5 degrees of separation make Bordeaux Wine success

Paradise Rescued Merlot grapes ready to cut.

Paradise Rescued Merlot grapes ready to be cut.

I have heard all extremes here in the Bordeaux vineyards over the last three weeks ranging from very sad tales of back to back harvest failures to extremely small harvests and even exuberant social media postings of mega success. Making a Bordeaux Wine success in 2018 required continual attention and hard work. And many degrees of fruit selection.

2018 has not been one of those seasons of automatic success. In those years where Mother Nature doesn’t create perfect conditions – such as 2018 – it is the skill and hard work of the vigneron which determines if the season will be a vintage year or one put aside and discarded in the Bordeaux wine history books. It’s what I describe yet again as a “vigneron’s vintage” – a season where the vigneron’s work in the vineyard creates the difference between an average wine and a good wine.

If you look closely most of the media “grape bunch” photos do tell the story though, as do our pictures here. The berries typically are small, due the hot dry conditions through July and August. Surprisingly – given the incessant rain at flowering time – there are very few green ‘coulure’ unset micrograpes. But you will pick up quite a number of small black brown shrivelled-up raisins that are the direct result of mildew attacks during August with the intense heat.

At Paradise Rescued, the hands-on intervention by our vigneronne has come at different stages. With a (very) wet spring followed immediately by a searing hot summer with above average temperatures and sunshine, the battle against diseases such as mildew and black rot has been a daily event.

Paradise Rescued Cabernet Franc fruit

Ripe Bordeaux Cabernet Franc grapes at Paradise Rescued

Making a success out of these extremely challenging conditions has required a lengthy bunch and berry selection or de-selection process comprising five key steps in order to achieve the best fruit into the vat.

  1. In vineyard fruit de-selection

As the colour change approached but was blocked by the heat, bunches of significantly mildew impacted grapes were dropped. Happily the initial fruit loading was high so plenty of good fruit remained to continue the season towards harvest.

  1. The final two weeks

Due to the vines apparent ability to read and predict the season, a good number of additional small bunches of grapes were produced higher up into the vine canopy on most plants. During the final two weeks leading up to the harvest day some of these grape bunches that were not going to ripen sufficiently were de-selected allowing the vines to direct their energy into ripening the remaining fruit.

  1. Vineyard harvest

The harvest fruit was hand picked, selected and cut. As always with a hand cut harvest, the “in-vineyard” selection is critical. Good weather for both harvest days certainly helped the team morale and attention to detail. Sub standard fruit was not selected, cut off and dropped.

  1. Winery post de-stemming

After de-stemming and gentle crushing of the berries at the winery door, the each cagette box of crushed is checked again once more to remove any small unripe green / pink berries, leaves and any other unwanted minor potential contaminants that got through the earlier selections plus any stalks that passed through the de-stemmer.

  1. Ongoing vat inspection

As the crush is being loaded into the vat (and during the fermentation process), any unrequired grapes, dried grapes, stalk bits, etc are also removed and discarded. This process also continues throughout the wine making process with twice daily inspections over the two week period.

Amazing Cabernet Franc Bordeaux wine colours at Paradise Rescued

The amazing Bordeaux Wine colours showing in the Paradise Rescued Cabernet Franc must.

2018 has been an extreme season in many ways. Which required extreme manual intervention to ensure that only the best fruit was harvested, and excellent wine produced. The results will show, I believe, wines of amazing colour, excellent depth of flavour and beautiful length.

Each one of those five degrees of separation has made this Bordeaux wine success at Paradise Rescued.

Read more of the Paradise Rescued story in David Stannard’s books – “From Cabbage Patch to Cabernet Franc” and “It’s Not About the Dirt“.