June 19th 2013, by Gavin
It’s a scary time for vine growers. We need half-decent weather at the right moment or the size and quality of crop could be at risk. 2013 is the latest flowering we’ve witnessed and, what with sunshine one day and unseasonably heavy downpours the next, it’s the stuff of nightmares.
Visitors to Vinexpo, the huge trade fair that’s taking place in Bordeaux this week, can see the flowering for the first time ever during the show – if they have the chance or the inclination to get out into the vines. Normally, between 16 and 20 June, you’d have missed the floraison and the annual Fête de la Fleur, held this year at Chateau Lagrange in St-Julien on the 20th, is supposed to celebrate the end of the flowering, not the middle of it.
June 17th 2013, by Gavin
Every two years, Bordeaux hosts the enormous trade fair Vinexpo, which is on this week. I caught up with my old mate Oz Clarke for dinner in town, and the two of us went to the rather grander affair at Chateau Mouton Rothschild the following night to celebrate the opening of their smart new cellars.
We’ve never had a Bauduc stand at the show. I’m sure it works for large companies who have the (fiendishly expensive) space to arrange lots of meetings with their agents and importers from all over the world. For me though, the thought of looking like Billy No Mates, like so many wine producers staring into their mobile phones in their little booths, has never caught my imagination. The wine world is also full of tyre kickers, and I take my hat off to those who have the patience and good humour to cope.
August 24th 2012, by Gavin
“You don’t have to be a wine lover to enjoy a holiday in a vineyard in Europe (but it helps), says Annabelle Thorpe” in The Times (Saturday, 11 August 2012).
We were delighted to have our farmhouse at Château Bauduc included – see #6 below. Of course, we can’t repeat the whole article but for those of you who don’t subscribe to The Times, here’s the list with (1) how many each place can sleep, (2) the starting price and (3) contact and booking details. All the vineyards offer wine tasting, not surprisingly, and if you’re planning on staying in a sunny European wine region between May and September, go for a spot with a private pool. Essential after a hard day’s work tasting wines.
We’ve taken the liberty of keeping the description of the farmhouse at Bauduc (pictured) in our shortened version below. The Times website doesn’t link direct to the other websites unfortunately, so you’ll have to do a bit of copying and pasting of domain names for more info.
One final note. Only 5 out of the 20 can be booked direct, despite the time and care that goes into making each destination special. In this day and age, isn’t that a pity?
January 5th 2012, by Gavin
Happy New Year. It may surprise you to know that with Christmas Day 2011 and New Year’s Day 2012 both falling on a Sunday, we didn’t have a Public Holiday in France on Boxing Day or on Monday 2nd January. The vineyard team worked all the way through, with no additional time off.
But France will more than make up for it in 2012, and the following dates may be useful to bear in mind if you’re planning to come to France or do business here.
Unlike the UK, where Bank or Public Holidays are on Mondays (except for Royal occasions), French public holidays are based on the actual date. This can be a double-edged sword.
The French often like to bridge, or faire le pont*, to make a long weekend of it if the official Public Holiday falls on a Tuesday or a Thursday. I’ve included these unofficial days in the table below.
September 30th 2011, by Gavin
After two great Bordeaux vintages, 2011 has been a year of living dangerously. “It’s complicated,” Christian Moueix explained when I asked what he thought of the millésime, as his team picked in St-Emilion. If one of the most respected winemakers thinks it’s hard to generalise, it might be foolish for the rest of us to rush into snap judgments.
Let me try and explain what’s been going on in the Bordeaux vineyard this year, and forgive me for the amount of detail. My fascinating weather charts will follow later (updated for 2011 here).
Here’s a summary:
1. Early start, warm spring, then drought.
2. An up-and-down summer.
3. Early harvest, September sunshine.
4. When to pick: balancing ripeness with the risk of rot.
5. These magnificent men (and women) and their sorting machines.
6. Volume 5% up overall but yields vary from one estate to another.
7. Finally, a Tweet showing how the growing season compares.
July 28th 2011, by Gavin
A warning: this brilliant online quiz can be quite addictive, more so if you’re into the geography of French wine regions. It’s in French but the language isn’t a barrier as you simply have to pin the tail on the donkey, as it were.
The trick, other than having an encyclopedic knowledge of French wine, is to be lightening fast to gain extra points. If you get hooked, the upside is that you’ll probably learn about the location of previously unheard-of (and some might say pointless) appellations. Added to which, you’ll see in the menu – top left – that there are questions on French cheeses, towns and rivers: a whole summer’s worth of trivia.
