The harvest is one of the most joyful parts of the MCC-making process. This year, the harvest began on the 3rd of January 2020, a little earlier than usual. The grapes from Bonnievale and Robertson come in first, as they have an earlier bud break than Franschhoek.
All our grapes are picked early in the morning starting at first light, to get in our 8 tons for the day before the temperatures of the berries start to rise. Warm grapes will bruise easily, and bruising will lead to oxidation of the juice.
All Le Lude’s grapes are picked by hand as this ensures a clean difference in our press fractions.
We pick into 18kg picking crates which are slightly different to the normal picking crates you will find. With the shallower box we rarely have more than two to three bunches on top of each other and always specify to our pickers not to overfill the crates. This prevents any premature pressing during travel.
When the grapes arrive in the cellar we need to weigh 20% of our crates to establish the average weight of each crate and the total mass picked. This is essential to the additions made during pressing and the splitting of the fractions.
The first portion of juice from the press is called the Cuveè fraction – this is the cleanest and best portion of juice. It will contain a higher acidity than subsequent fractions, and lower phenols.
The second fraction is the Premier Taille – or the first pressing. This will start to show more phenols on the palate and have a slightly lower acidity.
The last fraction will be our Deuxieme Taille, this is the press juice and will have more texture and broadness on the palate. The separation of factions is made by taste which means that there will always be someone around the press when it is running.
The difference in palate weight and acidity comes from the time spent on the skins and how hard the berries are being pressed. The first juice has no skin contact and the skins aren’t pressed very hard, as the cycle carries on we press harder to get more juice out – this damages the skins and seeds which contain phenols.
We allow the first settling to take place in our juice tray, and only once the cycle is finished do we send the juice to the tanks. This allows us to move a cleaner product into the tanks for first fermentation.