Friday, September 30th, Sweet sun in the vineyards of sweet Bordeaux wines. “No stress with a vintage like this,” said Daniel Sanfourche smiling from Chateau Loupiac Gaudiet. The weather is beautiful; the botrytised grapes dry quickly under the blazing sun and the east wind.
“Anyway, we need to take time to properly sort grapes and the press in the cellar cannot go faster,” he explained. 18 pickers cut the perfect grapes. They return each year and work well. “Before I saw my grandmother cooking the poultry of the house or the pork for the table of pickers” he remembers. Times have changed.
Harvest is still made by the family anyway. His girls, his cousin and Nicolas, his son, when he’s not on his surf board. We like to call Nicolas, the “surfer of the slopes”. “The Garonne is a little muddy” but he knows a good spot to surf the tidal bores. “Vintages pass and do not look alike,” added Daniel. In any case, the juices are very rich, clear, and crisp.
More info: www.chateau-loupiacgaudiet.com
Ideal conditions at Chateau Rabaud Promis. “The conditions for harvesting are very comfortable this year,” said Philippe Dejean, owner of Chateau Rabaud Promis (1st classified growth). “What better: the hot weather and an east wind, coming to concentrate our golden grapes already botrytised” he added.
However, the reactivity is required this year we recruit; we hired more than 35 pickers to harvest quickly because dry weather accelerates the concentration. A final sorting is performed on a table in the cellar (like for some red) where the grapes are hand scanned before being carried into the press.
Great concentration of flavors this year and low volumes.
Check out more photos on Flickr. Follow Chateau Rabaud Promis on Facebook.
In Bommes, the nectar is precious. More than 65 pickers harvest the shriveled grapes at Chateau Lafaurie Peyraguey (1st classified growth). Half of the team returns each year. Here, we control three times the grapes: the baskets that are paid in Bastes, the Bastes arriving in the dumpster and then at the winery. “This allows us to see which picker did not understand,” said the Technical Manager.
Right now, the days are long to go faster. “We have plots of the different terroirs of Sauternes, which allows us to be well organized and not to pick at the same time,” he adds.
At the winery, several presses are used in particular small vertical presses. “We use the old techniques,” said Eric Larramona, manager of the estate. “This allows us to extract the most concentrated juice: the nectar.” Michou, often has to use his feet to push the skin and fill up the small press. The vintage is very good with sorting of their kind.
More info on Chateau Lafaurie Peyraguey: www.lafaurie-peyraguey.com. View more photos: Flickr
The wind has arrived in Sauternes! At Chateau d’Arche (2nd classified growth), they start the second sorting. Grapes are scattered in the vineyards and can be rare because 50% of the vineyard was hailed in April. Two teams of fifty people get to work. This group is quite unique because you can meet young Polish students and Portuguese pickers. The atmosphere is great, and different languages are heard here.
Jerome Cosson, the manager of the estate is happy. He comments, “First harvested juices have a nice acidity, are very consistent, clear with a crisp taste.” The vines have suffered from water stress. But the climatic conditions in the middle of harvest are very favorable. For example, Chateau d’Arche overlooks the village of Sauternes and still enjoys the wind. “The wind rushes through the valley of the Garonne and hurts the hill of Loupiac to come to Sauternes,” says Jerome.
Learn more about Chateau d’Arche right here and check out more pics.
Back in Sainte Croix du Mont at Chateau La Rame, under a blazing sun the pickers suffer as much as grapes, vineyards and winemakers. La Rame (the Rock in Old French) was at the Revolution, owned by Baron Vertheuil, Governor of the Ile d’Oleron and Lord of la rame. Cited as the oldest cru and the most famous of the AOC (Gold Medal at the Universal Exhibition of 1895 in Bordeaux and Paris in 1900) it was considered at the beginning of the century as a First Classified growth by Bordeaux’s trade.
The afternoons are very hot about 30 degrees Celsius (around 86 degrees Fahrenheit): a spectacular time at the end of September. “Indian Summer” as we name it in the region. There are pickers in shorts, swimsuits and under the arms 2 bottles of water…
“Who would think that this year, the harvest would be finished early October as usual, this is when we usually start,” said Yves Armand at Chateau La Rame. “The concentration is moving very fast, we must be everywhere at once and well organized in the cellar,” he says.
The weather changes like generations of winemakers, “Before we worked to support the chateau, we did not eat to buy a vine,” Today, it’s different. Anyway, the vintage is very early, but the volumes will be low.
Here, there are fossilized oysters under the vines. The rock is near, so very little plowing is necessary. The few remaining grapes left on the ground are not lost for everyone, the dog of the house “Putschi” eats them.
Visit our Flickr page for more photos of the harvest at Chateau La Rame!