As is often the case, I found the link through Twitter via wine writer @jamiegoode although it seems (according to @hamishwm in his Bella Wines blog) that Jamie Hutchinson got there first on the forum on Tom Cannavan’s wine-pages.com. Whatever, my thanks to these guys for getting me hooked. Let me know how you get on.
October 4th 2010, by Gavin
I wish I’d thought of that. I don’t mean stealing someone’s else crop for filling up our fermentation tanks (as regulars know, this would have come in handy last year, after we lost 80% of our crop to hail in May). But we certainly missed a trick as potential victims of such a crime. We could have had the children crying in front of the cameras.
Now I’m quite sure that there is nothing false about vigneron Roland Cavaille’s claim that his Cabernet Sauvignon grapes were swiped at night last week, costing him some €15,000 in lost revenue and a year’s hard labour. The surprise is that the world’s media have got hold of the story with such fruity conspiracy theories. Google his name and you’ll find 50 news stories about the grape heist, including this film from the BBC.
Here’s a ‘Wine Mafia’ report from the London Evening Standard:
“Two harvesting machines were used to take about 35 tonnes of the ripened fruit from a field in the Languedoc-Roussillon region. “These are some of the best grapes in France, and we fear a wine mafia gang has stolen them,” said a detective. He believes the grapes were taken straight to a specialist to create a fine vintage.”
September 15th 2010, by Gavin
5am, Friday 10th September, 2010. The start of our twelfth harvest.
How time flies when you’re on a rollercoaster. Incredible to think back to the beginning of September 1999, when we arrived here for the first time – with a harvest to bring in and a local school to find for four year-old Georgie. Now our not-so-little girl is weekly boarding at a Lycée in Bordeaux (pictured left, with mum, leaving for the start of term).
One thing I’ve learned at harvest time is that it’s all a matter of taste. At this time of year, we’re not talking about wine tasting, or blending, we’re talking about tasting and checking the grapes themselves. Every few mornings during the build-up to the harvest, we collect sample grapes in small plastic bags and hand them in to the lab, conveniently located at the end of our road, for a full analysis on sugar levels, acidity, PH and so on. We get the results by mid-afternoon. Sugars on the rise and acidity falling, hopefully. Technically, hit the right crossover point and one can get close – assuming nature marks the spot with a handily-placed X.
August 27th 2010, by Gavin
Too much rain in the Summer of 2007, frost in April 2008, hail (twice) in May 2009 and, yes, drought in 2010. “What next,” asked a friend, “rivers of blood?”
Welcome to viticulture, Bauduc-style, and 2010 will be remembered as the year of the drought. (Cue monsoons during the harvest.)
We’ve seen half the normal rainfall in the five months since the beginning of April compared to the 30-year average in Bordeaux (see weather graphs in this article). Remarkably, the young vines have kept up with their older counterparts and look surprisingly healthy: with the lack of damp in the air, the risk of mildew has been reduced – unlike in humid Augusts like 2007 and 2008, for example – so most of the leaves look green and verdant with minimal spraying. But yellow leaves around the fruit zone tell a part of the story, as some of the vines have effectively shut down and the grapes have stopped ripening in certain parts of the vineyard.
Of course, these problems resulting from the lack of rain are avoidable. Firstly, choosing to rip out crappy old vines and replacing them with young ones lead to this. Guilty as charged, but I’m glad to see the back of 3 metre-wide rows of Cabernet Sauvignon on vigorous rootstock (SO4 to be precise) pumping out bunches of grapes that never ripened properly and tasted of green peppers. I’m fond of our new Sauvignon Blanc (featured in all these photos taken today), planted on low-yielding rootstocks in 1.8m wide rows.
June 30th 2010, by Gavin
At least England lasted longer than France, finalists four years ago.
The locals have hardly mentioned Les Bleus, and the headlines across Europe have been ferocious at their teams’ poor showings. Meanwhile, our seasonal workers are happy with their cut-price Rooney shirts: most of them are Morrocan so anything to have a dig at Algeria, France or, to a lesser extent, England.
As well as some of the more hilarious headlines, here are a couple of our favourite views on the French catastrophe that have been doing the rounds. First, a brilliant Bayeux Tapestry-inspired cartoon (click on the image to enlarge) from Dotmund and secondly, this short of video of why Henry wasn’t on top form.