Thursday, 12 November 2009

Although Bordeaux 2009 has drawn to a close, I haven't wasted time in starting with the next project.

As I have said we are moving back to the UK in December as my wife Kaye is to start work again. We are also going to start a little vineyard project of our own, and jump on the successful UK sparkling bandwagon!

For research we took a small trip to Champagne to see an old friend of mine Thierry Lesne. I worked with Thierry in my very first vintage in the Ard├Ęche in 1998, where I learnt how to hunt wild bore and hate Pastis!

We simply went to see how things work, extract as much info as possible, and see what I was getting myself into. It was quite obvious from the start that it is very different from anything I have done before. Some things are the same, for instance the expression of terroir, more so than in any other wine.

Because everyone makes their wine in exactly the same way (they have too!), the defining factors are where the fruit comes from, and how they are blended together. We tried many base wines, and I think lost most of the enamel off my teeth because of the acidity. The differences are incredibly subtle, and the art of blending will probably be the hardest part. I was completely fascinated by it all and am really relishing the chance to make something completely different.

Although one thing I have learnt is that you cannot simply take one production method from one country and export it to another.

Everywhere is different, and each site is specific. Meaning because we are starting from scratch there is no model to follow like over here in France, no rules to govern how we grow the fruit, just lots of questions!! It will be a fascinating adventure and I hope to let you know how it goes!

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Friday, 6 November 2009

The end of an adventure!

Last week represented the end of my 2009 harvest, as I pressed off the last tank of Verniotte Cabernet Franc. I had to do it on my own as the last of my vintage crew had disappeared. Not really an issue for most places, but when you are still using an ancient manual ratchet basket press, things take about twice as long. I always say it will be the last year I use it, but when you are making such small volumes it just makes sense. It may take a while but what’s the rush!!

Although this time on my own did give me a chance to reflect on such a wonderful year, that sadly has come to an end. Yes it was a great vintage, but that is not the reason why I enjoyed it. It was the chance to really get to know my vines for the first time, and learn all the little things it takes to grow the best fruit possible. It by no means went smoothly. I must have broken my sprayer about 4 times, and nearly lost the tractor over a small cliff. But this is the only way you can learn.

I am moving back to the UK with Kaye (and Alfie) in December, as Kaye is starting work again. This means I will be leaving the vines in the capable hands of my French experts. Although I am sad to leave these vineyards, I will be back at least once a month to see how 2010 pans out, and obviously make sure the wonderful 2009 Verniotte evolves into the beauty it should. But before that we have the excellent 2008 vintage being bottled in March, which is sure to impress.

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