Coming from the South of France, Montpellier to be more precise, it is clear that the wine culture is deeply rooted in our DNA. We’re big fans of the famous nectar but we knew very little about its production process. So we clearly didn’t hesitate for a second when we had the opportunity to test the Haut Lirou Wine Tour, a fun visit at the Haut Lirou vineyard located just 30 minutes north of Montpellier. After telling you about Seb’s wine tasting of Corsican wines a few weeks ago, here is your chance to learn more about its manufacture process. Shall we?
So we arrived at the Haut Lirou vineyard, in Saint Jean de Cuculles, by a beautiful summer day. We were warmly greeted by Kevin, a young and very friendly guide, and talkative Cesar, who was in training. We were pleasantly surprised to be the only ones to enjoy the activity that day which was of course a very big advantage, we were able to enjoy Kevin’s many explanations and ask our many questions in tranquility! One of the main perks of this tour is that you do it in a 4×4 (or SUV) which is totally justified knowing that the most of the 100 hectares area is sloped and the soil is calcareous and therefore full of large pebbles. It has also caused some shaking during transportation but it is also part of the charm of the ride! After a few minutes, we arrived at our first stop and we were simply amazed by this panoramic view of the valley. Vines as far as the eye can see, a bright blue sky, an ideal summer temperature and most of all, cicadas sublimating Kevin’s precise and detailed explanations on how the vines are grown.
He explained with great teaching skills the steps leading to the harvest and we quickly became familiar with this completely unknown vocabulary. We truly got to realize how technical, precise and thoughtful the vine culture is. Throughout the growth of the plant, such steps as pruning or tying are to make sure that the cluster captures as much energy as possible and that the photosynthesis is maximized while ensuring a defined yield. All these essential steps take place at specific times of the year and help to ensure a good quality wine. The environment also plays a key role on the quality of the wine produced. The limestone of the region brings a lot of complexity, richness and flavor to the wine while the location, height near the Pic Saint-Loup, allows the vines to feel significant temperature changes due to its location between sea and continent. We quickly went back in the car and continued towards our next stop where we had a very nice surprise! We won’t tell you anything more to not spoil it but it was pretty amazing!
It was now time to leave the vineyards and we then headed to the tanks to learn a little more about the harvest and vinification time. Several varieties of vines are cultivated on site : Syrah, Grenache and Mourvèdre that have different aromatic properties. Green harvesting takes place in July and involves cutting a number of clusters that will be thrown away to limit the amount of mature grapes. The harvest then begins in mid-August and ends in mid-October. The white grapes are first harvested and then the Syrah, Grenache and Mourvèdre finally. It is during this time that the activity is the most intense at the Haut Lirou vineyard and many seasonal workers are hired as reinforcements to double the number of employees during this important but also very sensitive period. The berries are harvested, pressed to collect their juice and then the whole thing is transferred in huge vats and the yeast is added. They will eat the sugar and turn it into alcohol during fermentation for 3 to 5 weeks. The vinification is carefully supervised by an oenologist and cellar master who will establish the process to set up on the basis of chemical analyses provided by the ICV (Cooperative Wine Institute), an independent organization. After fermentation comes the assembling where the oenologist, the cellar master, the salesperson and the Haut Lirou vineyard owner talk and define the wine’s composition from several wine batches. The wine can then be bottled directly or stored in barrels for 12 to 18 months to round it, give it more flavor.
Now comes the tasting time, which was again, greatly supervised by Kevin and his good advices. He really helped us to put our feelings and it was really appreciable. We took great pleasure in putting several of our senses to work. Firstly, the sight: the color of the wine, its opacity, its tannin content or the way it’s crying are all indications on its quality and alcohol content. Then, the smell. We generously inhaled all the flavors liberated in our glasses after having twirled our wine and tried to recognize these smells that were sometimes familiar using the aroma wheel that was handed to us. Finally comes the taste as we took a sip of wine, left it for a few seconds in our mouth before spitting it out … or not! We have tasted several wines, red, white and rosé, that are produced in the Haut Lirou vineyard with very different characteristics from one another. Sometimes bodied, sometimes softer, we enjoyed discovering them during this moment that seemed timeless. It was really the icing on the cake of this exciting tour and we even left with a bottle! A big thank you to Cesar and Kevin, our excellent guide, for your welcome and this afternoon that was under the sign of friendliness and good mood!
This article was written as part of a partnership with the Montpellier Tourist Office. Nevertheless, any opinion expressed here is our own and has not been subjected to any influence.
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