Posted by Jean-Charles Cazes
Smiles are back on vintners' faces in Bordeaux, because we have been enjoying continuous sunny weather with cool northern winds for almost two weeks. The maturity of our red varietals is approximately one week behind normal, but the present, favorable conditions mean that we'll be able to wait for maturity before picking, without much risk of rot or other problems.
Meanwhile, we started picking grapes for the Blanc de Lynch Bages on Thursday, Sept. 18th. Since the 2006 vintage, we have plotted different maturity zones within our 10-acre parcel and harvested each zone in different sortings, much like they do in Sauternes. We take extreme care bringing the fruit from the vineyard to the winery and then processing it, in order to preserve the varietal aromas. We started with the Muscadelle, which usually accounts for 10 percent of our final blend, and are now well into our Sauvignon Blanc and Sémillon.
After being sorted, the grapes are protected from oxidation with dry ice (carbon dioxide) and transported in low-capacity crates to avoid any bruising. We tend to harvest mostly in the morning in order to preserve the freshness of the fruit. However, last week we placed a refrigerated truck at the end of the conveyor belt and were able to harvest during two consecutive full days in optimal conditions. Part of the harvest is pressed immediately, with the other part kept in cold storage to undergo a short period of skin contact maceration during the night. It's pressed the following morning.
The style of Blanc de Lynch Bages has evolved significantly since the first "official" vintage in 1990. At the beginning of the '90s, we used to ferment 100 percent of the must in new oak barrels, whereas now we only vinify partially in barrels and use more stainless-steel tanks. We aim to preserve the varietal aromas during fermentation while enhancing the aromatic complexity later through careful barrel handling and aging.
|Château Lynch-Bages sorters are hard at work on the Blanc de Lynch Bages harvest.|
At the end of the '80s, I suspect two things pushed my father to plant a proper vineyard for Blanc de Lynch Bages and start commercial production. First, we had to restructure "Le Plateau," uprooting all the vines before replanting it in 1990. Second, the French government objected to our not declaring what we thought was a negligible production: "False declaration of plantation, false declaration of harvest, and false declaration of inventory," the charges read. The verdict came with a $3,000 fine!
We then looked for a proper terroir in the Médoc and found on our property itself, on the outskirts of Pauillac, a suitable place to plant Sauvignon Blanc, Sémillon and Muscadelle – of course, all legal. We then started to produce more than we could reasonably drink, while at the same time, the wine was increasing in popularity amongst our relatives and friends. To this day, my father reckons that the $3,000 fine is still the best investment he ever made in his life!
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