Pied de Cuve: Our "Base Stock" and Best Stock for Chardonnay
Harvest is just around the corner! While we still have a few more weeks to wait for the red grapes, our Chardonnay has ripened beautifully and will be ready any day now. Keeping with our new tradition of all-natural winemaking, in the vineyard as well as the cellar, a new technique that was implemented in 2011 for our white wine is called pied de cuve. Translated from French, it means “base stock”, and when you learn the process, the term makes perfect sense.
(Chardonnay, before in the vineyard, and after in the tank)
Pied de Cuve is the process by which a vineyard-specific yeast is used to initiate fermentation. Meaning, the yeast is all natural. It comes from the vineyard and is found on the skins of the grapes and is not something that is bought or added. Done about 1-2 weeks before the grapes are ready to be harvested entirely, the process involves collecting about 10kg (22lbs) of some of the best fruit in the vineyards. The grapes are crushed and then set in a stainless steel tank with the skins, to start fermentation. This creates the “base stock”. Once the rest of the fruit has been harvested, pressed, and the juice is put into tanks, a small amount of juice from the pied de cuve is added to jump start fermentation, and helps to avoid any possibility of early oxidation. This process isn’t necessary for the red wine because red grapes are typically fermented with the skins, so they will have all of the necessary yeasts.
As one of our winemakers, Ashleigh Seymour, says, “Using a pied de cuve allows us to have a fuller expression of our terroir and truer representation of the region. Since we don’t buy commercial yeasts, we have a more natural and consistent fermentation, leading to a better end product for our customers.”
In the simplest form of winemaking, one could say grapes + yeasts + time = wine. If one sincerely wishes to make a wine that is as pure an expression of time and place as possible, it would seem ideal that the yeasts come from the same region and vintage as the fruit. As one of our number 1 goals is to fully express our terroir, we are happy to use this process for our white wine.
For us, the most important factor in Pied de Cuve, is not why or when we pick the grapes, but how we pick the grapes. While most wineries might just have their normal vineyard workers pick grapes, we instead, get the entire team involved - commercial, accounting, marketing - our first day of harvest is started all together as a team. For us, the difference between a good wine, and a great wine, is our teamwork and common goal of everyone working together and playing a part in our winemaking.