A laboratory supporting improvement

Located in Lussac, La Rose Perrière is one of the oldest estates in the appellation. Jean-Luc Sylvain fell for the charms of this unusual estate, its colourful history and its exceptional clay-and-limestone terroir and bought it in 2003.

Since then, besides the winemaking activity, Château La Rose Perrière is Tonnellerie Sylvain R&D laboratory.

The objectives

Tests are carried out every year to understand and increase knowledge of vinification and ageing in barrels. For the purpose of these tests the Sylvain family has planted various autochtonous and indigenous grape varieties on their land.
• Red: Merlot, Cabernet franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinot Noir, Shiraz and Malbec.
• White: Sauvignon, Semillon, Muscadelle and Chardonnay.

The purpose of these experiments is to better understand the association of the characteristics of the oak wood origin with the characteristics of the grapes and finally to assess the impact of the wood on the wine over time. The principle aim is to define the best mariage between oak wood origin and wine variety/assembly to be able to give pertinent advice
to the customers.

The second aim is the optimisation of the process of use of the barrels by assisting the purchasers of barrels in their wine making techniques.

The third aim is to enable our coopers to improve their know-how and check if their production practices have an impact on wine.
This is clearly a question of improving production processes to provide the customer with a highly dependable product. In this field the tests performed mainly concern the aromatic components of the wood, the drying time, the toasting, the homogeneity of our barrels, etc.

At last, this is also the training centre for the sales team.

A controlled experimental process

Every idea and intuition is tested and monitored up to the end of ageing. Not a single new barrel profile is submitted without this long period of experimentation, which is essential if we are to offer the best possible barrel ideally suited to requirements.

Every experiment carried out in the laboratory follows the same process:

  • A problem
  • A test protocol
  • Continuous monitoring
  • Organoleptical / or, chemical analyses
  • Test reports and reports on decisions
  • Conclusions

At the end of this process the experiments are stopped, continued or are orientated in another direction. In addition, all trials conducted are sent to independant laboratories for analysis. In order to check the repeatability of what has been observed, the test protocols are repeated from year to year.

Discussion: the basis for innovation

echange

Tonnellerie Sylvain calls on the services of oenologists and independent analysis laboratories for its research protocols in order to compare ideas between the cooper’s art and the expertise of the taster and winemakers.

Discussion, openness and an understanding of winemakers’ requirements are central to our approach. Innovation stems from an exchange of ideas between wood experts and wine specialists.

The example of the Integral Vinification barrel

From the start in 2007 – The Technical Manager of the winery made the choice of a capacity of 500L for the “Vinification Intégrale” because it suited economic, practical and of course taste criteria. The vinification barrel is a synthesis of the barrel and the stainless steel tank. The wine stays in the barrel for the duration of the vinification; the malolactic fermentation takes place afterwards. During this period the 500L barrel rotates to allow the extraction of the tannins and the aromas of the grapes.

2008/2009 – The tests performed after these experiments showed that the wine was “under wined”, in other words the extraction was insufficient. The Technical Manager is working on this question to find solutions and develop a “marc breaker”. The test protocol includes then several tests to check the influence of several parameters.

2010
To further improve extraction and reveal the wine, new tests were performed; racking was added to the techniques of extraction rotation + pressing. The results obtained were much better and we understood that mechanical extraction is too fast when compared with this mixture of finer and more accurate manual techniques. The tastings after these tests suggest that we can go still further to find the tannins in the wine and refine them even more.

2014 – A new element completed the extraction: infusion. After the alcoholic fermentation, when the barrel contained about 25% of empty space above the wine (the space between the surface of the wine and the top of the barrel), the management team decided to fill the barrel completely. The marc on the surface is then submerged; this called infusion of the tannins. The first organoleptic analyses showed that the technique provides superb tannin quality. The results are encouraging.

2016 – Full scale tests: the first tests were carried out on Château La Rose Perrière.

2017 – So, rotation + extraction + infusion; does this optimise the chemistry of the wine? The results obtained with Cabernet are impressive and with Merlot it is possible to go even further ! What is remarkable and stimulating in the research, is that every
time we think we have achieved the goal, a new quality challenge appears.

2019 – New campaings are launched to always improve some parameters and test new axis of development.