2018: never before seen!
For anyone who had a doubt about climate change, the year 2018 should shake up their beliefs a little.
After a very wet first six months (rainfall up 40% on the thirty-year average), without sun (a record in Bordeaux for the lowest sunshine), which set back bud burst and flowering by around a week, we then moved to a completely opposite climate with barely 60mm of rain in July, August and September, temperatures 2.3°C higher than the thirty-year average, and a temperature sum up 10% just before the start of harvest.
Nature suffers with such severe drought, somewhat reminiscent of 1976, but the vine is a robust plant, well suited to conditions of reasonable water stress. The water reserves built up during winter and spring and the vine’s deep roots mean that it can still have very green foliage.
The only exception in the Médoc is with young vines of 3 to 10 years old, which can show some defoliation due to too much stress.
And where does that leave the grapes?
Exceptional ripeness with taste and fruit in the flesh. The skins remain thick (the grape’s protection against the sun) and ripening of the tannins has been slow and regular.
For the Cabernet Sauvignon, there are very high hopes of reaching perfect phenolic ripeness (colour and tannins). We will have to wait for it, and Nature has given us the opportunity to do so. Probably among the greatest Cabernet Sauvignons ever produced in our vineyard.
As for the Petit Verdot, it is taking its time. Picked last year at the start of harvest, this year it will probably finish it.
2017 VINTAGE: STRESSFUL, UNUSUAL AND FINE
Though the wines are not yet finished, there are already some signs here and there of the quality of this vintage, which will certainly remain one for the record books.
Yes, it is the smallest crop since 1991, a year marked by a spring frost on 21 April that destroyed almost all the buds. This year the cold struck on the morning of 27 April, and the expected yield for our vineyard will be around 34 hl/ha.
This was followed by a dry season but without excesses of temperature, lasting until September. At this date, parallels with the 1961 vintage, legendary in Bordeaux, were still possible (Bordeaux was hit by frost that year!).
The first half of September was very wet, with regular rainfall totalling about 80 mm putting our nerves to the test. The consequences were very variable, from one vineyard to another, from the south to the north of the Médoc. The soil type, viticultural practices and daily monitoring of ripeness were the key success factors.
Immediately, we can say that it is without doubt a fine vintage, certainly not having the minerality or tension of a 2010 or 2016 vintage, but with a magnificent aromatic freshness, roundness and balance. And the colour! Crimson and deep, a sign of the greatest years!
We are not far off thinking that this 2017 vintage will be at least as attractive as the 2015. This should be confirmed by future tastings.
So is 2017 a Winegrower’s Year or a Winemaker’s Year?
This year, we really needed the full set of skills to best express what Mother Nature saw fit to leave us.
Sunday 1 October: the teams have already been working for 10 days to bring in what should be a crop of good quality!
Time always seems to pass slowly during this period: between the uncertainties of the weather, the search for optimum ripeness and the fear of an outbreak of rot, the stress and legitimate concerns are gradually turning into the great satisfaction of a job well done.
The last 15 days of September, fine and dry, did their work: nice development of the tannins towards much more finesse and a very good state of health that is holding up well.
Although many of our colleagues had already tidied away their hods, baskets and secateurs at the end of the week, we still have around twenty hectares of Cabernet Sauvignon to pick next week: we are watching it like hawks, because it is the best gravel plateau at the property and without doubt a very high-quality asset (see photo taken on Saturday 30 September) for our 2017 vintage.
The Merlots have barely started their fermentation for Château Arnauld and Château Larose Perganson, after cold soaking for 8 days, while those of Larose Trintaudon are bubbling away!
The colours at this stage are clean, brilliant, with crimson reflections and interesting depth. The first wines to have finished show rare balance and remarkable freshness.
The last Cabernet Sauvignon grapes still on the vine show tannins of great softness: they have reached their full and complete phenolic ripeness.
So, after another 2 or 3 days next week, we will close this 2017 growing season with a crop of very good quality but low in quantity.
2017 vintage: a demanding year and it’s not over yet!
After the frost of 27 April which destroyed 50% of the crop, after the chaotic green harvest due to the difference in vine growth in plots affected by frost and those that were not, now we have been through the past 10 days with constant humidity and accumulated rainfall of the order of 70 mm.
The technical teams have spent these past 10 days going through the vineyard to monitor closely the risk of the appearance of botrytis (grey rot) and the development of ripeness by tasting the berries.
The question is always the same in this sort of situation: should we bring forward grape picking or rather wait for optimum ripeness with the risk of having to do a bit more sorting of the grapes?
Confident with the work carried out in the vineyard during this unusual year, we have the choice to pick at full ripeness and thus have the best chance of succeeding with a great 2017 vintage, breaking with the saying that years ending in “7” are often difficult ones.
