Editor’s Note: For the next couple of weeks, Winederlusting contributor Tom Davey — who is the Sales Manager for Chateau Gaby in Canon-Fronsac, Bordeaux — will be documenting the 2016 harvest in almost real-time on the blog. This is a very special time of year in the wine world for the Northern Hemisphere. It’s even more of a treat to experience the harvest vicariously through Tom’s anecdotes. (Videos included below!)
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Bordeaux Harvest 2016 – Saturday and Sunday October 9th – 10th 2016
The Harvest Continues at Chateau Gaby!
SATURDAY – 08/10/16
8AM — Action!
With a fairly stiff back from yesterday’s exploits — carrying the baskets up from the pickers to the loading trailer — I set out with the harvesters to finish picking from a Merlot plot called ‘Gilbert’ planted in 1970, where we almost finished yesterday…
Damien has closely consulted the health of the grapes and their differing degrees of ripeness depending on the plot and following Gilbert, we head to a large plot (no.5) where we work our way up the slope away from the Dordogne towards the emblematic chateau perched on its limestone outcrop.
From Thursday and Friday’s picking we filled the no.7, our largest concrete vat of roughly 180 hectolitres/18000 litres. Damien’s aim is to continue to refine our ‘parcellaire selection’ in even more site-specific detail this year. As such, moving the pickers onto richer limestone terroir just below the house leads the winery team to separate this fruit in an oak vat for cold maceration.
Delicious, enjoyable wine is all about balance – fruit, sweetness, bitterness, acidity, tannin….
Smooth and delicate fruit aromas are conserved in the wine thanks to this vinification technique involving dry ice pellets which chill the vat’s contents to around 0 – 2 C. The grapes remain whole and the juices macerate together under the blanket of dry ice which also helps limit oxygen contact at this early stage, letting the vat’s contents heat up gradually to activate the wild yeast induced fermentation between 70-85 F (20-30 C) in vat.
3PM — After filming the vinifying in oak vats, I went back out to the vines to finish the day with the harvesters.
The last plot of the day before coming in at 5:45PM was the gorgeous, well-exposed west-facing ‘Caillau’. I noticed there to be barely a single bunch affected by rot in this area, where the fresh breeze blows through the vine rows noticeably more than on our sheltered south-facing slopes under the house.
We finished the evening with cleaning up and disinfecting the equipment as usual followed by a few beers with the owner David and his family!
SUNDAY – 09/10/16
8AM — After a quick coffee and a chat about the night before, the pickers and carriers leave Gaby’s small gate on the North side of the estate, heading towards the ‘Cuvee plot’ of Merlot.
As the photos show, we are on the very top of the limestone plateau of Canon-Fronsac – the positioning that made the AOC such a strategic military vantage point from the days of Charlemagne through to World War 2.
David Curl and Damien came up with the idea to make a limited production Cuvee Gaby from the 2007 vintage onward exclusively with Merlot from this exceptional plot. Any of our best soil like this is rich in chalky limestone, full of rocks and very well draining. Cultivating the land between the vines is paramount up here and since removing chemicals from the soil in about 2006, we have vine roots burrowing deep into the rich subsoil in search of the little moisture and nutrition available.
“For great wine, you need great fruit and no amount of modern technology in the winery can makeup for poor viticultural practices” – winemaker Damien
12PM — The decision was taken to give the pickers the afternoon off on this day – Sunday – after a solid few days of progress.
After coming back up to the Chateau from plot no.8, the team settled down merrily to deviled boiled eggs then barbecued rib of beef with courgette gratin followed by Rum & Raisin rice pudding!
This afternoon we transport our ‘Dream’ de-stemmer in the photos to a neighboring vineyard which is renting it tomorrow….for now Damien is happy to let the Cabernet grapes and some of the cooler plots of Merlot at Gaby and Moya continue to ripen before attacking again on Tuesday morning…
Siesta now perhaps? Stay tuned and best wishes to you all from Bordeaux….