EconomyAfter the fire, chemistry at the bedside of the...

After the fire, chemistry at the bedside of the winegrowers

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For many winegrowers, the worst has been avoided. At the end of the season, the late frost episode, which cut the harvest by 20 to 30%, even had more consequences than the violent fire of last August in the Var. Of the 7,000 hectares covered by the fire which claimed the lives of two people, nearly 400 were vines, entirely located in the AOC area of ​​Côtes-de-Provence. But not all of them were equally affected, as explained by Eric Pastorino, president of the appellation of this essentially rosé wine, with AOC covering 20,000 hectares.

“Some vines will not produce and others, where only the rows on the edges of the forests have burned, will give anyway”. These, taken in the fumes released by the blaze, concentrate the attention of oenologists. Halfway through the harvest, it is still too early to draw conclusions from the impact of fumes, soot deposits and retardants used by firefighters. Because, in addition, “the beautiful rain” which concluded these days of sinister “was able to mitigate the effects”, estimates Pierre Audemar, a wine grower who lost his 17 vats and machines in the fire but of which only the rows in curbs burned down. “Insurance allowed me to buy ten tanks immediately, colleagues lent me machines, I rented others and set up a temporary installation in tents”, he says, before concluding: ” I am not too much to be pitied ”.

A first and new products

For the rest, he trusts Emmanuel Baugnet, his oenologist. “It can develop a persistent, not pleasant charcoal taste and, at the end of the mouth, a pungent and bitter taste”. Before, oenologists had only one product available to alleviate bad tastes: charcoal. “For 2-3 years, in particular thanks, so to speak, to the fires in California, people have worked to develop more complex products”.

For Emmanuel Baugnet, it is this year that he will experience it for the first time. Technically “the molecule responsible for this bad taste attaches itself to the sugar. The products developed, with enzymatic activation, will separate these sugars from the molecules, then fix them before we remove these products, ”explains the oenologist.

Techniques usually banned for appellation wines

These techniques are usually prohibited for appellation wines. But in this exceptional year, an exemption has been granted and the crops concerned will be vinified separately. With 900,000 hectoliters, the volume bottled this year under the Côtes-de-Provence appellation should be more or less the same as last year. With, qualitatively, “a very good vintage, awaits Eric Pastorino. Apart from the areas affected by the fire, there is everything to make a very good cuvée, the summer was dry and sunny and we were not affected by diseases, as has happened elsewhere in France ” .

The first juices from the presses are slightly more acidic, and for the final result, we will have to wait until December to find the first bottles of this vintage on the shelves and in wine merchants.

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