Thursday, 22 October 2009

A weekend to celebrate

I have just got back from the UK, where we were celebrating my parents 40 years in the business with a big tasting event at the Royal Horticultural Halls in London.

It really was quite an event, with the chance to meet and talk shop with many a customer, even some who have been catching the blogs and know what’s going in Bordeaux this year. It’s fair
enough spending time making sure we make the best wines, but unless we have interaction with customers and get feedback, then we don’t really know if people actually enjoy it. But from the response over the weekend it seems that all is well and we are going in the right direction. Also have to mention that my Wilson Gunn Bellum 2007 picked up silver (twice) in best wines of the show. But I really have to thank a certain Mr Frazer for doing such a great job in selling it!

It’s quite amazing to think my Dad started 40 years ago in the same village that I am living in now. I met many a customer and producer this weekend who have been buying or selling from my Dad for longer than I have been alive! This I find incredibly impressive, and such loyalty I am sure can only happen through honesty, good service and a natural love for the product. I feel very proud to be associated with such a business and look forward to doing my little bit to keep both the customer and the producers happy and engaged!

While all this was going on I actually missed another celebration – the last day of the vintage. Yep, on Friday we picked the very last grapes of the year, the Cabernet Sauvignon for La Clariere. I called early on Friday to make sure everything was going ok, only to be informed that it was -1 degrees. This is very unusual for this time of year and any frost just kills the leaves on the vines, which meant we really couldn't have pushed it any further this year. In fact, when I returned this morning, I noticed all the vines in the bottom of the valleys had been turned to ruin with the leaves brown and about to fall off. I’ve never seen this before and you can even see the frost line on the hills with brown at the bottom and green on top.

Thankfully everything is now in so nature can throw what it likes at us and we won’t care! A lot of the ferments are now finished or coming to an end and this is where we get to really see what we have created. Unfortunately my jaunt to the UK has given me something to take back to France, a stinking cold! So I will have to wait for it to pass before providing you with the first tasting notes of the 2009 vintage!!

P.S. A few customers kindly asked how Alfie the dog is doing after his op! Well I came back to find he had eaten the roof out of our car………. so looks like he’s back to normal!! Arghhhhhhh!

Friday, 9 October 2009

I’ve just taken Alfie for a walk this evening for the first time in about 2 weeks.

Mainly because getting up at 6:30 every morning and then finishing late doesn’t leave much time for leisurely walks with the dog. But we always walk him through the vines and have done so for about 9 months.

I have seen all those vines break from winter dormancy, get smashed by hail in May, re-blossom and then ripen to (hopefully) make some great wine in 2009. Now they all lay bare and are starting to yellow and enter the next dormant phase. I knew I was going to enjoy my first year in the vines, but to see all the seasons and how the vines change has been very inspiring indeed. I can only hope I am lucky enough to keep doing this for many a year to come!

Now I’m trying to not bang on about how great 2009 is, as I’m sure you’ll get an earful when the wine press start putting out the articles in the next few months. Although I’d just like to say that we have now started picking the Cabernet Franc and guess what ... it’s great! I am a massive fan of Cab Franc as I love the finesse and fruit character it gives to the wine. Merlot on its own can be very big with impressive weight, but can also seem simplistic and unexciting.

I am lucky enough to possess around 40% of Franc in my Verniotte vineyards, most of it very old. Sutre said that if I ever re-plant, I should take cuttings from one certain patch of old vines as they are a different clone, and apparently very good. How he can tell this just by eating a grape I really don’t know

We are pumping over like crazy at the moment, and the colour is just immense! When we open the cellar doors in the morning to start work we get this wall of black fruit and plumb air that flows out. I almost want to shut them quick to keep it in!

Looks like we’ll finish the Cab Franc at the beginning of next week and then all that is left is 1 hectare of Cabernet Sauvignon for La Clariere. I really don’t want it to end!


Tuesday, 6 October 2009

Merlot almost done, Alfie definitely done!

It’s a fresh, sunny afternoon out here, after a very hot week, the
hottest I’ve ever known. The Verniotte Merlot is all in, the only
thing left out there is the old vine for La Clarière. This comprises of 100+ yr-old vines that have stood the test of time, and always give very low yields with impressive structure and finesse. Most of this will end up going into our Presbytere cuvée, a 100-case limited release taking the best fruit from the vintage.

It is becoming quite apparent that we are witnessing an exceptional year with incredibly ripe fruit, packed with colour and intensity. Some of the tanks have come to the end of their 7-day cold macerations and are so ink purple it seems to stain everything. This much colour and we haven’t even started fermenting yet!

The other notable events of the week include my wife Kaye’s birthday, and the removal of Alfie’s testicles! (he's our faithful hound, by the way) Coincidentally they happened on the same day, but I assure you they were unrelated! Within his 1st year Alfie has already managed to get hit by a car and break his legin two places, whilst also managing to run away at every opportunity
and slowly dismantle Kaye’s shoe collection. It’s for his own good! As you can see, he's well on the road to recovery.

A lot of my picking crew have now left to go back to the UK, and it is now up to the remaining hardcore group to finish the job. But I would just like to thank Lindsay, John, Willis, Dan, Laura, Scott, Jenny, Phil, Helen, Paul and of course Mum and Dad for all their help. All they get is a free t-shirt but they've worked hard to make it a very smooth week for me and I can’t thank them enough for there help!

Looks like we might see some clouds next week but still can’t see any serious rain on the horizon!

Thursday, 1 October 2009

Bordeaux 2009 is going to be special!

Well I’ve finally been able to get in front of my computer after a
week of solid picking, both at La Clarière and Verniotte. We’ve now
probably got about half of the merlot in and it really does look
phenomenal! And to top it off we have had solid sunshine for it all,
and it looks set to continue into next week. I have never known such
wonderful harvest weather!

We started on Thursday with Verniotte and as usual I had my picking
crew over from England, consisting of friends and family who have helped me out most years. They themselves cannot believe the quality and health of the fruit this year. Not one berry with botrytis rot……..not one! Even in the great 2005 we had at least some!

On Saturday I decided to start La Clarière picking at 6am in the morning so we could use the cold fresh nights to get the fruit in as cool as possible to aid our cold maceration in tank. Picking under the stars and then watching a blood red sun come up was incredible. The fruit came in at 10 degrees, which was perfect. We could then keep it there for a week and pump over to extract colour before fermentation starts, whilst also conserving aromas and freshness.

Each bunch and berry that comes in goes through a complicated array of sorting tables, vibrating tables, escalators and finally gets into the tank in perfect condition. Here people usually sort frantically to remove any rotten or unripe berries before they reach the tank, but this year is so clean that we just stand there and admire these delightful little balls, full of sweet rich flavour. I’m getting a bit excited now!

Sutre came this morning and did his usual tour. He always writes a
report and faxes it through in the afternoon, detailing what to pick
next. In the comments section he simply wrote: “ Belle Vendage,
sanitaire impeccable!” - beautiful havest, impeccable health! Which
pretty much sums it up.

The vineyards have done their bit this year, it’s now up to us to make sure we make a wine that really shows what a wonderful gift mother nature has given us this year!