Work in the cellar

Combining tradition and precision of modern technology


Work in the cellar begins as grapes arrive to the cellar entrance. First the automated sorting table separates grapes from any other material (like leaves stuck to grapes, pieces of bunch stems etc.). After this, grapes travel through the sorting table where a team of four inspects the grapes, removing any remaining vegetation or other particles. A drop through air blower jets removes the finest non-grape elements and berries land on to the conveyor belt. The conveyor belt system transfers the clean berries to the top of the vinification vat, where the berries go through light crushing and then fall into the vat. Each vat is filled with berries of same or highly similar parcel preparing for optimal expression of terroir in blending months ahead. 

Each vat is filled with grapes of the same or highly similar parcel

wine grapes at the cellar entrance

DAY 2-5

The juice is left on the skins and the cold maceration begins. In cold maceration the grapes are cooled to a controlled in temperature of 6°C for 3-5 days depending on the vintage. During the cold maceration the juice is gently pumped over the skins to ensure even temperature in the juice and to assist in the process of extracting more color and aromas to the wine. After cold maceration, the temperature of the vat is increased, and the alcoholic fermentation begins.

cold maceration wine

DAY 6-18

The alcoholic fermentation starts on the second day due to the action of yeast. After about 12 hours fermentation begins, CO2 that is released pushes the grape skins to the top of the vat forming a cap (chap). Two to three times a day, part of the juice is pumped from the bottom of the vat up to the top to penetrate and flow through the cap. This pumping over needs to be gentle and low pressure in order to obtain the highest-quality tannins to the wine. The cap is frequently broken through “pigeage” as the juice tends to flow, following the same paths through the cap. Care needs to be taken that the gentle spray reaches all areas of the cap, so this task is done manually. The interval of pumping over is decreased as the fermentation proceeds and taken to a halt when the desired density of wine has been reached. This is measured daily with a hydrometer - called “mustimetre”. Every vat is tasted every morning and samples for other parameters are sent to a laboratory two to three times a week. The process of alcoholic fermentation creates significant excess heat and in order to maintain the fruity aromas in the wine, temperature is held at 25-26 °C through thermoregulation.

wine grapes at the cellar entrance

DAY 19-22

After the alcoholic fermentation is over, the temperature is increased by 7-8 °C for few days (33-34°C) and let to rest. This post fermentation phase with slightly higher temperature extracts more from the skins and results in a more elegant juice and a silkier tannic texture.

“Malolactic fermentation converts the malic acids to softer-tasting lactic acid”

wine alcoholic fermentation

DAY 23-50

Malolactic fermentation softens the acidity as tart-tasting malic acid, naturally present in grape must, is converted to softer-tasting lactic acid. This phase also stabilizes the wine. Malolactic fermentation is a natural process which the wine starts by itself, and it lasts anywhere between few weeks to few months. Vat temperature is kept slightly above 20°C to invite the process to start – then reduced to 18-19 °C. This temperature best preserves the taste profile of wine from various parcels. As the wine is now prone to oxidation or any harmful bacteria, small amounts of sulphur are added to vats at the end of this phase. 

Overall, the winemaking at Château Puybarbe must remain as simple and natural as possible, so only the smallest amount of any chemical input is used.  

When the daily tastings show that the extraction of tannins has reached its optimum, the free-running juice is moved to another vat and the remaining marc is pressed. Resulting press juice (10% of total) is clarified separately and juice of the best lots will later be re-integrated into the château’s lighter wines and/or used to fill the barrels during aging.

Malolactic fermentation

DAY 50

After both fermentation cycles have finished, the first racking, separating the wine from the lees, takes place. Wine is gently moved to another vat, lees removed and then wine is put back to the vat. Leaving lees with the wine for longer would make the wine coarser.

Château Puybarbe decides the blends early to ensure early integration and good balance of the wines, so we make the blends in conjunction of the first racking - this means putting the wines from various plots first time together. The aim of this marriage is not to make a similar wine every year but the richest and balanced expression of the terroir of that given year – one that combines the estate’s intrinsic character of mineral, freshness and finesse with balance and length. After multiple rounds of tasting our technical director jointly with our oenolog decides how the wines from different plots are blended - first to a vat and then gently moved for aging in barrels or aging vats for lighter wines. From our 48 parcels typically, wine from 15-18 best parcels end up contributing to our first wine, Château Puybarbe.

“The aim - a richest and balanced expression of the terroir of that given year”

fermentation cycles

 Month 3-24

The blended wines enter into aging – a further 18-20 months in oak barrels for Château Puybarbe, 10-12 months in oak barrels for Le Roc and for Gaia in stainless steel tanks.

We purchase our barrels exclusively made of French oak, coming from three different coopers and three different degrees of toasting. This diversity avoids any dominant kind of oak influence due to a single variety of oak or single degree of toast. Aging temperature in the cellar is kept at constant 17-18°C. Racking is repeated once or twice also during aging period, typically halfway through the barrel aging period to clarify the wine. Air pressure instead of pumping is used in racking the barrels as it is much gentler to the wine. The key method for checking a wines clarity is a simple one – pouring some wine in a glass and just inspect it against a light. Château Puybarbe does not use any animal-based agents for fining its wines (we do not fine the wines at all), so all our wines are vegan friendly.

 blended wines enter into aging

MONTH 3-24

During the aging period the blends are constantly monitored, and samples taken, tasted and analyzed. Barrels lose some percentages of wine over time through evaporation, so barrels are being topped with wine reserved for the purpose. For Gaia – our wine aged in stainless steel vats– we apply micro-oxygenation during aging. This means adding continuously minimal amounts of oxygen into the wine, only 2-6 milligrams/liter/month to provide the wine the same conditions as if the wine would be aged in oak barrels. At the end of the aging period the wine is bottled for further aging.

wine tasted and analyzed