#GrapeMoments: Bordeaux Sustainability promise delivered

Since our very first moment of operation, January 1st 2010, our commitment and Mission has been to Sustain our rural community in Cardan, Bordeaux. We are proud to report the amazing story that our Bordeaux Sustainability promise has been delivered. And will continue to be delivered.

The Hourcat Sud Cabernet Franc vineyard in January 2010. Between the vine rows there was barely a blade of grass remaining.

I will never forget that first vineyard inspection meeting that we had with Pascale Bervas, our successful vigneronne for all of our seven plus years, and her daughter, Bordeaux rising organic viticultural star / winemaker, Albane Bervas in our Hourcat Sud Cabernet Franc vineyard.

It was mid-January 2010. And bitterly cold with the remnants of an earlier small snowfall in the vines as we walked slowly through that rundown almost grassless unloved vineyard. You didn’t need a tertiary degree in oenology to see that this vineyard block needed a serious change in fortune. Happily, after many years of mistreatment, its’ luck was about to change for the better. I can still recall Albane’s face questioning my sanity, asking ‘why’ but simultaneously filled with optimism and encouragement that a full recovery was possible. And it was. And it was Pascale who delivered.

In early spring of 2011, we signed the ‘compromis’ contract to purchase the Hourcat Centre vineyard block that lies between what is now the Paradise Rescued ‘chateau’ winery and the old Hourcat farmhouse to our west. This was an old Merlot / Semillion split vineyard planted in 1957 following the devastating winter frosts of 1956 which had wiped out the previous vineyard there – and much of Bordeaux’s other vineyards as well.

The abandoned Hourcat Centre vineyard in April 2012 prior to the start of recovery and rejuvenation work

After nearly five decades of loving attention, its’ owner retired from the tireless battle of trying to make a decent living from this small holding and rented the vineyard out to the local ‘big chateau’. As the margins tightened further and the need to cut production volume intensified, the rental agreement was passed back to the owner and the vineyard fell into disrepair. To prevent growth and the spread of disease, the vines were so called “cut to death” and left pretty much to die as the ivy and weeds swallowed them up.

Within 24 hours of the signing of the ‘compromis’, Pascale and the team got to work. Working diligently and patiently by hand, every old Merlot vine was carefully recovered from the abandonment. A careful loving pruning was given to each vine and their lives restarted. Their vigour today is a credit to the care of their dedicated vigneronne and their personal tenacity and resilience through the drama. The fruit and resulting wine is simply stunning.

Sadly though, it was too late to recover the Semillion vines. Over three seasons, the old vine trunks were dug up, the soil turned, re-invigorated and readied for the planting of a complete new Merlot vineyard adjoining the Old Vine block. In 2014, the re-planting occurred and the first fruit will be harvested this September (2017). And the Semillion’s have had the last laugh: there are six remaining plants at the top end of the old block that disguised themselves as Merlots and avoided removal.

Where young Merlot meets old – Hourcat Centre vineyard late 2016

Two full vineyards have been fully recovered and maintained. There is plenty more that will be written in this story. But the current headline news is about how a community has succeeded in working together to achieve an impossible dream of sustaining its heritage and rural environment.

A Bordeaux Wine Sustainability promise has been delivered.

Paradise Rescued is the 2016 International Business Award Silver Stevie winner for Small Budget Marketing Campaign.

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