Words, wise or otherwise, about wine

Harvest at Maison Ilan

I have just spent an awesome few days with Ray Walker at Maison Ilan helping with the harvest for 2011. Ray is based in Nuits-St-George and this is his third vintage having moved to France from California to pursue his dream of making world class Burgundy wines. This was my first visit to Burgundy in an attempt to discover more about the Cote d’Or, its vineyards and its wines. Ray was the perfect teacher.

Ray Walker

To say that Ray is focused would be to misrepresent his absolute passion, drive and commitment to producing wines that are a faithful representation of the soil in which the grapes are grown. Meticulous attention to the quality of the fruit coming in and ruthlessness in discarding anything that doesn’t meet his extraordinarily high standards are the order of the day.

Picking grapes from the top of Charmes Chambertin

Ray inspecting the fruit at aux Charmes

Aux Charmes quality Pinot Noir

There are no high tech gizmos in his winery / garage, no vibrating sorting tables, no air blowers or optical sensors. This is manual wine making, every grape bunch is hand sorted, every leaf and ladybird is manually removed before the grapes receive their only mechanical touch – the de-stemmer. Further sorting of the de-stemmed grapes removes any stem remnants (jacks) before the grapes are placed in the wooden or stainless steel fermentation vats. A small dose of sulphur is the only addition and fermentation is left to start naturally. Pigeage is kept to an absolute minimum.

Sorting fruit....

....by hand

Wooden fermenting vats

The days are long, starting at 7am and not stopping until all the fruit is sorted and safely in to the vats. Work continues late in to the night accompanied by the occasional fortifying beverage from Ray’s cellar!

Working late

...spurred on by the thought of drinking one of these!

I may be tired, bruised and grape juice stained but it was a great privilege to spend time with Ray and the rest of the volunteers, Mark Freeman, Alino Punzalan, Jonathon Beagle and Shun Yamaguchi. I’m excitedly looking forward to tasting the fruits of my labours in a couple of years and in the meantime you can follow Maison Ilan here.


2 responses

  1. Darren
    I am beyond impressed by your exceptional work ethic, and utterly flattered by your commentary. Thank you for joining in on the hijinks. It really wouldn’t have been as great without your involvement. I’m looking forward to your next visit. You are always welcome here, with pleasure.



    September 13, 2011 at 12:39 pm

    • Thanks Ray and I’m already looking forward to next year.

      September 13, 2011 at 9:08 pm

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