The latest observations on 15 and 16 September have shown a good state of health for the harvest and a very significant development in ripeness, and the pulp of the Merlot grapes is very fruity with fine tannins and excellent potential for colour extraction.
The dice have been thrown! We are starting the harvest on 18 September with the best Merlots of Château Arnauld and Château Larose Perganson. The Merlots of Château Larose Trintaudon will follow very soon after.
The next two weeks are forecast to be sunny and not too hot. This gives hope to the winegrowers who have given so much to their vineyards this year.
But let’s stay vigilant because the game is far from over!
Technical Director / Managing Director
2016 HARVEST: The longest, and among the finest
It is now several days since the last grapes were brought in. On our estates, we have just lived through the longest harvest in more than 30 years (from 27 September to 20 October). Four weeks of picking under perfect conditions, with a result that looks to be extremely promising.
We have just finished running off the Merlots at Arnauld, as well as those at Larose Trintaudon and Larose Perganson. There again, we have recorded the longest times on skins for more than 30 years, with more than 30 days on average across the Merlots. We were convinced, given the nobility of the raw material, that maceration would give the perfect coating to the tannins which make this vintage one of the greats among the greats. The result after running off corresponds perfectly to our expectations, and so we have made an identical choice for the Cabernet Sauvignons and the Petit Verdots. They will therefore be run off between 7 November and 18 November.
Another characteristic of the vintage is the very uniform quality across all the vats. They all show fresh fruit and black fruit aromas, treating us to a remarkable volume and density on the mid palate as well as a long, powerful and classy finish.
While the journalists always try to compare the latest vintage produced with previous years (because they often need a reference) the winegrower tries to cultivate the difference and to give the newborn its own identity.
It seems to me to be a marriage that is almost perfect (almost, because perfection does not exist for a winegrower) between the ripeness of the 2009 vintage, with the fat, creaminess and volume on the palate, and the 2010 vintage with its black fruit aromas, its density, its power and its length. But let’s be reasonable and wait for the Cabernet Sauvignons to be run off, even if our enthusiasm is great!
See you soon,
Franck BIJON – Managing Director/Technical Director
MEDOC 16 OCTOBER 2016: The moon and the sun showing at their best, just like this 2016 vintage which promises to be exceptional!
The harvest is nearing its end with the Cabernet Sauvignon that will all be picked on Thursday 20 October. Certainly the latest vintage for our vineyards, but with what results!
The Merlots are finishing their fermentation: a splendid deep crimson colour and black fruit aromas. Still lively (they have not yet gone through malolactic fermentation) the palate is full and round and the tannins powerful and fine.
The Petit Verdots that smell of red currant and the Cabernet Sauvignons that, when we taste the grapes, make us think of Merlot such is the ripeness of the tannins: when power combines with smoothness!
Without doubt a winegrowers’ year, where all the work carried out has made the difference, in particular in soil management and control of the yields.
Sunrise over the Gironde on 16 October
2016: the hope of making great wines is growing as each day passes!
Since our last update on 27 September, our region has recorded only 5 to 10 mm of rain during the day of 1 October, while to the south and east of Bordeaux they had nearer 30 mm. Since then, nothing, just a gentle wind from the east that is concentrating our superstar grapes a little more!
The first of the best Merlots from Château Arnauld and Château Larose Perganson are barely starting to ferment after 8 days of cold soaking. The impression left by the first juice at the end of maceration: syrup, the scent of grenadine, going from red currant to blackberry.
The best Merlots of Château Larose Trintaudon are just starting to be picked. On the vine, they are still taking on flavour and the tannins continue to settle down. We should finish bringing them in around 13 October.
For the rest, namely the Petit Verdot and Cabernet Sauvignon, we are continuing our tastings of the berries. The tannins are powerful and will be ripe in a few days. Start of picking around 14 October.
Nature, through the clement weather, has this year given us the possibility of getting what we think could be among the finest Cabernet Sauvignons ever produced. So let’s go!
Franck BIJON, 8 October 2016
2016: the current weather allows us to refine our strategy for the coming harvest!
With 40 mm of rain mid-September coming after more than two months of drought, we were waiting to see the reaction of the vines.
Having suffered severe water stress, they have not seen their grapes double in volume. Ripening re-started with good sugars and very promising levels of anthocyanin.
For the oldest vines, with deep roots, and after a week of stagnation of the ripeness indicators, the objective of great ripeness worthy of a 2009 or 2010 is on the point of being achieved.
First to be picked were 3.5 hectares of young Merlot vines, which will be vinified to give fruit, roundness and indulgence.
Picking will continue at the end of this week with the first Merlots of Château Arnauld and Château Larose Perganson, from the commune of Lamarque on the banks of the river. The first tank is quite simply exceptional for its aromatic richness and intense colour; you only have to look at the juice that trickles off the sorting table! The hope for something unique has arisen today in the hearts and souls of all our teams.
