Four and a half years ago, we took over a sad little block of Merlot vines close to the Paradise Rescued winery and property. Despite a lot of love for much of their life, their recent history had been less kind. And in the 18 months leading up to our purchase, they had in fact been so called “cut to death” and effectively left to die. They were covered in ivy and struggling just to stay alive.

Just hanging like grapes! Amazing fruit on the Paradise Rescued old vines

Just hanging like grapes! Amazing fruit on the Paradise Rescued “Old Vine Block” Merlot.

Wine grape vines are hardy plants despite their often apparent fragility. But there was be no guarantee that we would succeed with our goal to save this Merlot block.

They occupy a tiny vineyard area, 35 metres square – a tenth of a hectare in total. Probably one of Bordeaux’s smallest vine blocks? In mid 2011, we were simply hoping that they would grow again. To have new leaves and shoots; we weren’t even thinking about grapes let alone wine. More than anything else, they needed love and attention. They needed to be separated from the weeds and mess that threatened to choke them off. They needed loving hands of a skilful dedicated passionate vigneronne.

Three weeks ago, we harvested the fruit from this tiny vineyard block – our self styled “old vine block” Merlot. We started as a small cheerful team, fuelled by croissants and coffee on a cool humid Bordeaux September morning. We had assumed that a quick morning’s work lay ahead and that we could all retire to the terrace for an early social lunch! Error of judgement.

Magician and miracle maker. Vigneronne Pascale Bervas harvesting the Old Vine Block Merlot.

Magician or miracle maker: Vigneronne Pascale Bervas harvests the Merlot.

The first pass up the rows took 35 minutes and more cagette boxes were called for to handle the volume of fruit. We now had a serious producing vineyard block to manage. A significant charge of fruit was hanging from every vine. A small number of damaged grapes were removed individually as they were cut from the vines. At the winery, berries were de-stemmed by hand and further inspected before passing through the manual crusher. With the exception of the plastic crates and stainless steel tanks, it must have resembled a scene from long ago. Artisanal production had returned to the village of Cardan.

Merlot can be a precocious prince. When he is on song, he sings loud and full. Bordeaux 2015 is one of those years for Merlot (and Cabernet Franc too, I should add). There looks like being enough wine for two barrels this year. The taste appears rich and full. The promise of a good (hopefully great) vintage seems possible.

As always, great wine starts with great fruit. A seemingly lost Bordeaux vineyard is back to full health and flourishing. The credit goes to our dedicated vigneronne Pascale Bervas. You have created an amazing story… we already have our clients ringing us wanting early tastes, samples and delivery dates!

Magic or miracle? Probably a bit of both. Plus an angel disguised as a vigneronne. Paradise Rescued Bordeaux “Old Vine Block” Merlot is very much back in business.