“Aaah Monsieur Stannard bonjour” beamed a Councillor as I entered into the Secretary of the Mayor’s office – the seat of power in our small commune of Cardan, Bordeaux. I certainly appreciate being treated as an equal local member of the community. It feels special and not something I guess that every other business locally gets. “Our local vigneron” she continued “Aaah your vines are looking so good at the moment!” “Merci Madame, you are very kind. Happy New Year to you.” I replied in my customary heavily accented French.
Someone else had noticed! I wasn’t just me…. Our vines and our small vineyards look magnificent. They now clearly stand out from those around us. The soil has been well turned and harrowed. All the seasonal grass around the base of the vines has been ploughed in. The soil is soft (as far any clay based soil can be) aerated and alive.
When we purchased the Hourcat Centre now Merlot block back in 2011, we had no idea if we would succeed with the recovery of the old vines, such was the poor sad state that we inherited them in. As part of the rejuvenation programme, we have learnt a lot about improving the soil in that block. We started to work with some basic traditional techniques to manage weeds (remembering that herbicides are strictly forbidden for us as organic producers) and put more life back into the land on which our vines grew. We think the evidence speaks for itself in the taste of our Merlot wine. So much so that over the last couple of years, we have started to apply similar methods to the Cabernet Franc block. This winter is the first time that we have given the Hourcat Sud Cabernet Franc a complete makeover. We believe that this will help us to further improve the rising quality of our Cabernet Franc wine.
The success of a vineyard and the resultant quality of its wine all depend on the health of its soil. If the health of the soil is poor, the vines and their fruit will not have good quality. And the wine will similarly not achieve high quality potential. No matter how good the winemaker. It starts in the vineyard.
Last Wednesday was vineyard operations day with Pascale our wonderful vigneronne. As a team, we reviewed everything. We compared notes and traded action items. And of course we tasted the 2016 wines before putting them into barrel. Pascale is our harshest critic. But after her first sip of vat C-1 Cabernet Franc, she smiled, nodded at me and said “I am not spitting that out for anyone. Gorgeous!”
Re-establishing a healthy vineyard, soil and vines takes time and requires good technique along with persistent hard work. Slowly we are getting there and the quality of our wine is telling us as much.
Never forget though that it starts in the vineyard. And as our wise councillor observed: it shows!
Paradise Rescued is the Silver International Business Award winner 2016 for Small Budget Marketing Campaign (<$5M). The Paradise Rescued Cabernet Franc 2010 vintage was awarded a Bronze medal at the 2016 Melbourne International Wine Show.