A tasting of grapes from the rest of the Merlots of Château Arnauld and Château Larose Perganson has been programmed for Thursday 29 September to allow us to decide what happens next. However, I must admit that deep down I believe we should wait until 4 or 5 October.
As for the Merlots for Château Larose Trintaudon, they are improving in taste every day. It is therefore essential to wait at least until the middle of next week. Watch this space…
Franck BIJON, 27 September 2016
Harvest 2015: Sunday 1st November- busy running off and pressing !
After the intense activity of picking and vinification, the vat cellars have returned to a relative serenity.
In the days following the alcoholic fermentations the team and I were able to calmly taste each vat together, determining the quality levels of our Merlot and Cabernet.
This is always a special moment for us as the cellar is almost silent compared to the weeks before. When we arrive in the early morning the only sound we can hear is the ‘ploup, ploup, ploup’ coming from the vats beginning their malolactic fermentation…*
Today we have run off about two-thirds of the vats and selected three quality levels for each grape variety.
My first impressions appear justified : the wines are promising an intense aromatic expression with fresh, ripe (not over-ripe) red fruit. The palate is full and generous with very tender, well-integrated tannins.
For those who remember the 1990, this 2015 is a little reminiscent of the roundness and fullness of that charming vintage.
Only a few more vats of Cabernet to run off and then, using our pre-selections, we can begin thinking about the ‘construction’ of our wines before going onto the ageing.
We will get back to you in about a month to share the art of ‘assemblage’, as we blend the grape varieties together and marry free-run wine with the press wine.
Franck Bijon – Winemaker
*(natural disacidification of the wine thanks to the action of friendly bacteria found on the grapes)
Monday 12th October –All is safely gathered in !
All our efforts of the past week went into picking the last Cabernet Sauvignons for our 3 properties along with the Petit Verdots for Château Arnauld and Château Larose Perganson.
So as to be sure of the maturity of the tannins, Mathieu, our vineyard manager, joined me behind the hand pickers and the harvesting machines, chewing on the grape skins, plot by plot. What smoothness and softness in those tannins !
And what healthy grapes we brought in, despite the apprehension we had felt. We still have a lot to learn from Mother Nature, even after 30 years in the business : How could the crop resist so well after the rain we experienced ?
The last bunches arrived in the cellar on Thursday 8th October and of course we celebrated this all together during our ‘Gerbaude’ the following day with our traditional barbecue lunch !
Now the magic has to work in the cellar. The Merlots have finished fermenting and are beginning their maceration, gaining in plumpness and body every day. As for the Cabernets and the Petit Verdots, they are still bubbling away nicely !
On Saturday 10th October our consultant œnologist, Christophe, joined us for a tasting of all our vats of Merlots, gauging the quality of each and choosing the right moment to run off the new wines. The general conclusion was as follows : it is most urgent to wait ! In other words, we must allow at least another week for the wine to forge its personality in this maceration phase.
One thing’s for sure: the colour of the wine is deep and intense, almost as black as the jerseys worn by the All Blacks, our future opponents in the quarter final of the World Cup of Rugby.
And the other thing is the vats smell of Syrah ! You are probably saying that this Medoc wine maker has gone mad, the Syrah being a grape variety found in the Rhone valley and not here! Well you are right but when you have beautiful aromas of black pepper, liquorice and black olive, it reminds you of Syrah !
Watch this space for more news next week with the running off for our first vats of Merlot and the end of fermentation for the Cabernet Sauvignons and Petit Verdots. We should get a better idea of the true quality of this attractive vintage.
Franck BIJON – Wine maker
Saturday 3rd October– One last effort, we’re nearly there !
We have just had a beautiful week of picking and hopes are high for the quality of this vintage to come.
The Merlots took advantage of the wonderful weather conditions, gaining in concentration. The last bunches of this grape variety were brought into the cellar on 1st October, a beautiful sunny day.
The Cabernets had not been far behind the Merlots during the flowering and colour change stages this year so we decided to start the hand picking of the Cabernet Sauvignons for Château Larose Perganson and Château Arnauld on Monday 28th September. As we finished these plots at the end of the week, we switched from Merlots to Cabernets at Larose Trintaudon on Friday 2nd October.
Let’s not forget the Petit Verdots. We picked these on Saturday 26th September at Larose Trintaudon and the juice is really black and full of sugar ! The plots of this characterful variety for Château Larose Perganson and Château Arnauld will be picked on 5th October.
The first vats of Merlot at Larose Trintaudon are quietly finishing their fermentation. The wines are already flavoursome with pleasant red fruit aromas on the nose. The mid-palate is full and round with nice supple tannins. We are looking forward to seeing how this develops during the maceration…!
The forecast for the weekend was not very positive, with unsettled weather and rainfall. We decided to take a 2-day break, to let the harvesting teams rest before the last few days of picking from 5th October.
