Thursday, 23 September 2010

It’s great to be back in Castillon, with the fever of vintage in the air.

They seem to come round quicker ever year, or maybe it’s just that people are still talking about last year and how great it was.

On that subject dad flew over for the weekend and together we racked the 09 Verniotte out of barrel and blended it all into a tank. The aromas of strawberry ice cream filled the cellar, I really have never smelt or seen a Castillon like this.

The wine is so dark purple in colour that if you spilt a bit on top of the barrels it stains it. You can’t get rid of it like usual, no matter how much sulphur I use it won’t budge. So my nice clean barrels I’ve had all year now look like they’ve been kept in a slaughter house.

But what might you ask does 2010 look like? Well one thing is for sure, there ain’t very much! Bad flowering in June has meant a very low crop this year and on top of that it has been extremely dry over the summer and so the berries are very small with little juice.

All this means that the fruit is extremely ripe and concentrated, sugar levels that I have never seen before. But no-one has picked because the acid is also high and everyone is also waiting for phenolic ripeness. Growers seem to be much better informed around here now as 5 years ago everyone would have started picking by now. Also there is rain predicted for Friday, and I think everyone is hoping some of it will get into the fruit to give a bit more juice, but we shall see!!

On Friday we are going to pick a very small amount of La Clariere, the young vines that have been really stressed in the heat and are very tired and want to be picked. But I don’t think the main picking will start until the middle of next week.

I reckon we will start Verniotte on Wednesday! The vines are healthy, if a little thirsty, but 2010 is looking superb and I can’t complain, except about volume, so I’m definitely a farmer now!


Wednesday, 15 September 2010

30 Years and counting

Today I am 30 years old, and I feel very happy. I’ve always looked forward to being older and wiser, maybe because I have always had a ‘baby face’ as Kaye puts it. I’m never really bothered about birthdays, but I guess when you reach a milestone like this you can’t help but reminisce.

My twenties have certainly been focused around wine and winemaking, learning and experiencing every year. When I started making wine properly for myself, at 22, I reckon I thought it was pretty easy, probably because I got lucky with some good vintages and had some excellent help. But as the years have progressed I have learnt that it is never plain sailing and problem solving is part and parcel of making anything.

Wine producers like to give the impression that everything is done perfectly and all is well all the time, but most of the time this is not true, but that’s what makes it so exciting. Making a good wine in difficult years gives a greater sense of achievement than making it in a perfect growing season (like Bordeaux 2009).

I tried my Wilson Gunn 2004 recently, and was truly amazed at how it tasted. When released it wasn’t the usual powerhouse, knock your head off wine like 2003, but it has aged much better, elegant and really classy. But the sad thing is that most people have probably drunk it already, and so can’t experience what I have. This is a constant conundrum in my head. The pressure to release young wines is great, because we need the money to make the following years wine. But even if we tell people to keep hold of it, they will probably drink it too early anyway, unless they have a massive cellar, which most people don’t.

Laithwaites are about to release my new 2008 Verniotte in the September catalogue. My first vintage from my new Castillon vineyards. I am very proud of it, but I know it will drink better in say 3 years. Not that it is not good now, but I know it will get better, because of my new found 30 yr old wiseness! But in 3 years it will be all gone, so if you do buy a case or 6 bottles (very nice packaging!) please, please save some bottles, you will not regret it, I promise!

Anyway enough of that, it is fast approaching vintage time in Bordeaux and I have to drive out tomorrow. I have finished tidying my UK vineyard (see Pic) and can now leave knowing they can finish out the season in a weed free manner. 2010 is shaping up to be another monster year, I think the Bordelaise are going to run out of words soon to describe vintages. But before we pick I have to rack the ‘great’ 2009 vintage, a chance to do the final blend and then tell you how it tastes.