Dream big for Merlot in Hourcat Centre

What can we achieve? What is possible? As I prepare to leave Paris for Dubai and Melbourne, there is so much to reflect on from the last few days. So I am wondering how much to write now and what to leave for next time.

I could write a small essay really on what has happened in the winery. It’s been both an honour and a privilege to work alongside both Albane and Pasacle and see / learn how the amazing Cloud9 Cabernet Franc is produced. We have about the same amount of Cabernet Franc as last year to make 2011 Cloud9 plus about another barrel of Cab Merlot, based around the small but beautiful fruit that we were able to save from our new Hourcat Centre block. To make judgements about wines at this early intermediate stage is very hard. What we can say is that the juice had a lot of fruit on the nose and plenty of body. As we near the end of the fermentation stage, the colour of the 2011 Cloud9 Cab Franc is very similar to 2010. The Cab Merlot has been fermented in a small 400 litre stainless steel vat. Creating good juice to skin maceration and contact is very easy. The additional outcome from the 2011 season is that the tannin levels will be higher, so we expect this small amount of Cab Merlot wine will require some bottle ageing. Time will tell.

The biggest news from last week was – after many years of negotiation – the purchase of the Hourcat Centre block. To call it Centre is apt as it is central to our mission of sustaining the rural community of Cardan. And better still, this 0.35ha piece of land is gem, it will be the jewel in our crown. The vines run north south on a gentle south facing easy draining slope. In terroir terms it is in a different higher league to our lovely Hourcat Sud. Given what we have achieved thus far with Hourcat Sud – and I know more is still to come as we continue the organic conversion and rejuvenation of that land – the potential for Hourcat Centre is significant. But there are some challenges to overcome. The majority of the vines are more than 50 years old. It contains a mixture of three grape varieties, all of whom were cut back and not harvested in 2010 – so called “cut to death”. The bottom Merlot section which Pascale skillfully recovered should continue to rejuvenate well in 2012, although some replanting of dead vines will be required. The Semillon section has had its day and will need to be replanted in Merlot. And finally there are seven short rows of Cabernet Sauvignon vines just above the winery (may be renamed Hourcat Nord in the future) that have been ignored for the last two years and need a lot of love to get them back into productive action.

At the core of whatever we produce will be Merlot. It is the grape variety perfectly designed for Right Bank Bordeaux soil and climate conditions. If the Cabernet Sauvignons can be recovered then together with a little of the existing Cab Franc, we have the perfect components for a brilliant Bordeaux assemblage. Clearly we don’t yet have the final vine configuration in place, nor will we be able to achieve that until we have a bigger winery and have replanted the required vines. But as always we will be working to produce the best possible quality that we can achieve. Our expectations are strong that we should produce a very high quality wine. Dream big! The team can’t wait to get started. Let’s go…one step at a time!