Watching Rick Stein’s Long Weekend in Bordeaux for the umpteenth time when it was repeated earlier this month brought back many happy memories but, on this occasion, it was tinged with considerable sadness. The director and producer David Pritchard, who had worked with Rick for many years, died a few weeks before this showing, following a brave battle with cancer.
On the face of it, the visit by David, Rick and the production team to Château Bauduc on the last day of our harvest in 2015 had culminated in just a few minutes of TV – albeit primetime BBC. By then though, David and I had become good friends and our friendship would continue, from afar, long after the filming had ended. So here’s a small tribute to the great man, with a gallery of pictures of his reconnaissance trip to Bordeaux, when he was accompanied by his wife and assistant Fiona, and of the filming of the Long Weekend itself with his crew.
David was an avid consumer of our newsletter – he would often call afterwards or drop us a line – so it seems only appropriate. Keep reading
We’re usually a little wary of bottling in late January or February because of the cold. When you hire a machine to sit outside overnight, you can have nightmares along the lines of the wintry scene at the start of Gladiator, with Russell Crowe saying ‘the frost – sometimes it makes the blade stick.’ (Not quite, but you get the drift.)
Anyway, all was fine. Young Ed Findlay has been working for us in the vineyard and winery for a year. He was a junior school teacher and then photographer in England, before setting off to Bordeaux to live the dream of tending vines. Much as we think his pruning skills are improving, we’ve made use of his creative talents of late, such as with this album of the bottling of our 2018 dry whites and rosé.
With this photo gallery, you can tap, touch or click on a photo to enlarge it and for a description, then use the < arrows > to scroll through. Then use the X (top left) to exit. Keep reading
Every stage of the grapes’ development is fascinating to some of us but August is the month when most of the bunches change colour (véraison) in Bordeaux, so you really get a visual perspective on how the different varieties perform.
As well as the Bordeaux varieties, we have some non-Bordeaux grapes too, planted around ten years ago as an experiment. Most visitors have little idea that we’re restricted to growing only certain types of grapes, but that’s the same for all protected ‘appellations’ in France: should we wish to make wine with non-Bordeaux grapes, like Syrah or Chardonnay, this would have to be under the basic Vin de France label. (Only a tiny fraction of wine from the Gironde is Vin de France, the rest ‘Bordeaux’ or one of its 60-odd appellations.)
This is a long post below with several photos of each variety, and you certainly don’t need to know all about this stuff to enjoy a glass or two of wine. However, to give you a picture of how different grapes ripen at different times, here are several reds in the same block, taken on the same mid-August day:
Merlot, 12 August 2018
Cabernet Franc, 12 August
Cabernet Sauvignon, 12 August
Pinot Noir, 12 August
Syrah, 12 August
Grenache, 12 August
Ten days after a hailstorm at Ch Bauduc on 23 May 2009.
Every year on the 23rd May, I take a photo of the Merlot vines outside the château and each picture tells a story. From the hailstorm in May in 2009, to the early harvest in 2011 and 2017, the grotty start to the growing season in 2013 and the normal, good years like 2016. Here are some of those photos.
The earliest growing season – a burst out of the blocks, 23 May 2011.
September is usually quite full-on, what with the start of the harvest and a new school year, but the 2017 edition has been bonkers. Not only have we completed the white harvest – which would normally be the case – but, as with the rest of Bordeaux this year, the reds are almost all in too. We’ve also hosted so many events at Bauduc we’ve had to recruit a live-in chef – what we’d have done without Elly, Lord knows. Keep reading
February is bottling month at Château Bauduc for the previous vintage’s whites and rosé. It’s the culmination of 16 months’ work when you take into account the pruning of the vines the winter before. It’s yet another time when we’re nervous about the weather – in previous years the machine has frozen up – but we were lucky this time. We bottled our 2016 Sauvignon Blanc, Les Trois Hectares Blanc and our Rosé. Keep reading
The harvest was completed at Bauduc last Friday, 21st October. We picked the remaining block of Cabernet Sauvignon by hand, just as we did when Rick Stein came to film the opening episode of his Long Weekends series for the BBC a year ago. (Where does the time go?)
It’s been a long harvest in 2016 and strange to think that the first rows we picked – also by hand – were the 10-year old Semillon vines for our sparkling cremant in the next door field as far back as the 12th September. (Funny, that seems like an age ago.) Keep reading
We harvested the Merlots, mostly by machine, during the week of 10th October. The grapes looked terrific and one advantage of bringing them in cold by machine at the crack of dawn, is putting them into a chilled stainless steel tank for a cold soak for a few days before starting the fermentation.
Some of the great chateaux we most admire, such as l’Evangile in Pomerol, Smith Haut Lafitte in Pessac-Leognan and Malescot St-Exupery in Margaux, also like to do a pre-fermentation ’cold maceration’. Their pickers snip the bunches into crates during the day and the winery staff drive the pallets of crates into a chiller room, usually overnight, before de-stemming and sorting the bunches and transferring the grapes – cold – into tanks the following day. Keep reading
We picked all our Merlot this week, so we’ve just got our Cabernet to go and that’ll be that. More on the red harvest at Bauduc in next week’s missive, suffice to say that we’ve been lucky with the weather. It’s been dry and sunny until yesterday afternoon, which is good for bringing in the grapes and, of course, for taking photos. It’s also unusual to have all the children at home at this time of year, so it’s only fair that we put together a gratuitous family album. Keep reading
This week has been dry and sunny, so we’ve decided to hold off harvesting the reds at Bauduc for the moment. We had a heavy dollop of rain last Friday night – straight after we’d sent out an upbeat monthly review – so an excellent September came to an abrupt end. Thankfully though, the rain was just a one-off and since then we’ve had fresh mornings and glorious days. We therefore thought we’d leave that downpour to freshen things up in the vineyard, and hang on for what they call optimum ripeness.
We also have a useful early warning system nearby, thanks to the earlier maturing vineyards of Pomerol some 25 minutes up the road near Libourne, where Tom goes to school. Our Merlot usually ripens 8-10 days later than at the top chateaux on the plateau of Pomerol so, after dropping Tom at school, it makes good sense – in the name of research, of course – to study the harvest taking place on one of the finest patches of dirt in the world. Keep reading