Guy Bart-SmithGuy Bart-Smith, Assistant Manager at Majestic Wine Glasgow West End, reports back on his trip to Costières de Nîmes to assist with the 2009 Vendange at Château Guiot.

I was lucky enough to take part in the 2009 Vendange at Château Guiot, which is situated in the heart of Costières de Nîmes. Vendange literally means harvest and starts in September in the Languedoc region. My initial thoughts were of long hot summer days spent picking grapes followed by a somewhat romantic notion of crushing the grapes by foot! The actual process is a combination of 21st century machine harvesting sophistication and traditional vinification processing. I found Château Guiot able to encapsulate the best of both worlds.
The vendange is predominantly machine harvested and done in the cool of the morning or night to help protect the crushed grapes before entering the vats which are stored at various temperatures depending on how quickly the vinification process is required. The sophistication and speed was a clear indication of how 21st century technology has found its way into an industry that has historically been processed by hand and foot. Thankfully, the wines still manage to ooze individuality, personality, vibrancy and contain a real sense of identity; or as the French would say ‘terroir’.

Château Guiot SignpostDay One

Arriving late afternoon, Alex and I made our way to Château Guiot and were warmly welcomed by François and Sylvia and soon made to feel part of the family. Naturally before enjoying a wonderful spread of home made pate and superb French cheeses, they toasted our welcome with a glass or two of wine. We were off to a great start. After getting to know our hosts a little better, the conversation soon turned to the state of the weather. So much depends on the good weather lasting long enough to complete the harvesting and it was noted that evening that a change was coming and not for the better! The decision taken by Francois was to work well into the night and the early morning. ‘Make hay while the sun shines… or not’ in this case was the order of the day. As we were officially still ‘off duty’, it did not immediately affect us. So the work that evening was carried out by Francois and Sylvia’s son’s Alex and Numma and a couple of Australian guys from the Margaret River Region in Western Australia.

Day Two

After an early start, we made our way to the Cellar to find out what our duties were for the day. The first thing we were given was a guided tour of the vineyard and premises. We saw the grapes being picked, delivered on trucks to the de-stemming and then watched them being pumped into the vats. Château Guiot produces several different wines and each individual grape is processed and stored in individual vats. My job was to check the sugar density and the temperature to gauge what levels the fermentation process was. After that I happily helped Sylvia (albeit for the day only) to taste the wines and check the alcohol levels. This was done by using a mustimeter which checks how much reserve alcohol was left in the grape juice. A sip or two of the wine soon confirmed that all was well and the wine was on the right track. I recorded the information on a chalk board whereafter the wine would be either heated up or cooled down where necessary. Initially the red grapes are cool fermented to impart as much colour as possible. We helped Jean to add the yeast to the vats which consisted of 3kg or X10 Yeast and Superstart to help aid the fermentation process. This was then pumped into the vat while pumping over the wine to impart as much flavour and colour as needed. This was followed by further tastings. What was great about the day was, you can read up about wine production, but nothing matches seeing the process first hand. An informative and interesting day all round. And the weather held……

Loading the picked grapesDay Three

Our third day was amazing. The weather still held and we made our way to the vines to help finish harvesting the grapes. My role was to help out on the harvesting truck. This machine drives over the top of the vines and systematically shakes them firmly enough to remove the grapes, without damaging the plant. Interestingly, it also shakes off the natural wildlife (snails, lizards, spiders, etc) living on the vine and together with the grapes, are loaded onto the back of a supporting truck to be taken to the Château for de-stemming. After de-stemming the grapes are then pumped into the vats and left to ferment.

This year our staff have helped at vendange for all these wines…

Château Caronne Ste-Gemme 2004, Cru Bourgeois, Haut-Médoc
£12.99 or £10.99 when you buy 2 bottles

The rich smokey palate is complemented by subtle oaking which together with a peppery finish and ripe fruit flavours gives this wine great length.

Morgon 2007, Château de Pizay
£8.99 or £6.99 when you buy 2 bottles

A far fuller bodied wine than typical Beaujolais, Château de Pizay offers rich flavours of red berries and cherries with a subtle touch of spice.

Château Guiot 2008, Costières de Nîmes
£6.99 or £5.99 when you buy 2 bottles

Château Guiot is in the heart of the Costières de Nîmes region on the edge of the Rhone Valley. Red berries and a spicy finish give this wine bags of personality.

Grand Terroir Montpeyroux 2006, Gérard Bertrand
£8.99 or £6.99 when you buy 2 bottles

A full-bodied wine blended with Mourvedre and Syrah, this displays great character and length, and is perfect with strong cheeses.

Domaine Begude ‘Le Bel Ange’ Chardonnay 2008, Vin de Pays d’Oc
£6.99 or £5.99 when you buy 2 bottles

Beautifully integrated and showing hints of tropical fruits, an inviting citrus nose and honeydew melon this Chardonnay is truly exceptional.

Albariño Martin Codax 2008, Rias Baixas
£10.99 or £8.99 when you buy 2 bottles

If you’re looking for something different, this is your wine. Beautifully made, the Albarino grape has up front flavours of peach and tropical fruits. Great with creamy pasta dishes.

5 thoughts on “Château Guiot Vendange Trip 2009

  1. Just picked up a bottle of this wine in Chicago (Mas de Guiot). I am an importer in one of the provinces of Canada and would like to establish contact with the winery. As I see some of your staff recently helped out with the harvest there could they please forward contact info for the winery? The bottle has limited info and my search on the net has not brought me much to work with. Thanks for any help that you can give us. Oh, we are James Westlake’s (Domaine de Begude) importer in the province of Alberta.

    Andrew Jones

  2. Thank you for an interesting article te Château Guiot Vendange Trip 2009. Does it mean that the snails, lizards, spiders, etc, are included in the fermentation? (Not that it unduly bothers me, but it would affect my choice of wine for my vegetarian daughter.)

    1. Hi Gordon, I called Guy to check about the snails for you…. no need to worry, all the grapes are put through a de-stemming and sieving system prior to fermentation so anything larger than a grape certainly won’t get through… as for the spiders – let’s hope they run fast!

  3. Hi, I worked for Majestic in Guildford during my university placement year and now in my final year, I’m starting to think about what I want to do when I graduate. For a while now I have been thinking how great it would be to do a vendange in France and after reading Guys account, I am sure of it. I was wandering whether you had any links to producers in Bordeaux or the Rhone that might need an extra pair of hands next aug/sep/oct?. Any information would be received very gratefully.

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