Last week we brought you the update on Cloud9 Cabernet Franc. This week we will look at Merlot!

IMG_0199The Hourcat Centre story is a modern Magical Merlot Miracle! It is less than two years ago that we were lucky enough to be able to purchase the Hourcat Centre block comprising a 1/10th hectare block of 55 year old Merlot vines with the more northerly part planted with old Sémillons. All vines had been “cut to death”…the scene was not a pleasant one and any chance of a recovery seemed remote. The vision and focus for Hourcat Centre has always been a Merlot one – the perfect Bordeaux wine partner for our Cabernet Franc. Work started optimistically to try and win back as many of the Merlot vines as we could, with the idea that even a small amount of “Old Vine” Merlot fruit might give us the heart for an amazing initial Cabernet Franc Merlot blend or…..?

Roll the story forward. After a little more than 12 months work, the first indications of our strategy and efforts are coming in. In the vineyard, there is incredible, almost unimaginable health and vigour in our Merlot vines. Flowering has finished and the berries are starting to grow. This summer there has been a bit of coulure which means that some bunches will mature less well but given the overall significant quantity of fruit (and hence the need to progressively select and reduce the overall quantity by harvest time), the outlook is very positive at this stage.

But it is in the winery that the real first indications of the potential of this terroir can be found. From the first harvest last year (2012), we collected a tiny quantity from what is currently a very small vineyard. We have some pure Merlot in vat C-3 and 20% of barrel #3 is also Merlot (Cabernet Franc of course making up the balance). I think the attached video clip pretty much tells the story but for our first ever wine from a vineyard that was essentially dead 12 months before this fruit was picked…..well there are few words that describe our excitement!

There is an absolute abundance of soft plummy fruit, great acidity and the right amount of tannin for a young Merlot. The resulting wine will probably be a 50 / 50 blend of Merlot and Cabernet Franc and I can’t wait to taste the result. It has the potential to be a great success.

At the top end of the Old Vine block....the remainder of this terroir is ready for planting in Merlot.

At the top end of the Old Vine block….the rest of this terroir is ready for planting in Merlot.

Which of course just leaves the remainder of the Hourcat Centre block. The old Sémillons were dug up last summer, the area has been cleared through the winter and the land has been ploughed and prepared for replanting….in Merlot! We are currently adding horse manure and chalk, followed by a further plough and winter cereal crop in readiness for the new plants in Spring 2014. Once finished, this terroir will total 4/10th hectare. Based on the tastes from vat C-3 2012, a lot of hard work, our customary love and care…this could be one extraordinary vineyard.

A modern Magic Merlot Miracle!