Our first Merlot harvest - fruit in Hourcat Centre, our "new" vineyard

Our first Merlot harvest – fruit in Hourcat Centre, our “new” vineyard

The pattern of extreme and variable weather conditions continued into 2012. Autumn 2011 was mild and drawn out causing in some cases preliminary emergent bud burst. That was all prior to a period of extreme cold in February with a light snow covering and temperatures staying at-15C  for 10 consecutive days. The rebound was equally fast  with very mild conditions in late March resulting in variable bud burst. This pattern of very variable and extreme weather conditions left the vines confused and led to uneven development of the vines and fruit right from the start of the season.

April was a then cooler month, followed by ten weeks of an enduring cold wet spring. This period proved extremely challenging to manage as wave after wave of mildew attacked the vineyards requiring almost daily attention to all plants and organic micro-treatments to control disease sometimes twice per week.  In mid July, the sunshine finally arrived and all the rain disappeared until mid September slowing the growth. The colour change (véraison) and ripening remained uneven requiring further manual intervention by the vineyard team later in the season to cut out any grapes that would not ripen in time for the harvest.

The rain in September was timely just after we had opened up the soil a fraction, followed by a slow ripening in good warm weather conditions until harvest on October 6th. It started raining that night at 6pm and didn’t stop for 48 hours – our final timing and preparations had gone to plan. The result was a very small harvest – less than half of our 2010 benchmark harvest – but a more concentrated flavour and great finesse. Early indications are very positive.

Overall, it was a very challenging vintage – only made successful thanks to our vigneronne Pascale’s tireless work in the vineyards, attention to detail and refusal to give up. Many local colleagues across the region were less fortunate.