Tuesday, 4 October 2016

Bordeaux Harvest 2016

The grape harvest is in full flow at the moment here in Bordeaux.
It is always an exciting, busy and quite nerve racking time for everyone involved in grape growing and wine production. The fruits of a year's work will soon be established. It will be a great relief as 2016 has not been the easiest growing season in France. There has been hail in parts of the Languedoc (near Montpellier) recently and Burgundy seems to have had all sorts of frost and hail in May....which is very late, which has severely effected the quantity and quality of grapes.
Cabernet Sauvignon grapes ripening at Chateau Lafite Rothschild

But Bordeaux is currently enjoying some lovely weather. We had a wet and damp April, May and early June and then a decent warm Summer. And early Autumn has been very warm with consistent high temperatures.

Manual sorting at Chateau Haut Bailly. What music are they listening to?
Grape bunches being manually sorted at Chateau Pontet Canet

The only negative for Bordeaux during the Summer has been the lack of water.....grape growers are never happy! But this Summer has been very dry, which has effected the foliage and photosynthesis on some of the younger vines. The older vines with more established roots on gravel soils seem to have flourished far better, as well as the older vines on the cooler limestone soils around Saint Emilion. Most of the merlot grapes have been picked already in the Medoc and the grapes seem quite small with thick skins. Perhaps a tannic concentrated wine for 2016.
The Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc grapes are now being picked over the next two weeks. It is a delightful time to visit the Chateaux and smell the juice and see so much activity taking place. Bella Wine Tours continues to run some great tours throughout the year.
Biodynamic grapes gradually ripening at Chateau Pontet Canet

Saturday, 1 October 2016

White Wine in the Medoc?

Innovations at Chateau du Tertre in Margaux.
 Great to see some innovations and experiments at Chateau du Tertre. They have planted some Chardonnay, Gros Manseng, Viognier and Sauvignon Blanc to create their 'Tertre Blanc ' wine. Apart from Sauvignon Blanc these grape varieties are not permitted in the Bordeaux appellation to make Bordeaux Blanc. Therefore this white wine is declassified to 'Vin de France'.
They are also experimenting with large Austrian oak barrels, which is different from 99% of other top Chateaux, who use Allier or Troncais French oak. The only other Chateaux that I know who use a small amount of Austrian oak are Palmer (in Margaux) and Clinet (in Pomerol).
Tertre Blanc was first made in 2014 in small quantities (500 cases). It looks like 2016 could be a larger crop, but it will still be a small amount compared to the main emphasis at Chateau du Tertre on the red wines.
In the Medoc there are some interesting whites wines being produced, but they don't seem to be in the same quality league as Pessac Leognan. The major Chateaux that make white wines in the Medoc are: Palmer, Prieure Lichine, Talbot, Lynch Bages, Mouton Rothschild, Cos d'Estournel, Lagrange and Margaux.

The excellent guide, Anna, offering a lovely tasting of 2009, 2010 and 2011 Chateau du Tertre

Chateau du Tertre is certainly a wine estate to follow in the Margaux appellation for their improving quality. The Chateau was bought by Eric Albada Jelgersma in 1997 (he also owns nearby Giscours as well as Caiarossa in Tuscany). The talented Alexander van Beek looks after all Mr Albada Jelgersma's vineyards and since Frederique Ardouin arrived from Chateau Latour in 2008, the estate has been introducing biodynamic vineyard practises. The estate is also undergoing a re planting process to increase the density of vine plantings and to reduce the amount of Cabernet Franc on the vineyard.
The vines are planted over two main hills (Le Tertre means a 'hill' or 'mound') and the estate sits at the highest point of the Margaux appellation. The estate is ranked a 5th Growth from the classification of 1855, and interestingly it is the same size in 2016 as it was in 1855. There are very few estates that are the same size apart from Grand Puy Lacoste in Pauillac.
I recently tasted a magnificent 2005 Chateau du Tertre at the Chateau. It was perfectly 'in the zone' for tasting and drinking. Beautiful bright, balanced dark blackcurrant fruit style, with evident (but not too overbearing) acidity and tannin. A wine to enjoy now and over the next 10-15 years.
This wine retails for approximately £60 or $75 or €70.