Putting a cork in 2006

A Case \'o PeugeotSomewhere around 10pm last night, we stretched the last label over the last bottle of 2006 Peugeot, drawing to a close that plucky vintage. It’s kind of like putting the last fin-fold on a paper airplane and then flicking it into space — it could crash, it could sail, but aside from the momentum you put into the construction and the toss, its destiny is now pretty much out of your hands.

Based on what I tasted last night, though, I think it’ll float on the breeze quite elegantly for a while. Into a holding tank, we siphoned half of each of the barrels we’d put the blend into back in the fall, and then added half of the stainless steel container that held the rest of the blend. After bottling that, we siphoned what remained in each of those containers into the tank, bottling until the last dregs dripped through the hose. A pain in the ass, but the idea behind it was that each barrel probably evolved a little differently over the last 7 months, so bottling them one after the other would result in different wines. More critically, the wine stored in the stainless — because it had no further oak exposure after blending — was indeed tighter, so it at least had to be spread around.

We’d never bottled this much wine at one sitting, so while we knew it would be a slog, we didn’t really know how much of one. A few volunteers came early to think through the system, get it set up, and begin the first blend into tank, and then the full complement came a few hours later at 3. While the two blends into tank added to the time, it was, as always, the labeling that took for-effing-ever. We’ve got to figure out a better way to do that. If George hadn’t requested his cases come un-labeled, we might still be sticky with glue.

All in all, though, I think it was worth it. The Peug was remarkably fragrant in the tank, and it laid gracefully in the mouth with lovely ripe fruit, subtle tannin, and a good spine of acidity. Before we added the first portion from the stainless, it tasted round, full, and ready to slide down the gullet; after the tighter product from the stainless, it clenched up again, but it says to me that after a year or so, this one should be exceptionally lovely. That’s borne out by the 2005 Peug, which blossomed about 3 years out.

Mmmmmm… when is 2009 again? Pics from bottling after the break…

Where the glass meets the wine
Bottling central. Wine flowed from a tank just out of the frame, into our spiffy new Italian bottling rig. It all worked very well, but there was an awful lot of aeration when the wine entered the bottling reservoir, so we’ve got to solve that problem before next bottling.

Wine meets machine meets wine
A sexy close-up of the wine leaving the nest into its own private bottle. Just slip the bottle up the stainless tube and your hands are free for more important tasks — like tasting.

Bottle to cork
A better view of the machine-like system we rigged up, and the focused, somber way we implemented it. Those smiling in this shot have since been fired.

Painstakingly labeling the Peugeot
You haven’t tasted tedious until you’ve slipped a thousand thin top labels through a labeler and tried to stretch then over the top of a bottle. Aside from the (to me, anyway) elegant/industrial look a top label gives the wine, it’s also a way to avoid the PVC lacing the colored capsules covering the tops of most wine bottles. After this exercise, though, we may decide a little PVC is just the thing…

Case upon case of tasty goodness
The resulting litter, tails a-wagging and ready for new owners. The house training should be especially pleasurable.

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