Meet Premier Cru Classe Chateau Guiraud’s Brand Ambassador Augustin Lacaille, who came into town last week for a special wine tasting at Upper East Side Millesima Wine Shop. While he’s in town, Augustin’s main task is to meet with consumers, restaurants, and wine shops, to extend the knowledge of sweet Bordeaux. How he describes the wine? “It has character. Elegant. Not too heavy.”
Let’s talk about the wine some more. Chateau Guiraud consists of 65% Semillon and 35% Sauvignon Blanc, the highest percentage of Sauvignon Blanc in Sauternes. What makes Chateau Guiraud stand out from other vineyards? “It’s complexity and unique terroir. The Chateau can be found at the same altitude as Premier Cru Superieur Chateau d’Yquem, which gives it the best exposure to the wind and microclimate.
Guiraud is the first Sauternes Grand Cru to obtain organic farming certification, and the only one of the Premiers Grands Crus Classes in the 1855 Bordeaux classification to obtain such certification. Augustin explains, “The director Xavier Planty wanted to bring back natural equilibrium to the land. He asked himself, ‘Is it necessary to add chemicals?’ His approach was to preserve and protect the consumers and his workers, and thus, create biodiversity.” They started the organic development in 1996 and received certification this year.
Augustin’s favorite wine/food pairing? “It depends on the mood. What I enjoy is finding new food matchings with local cuisine. In Boston, I pair a glass of wine with lobster meat. Or in Beijing, duck.” At local restaurants, Augustin likes to highlight that Chateau Guiraud can be enjoyed by the glass as a starter. “Half bottle wine is important,” he mentions. “People can enjoy the wine for one week after it’s been opened.” Even though consumers may associate sweet Bordeaux as a dessert wine, it can definitely be enjoyed all year long for many occasions.
Read about this year’s harvest at Chateau Guiraud here and check out their website here.
More than 100 pickers in Preignac. With over 55 hectares of Sauternes, Michel Garat of Chateau Bastor Lamontagne needs a large and strong team. “We usually hire 80 pickers during harvest, but we had to hire 100 pickers to go faster,” he explained.
Jason and David, from the village of Fargues, come back each year. They have fun especially when it’s nice outside. They are fed by a good chef at lunch, which gives them picking strength for the rest of the day.
Here, we control the baskets of pickers, we go back in the row and we control again in the dumpster to avoid keeping bad grapes. These processes are handmade. This allows the winemaker to get very clear and frank must with complex aromas.
More on the Chateau Bastor Lamontagne: www.bastor-lamontagne.com and check out our Flickr page!
Since Tuesday, the harvest is in the agenda in the Sweet Bordeaux wines region. Horses graze nearby and watch the harvest at Chateau Mourlannes.
In Gabarnac, located on the slopes of the Garonne River, between Loupiac and Sainte Croix du Mont, Jany and his small team walk in the rows. Under the anxious eyes of the horses, the tractor that sorts the grapes disturb them. His cousin from Charente, arrived Monday to help along with friends. “The harvest is done by the family at home,” says Jany. No stress or too much exercise because the team takes a short break halfway through the rows. She explains, “The back basket man does not hurt his back.” and she wants to make sure not to tire her team.
The vines are over 100 years old and are beautiful and well preserved. The harvest period is very stressful for the vine growers. “We just had a power outage at the moment,” says Jany. Harvest “without my cast,” she adds, because last year she fell from a tank.
For more info on Chateau Moulannes, check out chateaumourlannes.blogspot.com and for more pics of the harvest, visit our Flickr page!
Vineyards overlooking the Chateau of Cadillac. A friendly atmosphere and team of Marc Medeville at Chateau Fayau in Cadillac. “It is a good laugh while working,” he says. You can meet famous people of the region like:
The team says that they are “the best pickers in the world.” “Yes, they work hard and pick up very well,” adds Marc. This year might look like 2001 in the fact that it’s early, but we will have to wait because there are still several weeks of harvest to come.
Visit Flickr to see more pics of the harvest at Chateau Fayau, then check out their site at: www.medeville.com.
Back on the slopes in Sainte Croix du Mont at La Grave, harvesting begins at Chateau La Grave. 16 pickers total, all from the region, except for a young Russian who has been working the harvest for 3 years. “I love it, especially with this great weather.”
Good harvests mean stringent sortings. Here the pickers “are trained to harvest,” said Virginie, owner “but everyone is watching their neighbors,” she adds. Fine botrytis grapes of Sauvignon Gris were picked, a grape not widely planted in the region. The blend with the Semillon gives very aromatic and complex juices.
Visit Flickr to see more pics of the harvest at Chateau La Grave, then check out their site at: www.vignoblestinon.fr.