The Cabernet Sauvignons have to be watched closely to be sure that grey rot (botrytis) doesn’t attack. The local cèpe mushrooms have appeared in our woodlands. This is a sign that the harvest should soon come to an end ! As the locals say :
The cèpes are served and the guests are tasting our wines,
Now there must be no more grapes on our vines !
So now we need to make a final effort to bring in the last of this lovely crop . After this painstaking work, we will sit around a table all together and savour the autumn mushrooms to celebrate the new vintage at last in the cellar…
Franck BIJON – Winemaker
HARVEST 2015 : Friday 25th September- So how’s it going ?
We have been picking the top Merlots for Château Arnauld and Château Larose Perganson for 5 days now.
It is such a pleasure to see the perfectly healthy bunches hanging on the vines, especially after the very wet weather we have just experienced. The grapes are really tasty and the skins are rich. The fermenting must smells of milk caramel, a sure sign of very ripe yet not over-ripe fruit. A few more snips with the secateurs and all the Merlot will be safely in the cellar.
As for Larose Trintaudon, our harvesting machines have been humming through the vineyard until late every night since the 22nd September. Again the grapes are looking extremely healthy so our teams can take their time picking the Merlots to ensure the best quality crop.
So what about the Cabernet ? It is essential to get the Cabernet harvest just right as it is this grape variety that provides the backbone in our wines.
Walking through the plots today and tasting the grapes in the cool early morning, I was pleased to see the ripening process is progressing nicely. There is a promising richness in both the colour and the tannins. With a little patience, and the Northeast wind blocking any botrytis* that might try to develop, they will soon be ready to pick.
Let’s say about another week of this beautiful autumn sunshine, as forecast, and we should be able to harvest at optimum quality.
Next time we will tell you how things are going in the first vats. They are just beginning to ferment but we can already tell you this ; they smell very nice, really very nice !
Watch this space for more news soon.
Franck BIJON – Winemaker
*Botrytis is a fungus causing fruit rot
HARVEST 2015 : Saturday 19th September – Off we go !
After what seemed a long wait of 5 days, during which it rained heavily in our area, we decided to start the harvest on Saturday 19th September ; a good chance to test the vinification equipment and pick 3.5 hectares of the younger Merlot along with a little Malbec.
Taking a closer look at the photos, I can’t help thinking the Merlot with its small berries alongside the Malbec with its big berries is a bit like seeing a scrum half standing next to a prop forward. A special thought for our French rugbymen that are beginning their World Cup competition today.
This first vat is mainly filled with grapes from our younger vines and will be vinified to bring out the expressive fruity flavours and a very supple tannic structure, characteristics we are looking for when making our second wine, “Les Hauts de Trintaudon”.
On Monday 21st September we will begin the hand picking of our top Merlot plots for Château Arnauld and Château Larose Perganson. This should take around 5 days, all being well.
Don’t worry; we will continue to keep you posted on this exceptionally early harvest!
Franck BIJON – Winemaker
VINTAGE 2015 : Time to start speaking about it !
Lots of things have been written on this vintage, not born yet.
A wise idea spread among wine makers reminds us: “Wine cannot be bottled and served before grapes are safe in the cellars”.
A couple of days before beginning the harvest, we have good hope for this vintage with high quality and healthy grapes.
After a mild winter, with enough rain to replenish the level of the water table, we had a homogeneous budbreak taking place precisely at the right time. It was followed by a homogeneous flowering without any millerandage or flower abortion.
After three years of low quantity, Larose Trintaudon could expect bigger volumes.
Depending on the terroir and the age of the vines, the early drought experienced this summer in Medoc had a different impact. At Larose Trintaudon, the vines older than 30 have a deep rooting on fine gravel and clay limestone soil, which enabled our vineyard to go through this hydric stress without damage until early August and the colour change (called veraison).
This veraison 2015 was extraordinary in its speed. In 27 years of work at Larose Trintaudon, I have never seen such a fast and complete change in colour over all the vines and all the grape varieties. The homogeneity is essential for the quality of the vintage.
Today, the vineyard is beautiful, grapes are brilliant, full of sugar, with a skins which continue to gain tannins and anthocyanins (pigment responsible for the colour of the wine). Maturity is almost the same as for the mythical vintages such as 2009 an 2010.
The team of the estate is ready and can’t wait to harvest the results of their year-long work !
We will wait for the rain scheluded for these next 4-5 days to be over, befor going out in the vineyard to begin.
Why not begin our harvest “competition” on September 19th like our national rugby team !
Harvest time and the World Cup of Rugby are almost the same: efforts, solidarity, feelin and tactical choices !
It is up to our team to score the touchdown now, so that vintage 2015 will be one of the best produced by the estate.
Wine Maker – Technical Director