and more stable lactic acids under the influence of natural bacteria in the wine. Depending on the conditions, this can be quite rapid. Once the malolactic fermentation is complete, the wine is “racked” (drained) off the heavy sediment at the bottom of the vat (the “lees”).
Each vat of wine, which corresponds to a particular grape variety and terroir, cools down over the winter months, and this allows the wine to stabilise and deposit tartrates. We do not touch the wines during this period.
The rose and white wines are matured in stainless steel and fibreglass tanks. The majority of the red wine is matured in large concrete tanks. At l’Amandine we place importance on fermenting and storing our vines in traditional concrete vats as the heat variation with this material is a lot less than with stainless steel and fibreglass. A proportion of the (pre-blended) wines destined for our “Cuvée Bel-Air” and Cuvée Montagne” are matured in small 225l oak casks (“barriques”), for a year.
We begin our blending of the different grape varieties and terroir parcels around December, when the cold has allowed the heavier particles to deposit. Before doing so, all the wines are “racked” (drained) off the heavy sediment at bottom of vat ("the lees"), We taste all the vats to determine the blend for each wine. When tasting, we consider the current and predicted attributes of each pre-blended wine (its colour, aromas and mouth flavours) in order to arrive at the optimum balance of all characteristics in the final blended wine.
In order to preserve the natural aromas and flavours of the wines we use only light (earth or plate) filtration methods just before bottling.
The white and rosé wines will be bottled just a few months after blending to preserve freshness. The red wines will mature for many months and, for certain wines, several years before bottling.