The harvest date is determined on the basis of two complementary criteria: ripeness tests and tasting of the grapes. In accordance with the previously established map of the vines' vigour, the grapes are harvested by hand in small slatted crates to prevent compacting. Several passages are therefore necessary so that only uniformly ripe batches are harvested. There is very strict sorting in the vineyard; for the red grapes, this is followed by a double sorting table and a Pellenc destemmer, in order to remove any plant debris.
Vinification of white wines
As soon as they are harvested, the white grapes are placed in a cold room (6°/8°C) for one night. The next day they are pressed, either as whole bunches or, depending on the characteristics of the harvest, destemmed, thereby allowing a gentle maceration on the skins using an Inertys pneumatic press. This maceration enables the extraction of the flavour precursors contained in the skins. After settling, the yeasts will take over to transform these precursors into full flavours, revealing notes of citrus fruit, exotic fruit or white flowers, reflecting the uniqueness of Couhins' terroir. Maturing on lees The white wines are matured on the lees which, kept in suspension by stirring, give the batches a natural protection against oxidation. In addition, the yeasts produce peptide compounds that give the wines roundness, and mannoproteins that contribute to stability and the wines' keeping properties. The search for balance
Our wines are vinified and matured in temperature-controlled vats, barrels and casks. This combination is justified on several levels. First, it would seem clear that the expression of Sauvignon fermented in vats is slightly better than that which is obtained by fermentation in barrels. In other respects, the wood provides a good foil for the fruit, without masking it. Ultimately, it has been found that the pairing of barrels and vats brings greater complexity to the blend than an "all in barrels" or "all in tanks" approach.
Vinification of red wines
After a night in the cold room and after double sorting, the grapes are transported by gravity to the tanks with appropriate dimensions for a gentle extraction of phenolic compounds (tannins, anthocyanins etc.). Their small size (60 hectolitres on average) enables the vinification of the small volumes that result from plot by plot management. Most of the extraction process and pumping over takes place in the pre-fermentation and fermentation phases, at moderate temperatures ranging from 25 to 28°C in order to obtain good quality tannins. Towards the end of the fermentation, we are more "monitoring" than "working" the wine. After maceration, the juices are transferred to vats and new barrels for malolactic fermentation. When this second fermentation stage has been completed, the wines from the tanks are put in one-year-old barrels, and join the new barrels (1/3) for a maturing period of 12 months. Traditional manual punching down
The extraction stage is given detailed consideration at Couhins. There is a tendency today to return to the practice of manual punching down, a gentle extraction technique if correctly controlled (manual pushing down of the pomace cap using a pole) with an adjustment of the frequency of the pumping over, to create a uniform temperature in the tanks and oxygenate the wine.