Harvest Time: Domaine des Homs, September 2019

Rieux Minervois
Domaine des Homs
Thursday Sept 19th

We are now in our 15th day of harvest at Domaine des Homs for the 2019 season, just starting picking red grapes and what a great marriage of quality and quantity coming into the Cellar.  However it hasn’t been without stress, largely due to Mother Nature’s radical temperature changes… 

After winter’s rest

Since the floods of 15 October last year, rains have been rare, and winter was very dry! Indeed, the water tables were replenished since 300 mm of water had fallen during the floods, but since then barely 10 mm has fallen in 4 months!  The soils were hard and impossible to work so nothing was done during the winter.

Jean Marc is in favour of tilling and has been doing so for a long time. According to him, this is the only solution to fight the lack of water that the Minervois suffers from the beginning of Spring until harvest.  At the beginning of winter, the inter-row areas were ploughed to decompact the soil after frequent tractor traffic due to the high disease pressure of 2018 that required frequent treatments to protect the vineyard from mildew.  

He then made the first amendments to feed the soil and work upstream to avoid any fermentation problems. At Domaine des Homs, fermentations are spontaneous with indigenous yeasts and without any enrichment of the musts, so the soil must be able to properly feed the vines to have grapes rich in nitrogen and minerals.
Early spring tillage provides heat and oxygen for the development of microbial life.

Enriching the soil with organic amendments at the end of March

Spring to Summer 2019

Unlike 2018, this year the pressure for mildew is low, so Jean Marc has treated very little.  Flowering took place around May 25 for Chardonnay – the earliest variety. This date is rather normal, as the milder winter led to early budburst, but the cold spring weather slowed down the vegetation to return to the classic annual dates. 

Despite this fresh Spring, by the end of June the first heat wave arrived. The vines were watered at the beginning of the season, so they did not suffer from this first stressful episode.  These first heat waves lasted 3 days and 3 nights without a break.

Until August 15, the alternation of heat waves and light rains allowed the vines to avoid water stress to keep beautiful green colours and an upright position.  As a reminder, water stress corresponds to a vines survival instinct and thus will no longer put energy into producing and ripening its grapes. 

15 mm of rain on July 27, small in quantity but a big reassurance !

After August 15, the heat wave returned, causing more damage in the region.

Jean Marc works the old-fashioned way and made a last tractor run between the rows to work lightly and on the surface.  He managed to preserve a green vineyard with an upright vine positioning.

As he says: “I listen to the elders and they always said not to touch the soil as soon as the grapes start to change colour”! It is this experience that guides Jean Marc, and this experience that will pay off as volumes at Des Homs will be in good quantity this year.

Mi-véraison of Syrah – July 31
Exceptionally healthy state!

The Chardonnays were picked on September 3 and 4th.  These are mechanical harvests for these grapes, so that the fruits can be brought to the cellar very quickly. They harvest mechanically at night to work at low temperatures.

Jean Marc doesn’t remember ever picking such beautiful Chardonnay. These vines are planted on the IGP part of the vineyard. These soils have a higher proportion of clay than in the Minervois AOC. With climate change and a global warming, these clays are a real asset in keeping moisture in the soil.

The Muscat harvest followed the Chardonnay.  Muscat Petit Grain for the Petites Bulles cuvée and Muscat d’Alexandrie for the estate’s grape juice.

Viognier was harvested on September 12 and 13.  Then the reds followed with the Syrah first.

Chardonnay 2019 !

Analyzing petioles to determine Soil Health

Jean Marc wants to work as early as possible. He is convinced that a nourished soil is the only solution to have serene spontaneous fermentations and balanced wines.

This year, he started a petiole study in partnership with a laboratory, allowing it to measure possible mineral deficiencies in the plant at three separate times of the year.

100 petioles are collected; it is necessary to choose those located opposite the first bunch and which best represent the average mineral composition of the plant.  The sample is taken in the Spring and then at the véraison. The last analysis is a must analysis.

Each shred of petiole provides information on the content of nitrogen, potash, magnesia, iron, boron, phosphorus, calcium and trace elements. The objective is to verify if the plant has everything it needs.

Then, the work in the cellar can be carried out serenely without any intervention, and the wine continues its fermentation in cement vats.

The first result shows that some plots lack nitrogen and potassium. The organic matter levels, on the other hand, are very good.

Jean Marc’s analysis following these first returns is that last autumn’s heavy rains (major floods) – washed away the soil.  This winter’s amendments will take this analysis into account and only provide what is missing.

New Barrels – Integral Vinification

Barrique of vinification intégrale : hermétique seal

Ever passionate to try new experiments, Jean Marc has invested in three barrels of integral vinification.  These barrels are used to vinify the reds directly in barrels through a patented method. The bunghole is airtight and the barrels are on rails that allow them to turn on themselves to suspend the grape skins.

A new cuvée will be launched next summer, a blend of the estate’s three grape varieties: Cinsault, Grenache and Syrah, vinified together in this style.

White, Red and Sparkling Wines in the Tasting Room without forgetting the olive oil!

Available Wines

The 2018 Chardonnay and Viognier white wines, the rosé de Grenache 2018 and the Amandier 2018 have been bottled since mid-May.

Chardonnay 2018– 100% Chardonnay, vinification and maturing for one third in barrels
Intense nose, balanced palate.
The notes of quince, apricot and white flowers are present. The palate is rich but not heavy.

Viognier 2018– 100% Viognier, vinification and maturing for half in barrels
The nose is very open, the mouth is round, smooth with a nice volume and without heaviness.
Aromatic rather on fruits with yellow flesh: nectar, peach, melon

Amandier 2018 – 100% Cinsault, young vines planted on poor soils
A very gourmet wine, very intense.
Very aromatic on the palate with fruity notes of ripe strawberries, cherries, floral notes of wisteria, it is a wine of very juicy pleasure.

Clots de Pals 2017 – 80% Grenache & 20% Syrah
Wine full of red fruits, chocolate. A juicy and supple wine.

Paul 2017 – 80% Syrah & 20% Grenache
2 Stars in the guide Hachette 2019
“A lot of personality and relief for this very pretty Syrah (80%) rounded off by a little Grenache. Pomegranate, strawberry, black fruit, spices, violet, enchanting nose. The enthusiasm does not fall back in the mouth: fresh, delicate substance, firm and chalky tannins, return of black fruits and spices with a mineral dimension, almost marine on the finish. From the character of terroir, concludes the taster, and very beautiful emotions in perspective after a little ageing.”

Gravières de Sancastel 2017 – 100% Syrah – 10 months of ageing in 400-litre barrels
The nose is still slightly marked by the ageing process but the wine is all velvet, a very supple and concentrated palate. The notes oscillate between chocolate, blackberry and blueberry. A delight!

Paul, Jean Marc & Anne

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