Exclusively manual grape harvest
As from the collection of the grapes, it is necessary to go very quickly to prevent at all costs that the grape juice is in contact with oxygen. Such a situation would undoubtedly involve the oxidation of must, which, for a white wine of Alsace, is a particularly dangerous risk (loss of freshness of the wine).
The machine to be gathered the grapes is thus to proscribe, because it endangers the bunches of disintegration, by the violence of the treatment to which it subjects them. It is preferable to have a manual grape-picking, which makes it possible to make a sorting according to the soundness of each grape bunch.
Wine making of the white wines of Alsace
After the grape harvest starts a stage as mysterious as essential: the passage of grape juice to wine.
The diversity of the white wines of Alsace is the occasion for the winemaker to mark its style. Nevertheless, it imposes especially a total control of certain complex techniques, not always easy to handle.
1 st stage – a fast vintage
It is important that the way of the grape to the press is as short as possible: thus all the conditions are met so that the must is not oxidized.
2nd stage – pressing
The grape is forwarded to the press. Today, this operation is carried out by pneumatic presses, at the same time powerful and fast. The first run-through juice is initially collected (“jus de goutte”). Then when the press begins its work, follows the “jus de presse”. This one must then be cleared of the suspended particles and the grape remainders (fragments of skin, pits and stalks).
3rd stage – clarification (or washing)
In order to be clarified, the wine remains a few hours in a tank where the particles come to settle on the bottom, by gravity. This process is referred to as static settling (“débourbage”). A racking is made (one separates simply the deposit from the clear juice). This stage it is preferable to cool the tank to delay the departure of fermentation. One then carries out the centrifugation which represents the first filtration.
4th stage – fermentation
Once directed towards its tank of fermentation, the juice is finally ready to undergo the action of the natural yeasts which will be put at work and will transform the sugars contained in the juice into alcohol.
It is then essential that fermentation is controlled perfectly, in particular with the level of the temperature of the must, which will warm up. The tanks, made out of stainless steel, are generally maintained between 20 and 24° C, so that fermentation make it possible the secondary flavours to develop harmoniously. These flavours convey the typical features of each Alsatian type of vine. The wine making is finished when alcoholic fermentation ends. Then the ageing starts. But that’s is another story…
A very powerful fermenting room: important investments made it possible to modernize the existing fermenting room and to adapt it to the requirements of quality, blending and secured bulk storage.
An attention of every moment: beyond the material, there are the men. To lead the wines to their apogee, the technical manager and oenologist Evelyne Dondelinger-Bleger and the master of wine storehouses Yves Ortlieb, deploy their competences throughout the year. Once bottled, the wines are placed in cellar of ageing to reach the maturity desired under optimum conditions for storage.
Of course the vine growers themselves take part very regularly in tastings with the winemakers, in order for everyone to be completely aware of the whole process: from the vineyard to the bottle. This very personal relation between the winemakers and their wines is essential to give them their character and their personality.
Parallel to the high quality level of production, a particular attention is given to the presentation of the wines. The wines are well labelled and packaged, with clear colour codes and a strong recognizable logo (the minstrel). The brand “Ribeauvillé” is well-identified in all our products and communication, conveying the image of Cave de Ribeauvillé on shelves and on tables throughout the world.
Crémant d’Alsace: traditional method of sparkling wine
Crémant d’Alsace is elaborated according to the traditional method, first used in the Champagne region.
After the initial fermentation in tank to make the base wine , a liquid made up of yeast and sugar syrup is added to the wine (“liqueur d’expédition”). The wine is then bottled and a temporary capsule is affixed.
The 2nd fermentation
The bottles then rest “sur lattes”, in the freshness and the darkness of the cellars. The development of the bubbles (“prise de mousse”) is spread out over one period from 3 to 5 weeks, at low temperature (approximately 10°C). During this period the pressure created by the carbonic gas in the bottle can go up to 5,5 bars.
Legal ageing is fixed at 9 months minimum in Alsace. At Cave de Ribeauvillé we apply 12 months minimum.
Following the 2nd fermentation, the deposit (mainly yeasts) will have to be withdrawn. “Remuage” is the technique used to gather the deposit in the collar of the bottle before it is ejected. The bottles are placed in so-called “gyropalettes” where they are inclined, their slope being accentuated in the course of time.
The deposit is then evacuated while passing the collar of the bottle in a brine bath involving the formation of a stopper of ice. The capsule is then withdrawn and the stopper ejected under the effect of the pressure of carbonic gas. This operation is called “dégorgement”.
The volume released by the deposit allows for adjusting the sugar content, called “dosage”, using a wine and sugar liquor (“liqueur de tirage”). But this is a house secret !