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The 2016 vintage
Dourthe Estates
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Chapter 1

Harvest gets underway
September 3rd, 2015
As the first snips of the secateurs resonate around the vineyard for our Graves white wines, what can we report on the 2015 vintage?

Chapitre 2

The dry white harvest draws to a close at Dourthe
14th September
Having commenced 27th August at Chateau Rahoul in Graves with a parcel of young Sauvignon, the harvest should end tomorrow on the very same estate with the last hectare of late Semillon (gravel on clay). Our dry whites from the left bank – at Ch. Rahoul and Ch. La Garde (Pessac Léognan) - and the right bank – the Sauvignon Blanc for Dourthe N°1 and Ch. de Ricaud (Loupiac – Cadillac Côtes de Bordeaux) - are slowly fermenting in the cellars.

Chapitre 3

The start of the red harvest at Dourthe Estates
24 September
With the white grapes only just picked, we now turn our attentions to the first red grapes. After a glorious start to September, stormy weather brought an end to the peace and calm in the vineyard. Rainfall was concentrated essentially in Medoc, and had only a minimal effect on the southern vineyards and on the right bank. A marked drop in temperatures helped maintain the healthy condition of the grapes, allowing the earliest Merlot grapes to ripen until the return of sunshine on 18 September. The 2015 red grape harvest is barely underway.

Chapitre 4

The Cabernet Harvest – Another step on the road to a great vintage
8 October
A glorious end to September set the tone for the Merlot harvest. With clear blue skies, a gentle north-easterly breeze, cool nights and mild afternoons (22 - 25°C), conditions were ripe to keep the grapes in pristine health and achieve remarkable ripeness in the grape varieties currently being picked.

The grape harvest: the whites are already underway.


On Thursday 27th August, the first parcel of young Sauvignon Blanc vines was picked at Chateau Rahoul (Graves), thus launching the 2015 harvest on our estates.

And with the weather still summery with cool nights, the vines are in perfect health. The Sauvignon berries are swollen and have ripened well. The vine rows are perfectly manicured.

«Tasting and analysing the berries is critical to determine which rows of Sauvignon blanc will be picked this week at Chateau La Garde (Pessac-Léognan) and Chateau Rahoul (Graves) » explains Frederic Bonnaffous, Director of Dourthe Estates.

« Sugar and acidity are really well-balanced, with moderate potential alcohol » he continues, while tasting the must from grapes picked at Rahoul on 27th August.

Meanwhile, the Semillon continues to mature well in both Graves and Chateau de Ricaud (Loupiac)... More to follow.

Ripening is well underway for the reds and the next few weeks will be critical to satisfy our cautious optimism.


The red tank rooms are a hive of activity on our 9 estates, cleaning, preparing the tanks and installing increasingly sophisticated equipment for receiving the harvest and sorting the fruit.

In the vineyards, maturation goes on nicely. The fruit is progressing well in terms of volume, sugar, aroma precursors and polyphenols, with good weather conditions so far and carefully monitored disease pressure.

Given the current conditions in the vineyards, harvesting the first Merlots could start in the earlier terroirs during week commencing 21st September, which is on track compared to the average.

However, as Frederic Bonnaffous enjoys pointing out, « until the grapes are in tank, it’s best to remain very cautious. September could change a lot. And since I don’t have a crystal ball, we might as well continue to manage the vineyards to do our level best to help the grapes ripen, and remain vigilant. »

More to follow...

The early stages of the 2015 vintage at the Dourthe estates

The harvest is the culmination of all the meticulous, hard work in the vineyards carried out to adapt to the rhythm of the vine, which every year presents different challenges.
Budburst was staggered over time as expected, varying from 31st March at Ch. le Boscq in St Estephe and 10th April at Ch. Belgrave in Haut-Medoc, depending on the early-ripening nature of the soils and appellations..
Warmer weather took hold in April, with unexpected summer-like conditions and temperatures in excess of 28°C on 14th and 15th April.
Vine growth in April and May was significant in these conditions, revealing good, even shoot growth.
However, given the vigour and advanced state of the vegetation, we had to proceed with caution during the wetter month of May to successfully ward off high disease pressure, including mildew at Grand Barrail Lamarzelle Figeac and unexpected Black Rot on some parcels at Ch. Ricaud in Cadillac and Rahoul in Graves. We carried out significant budrubbing and canopy management on the more vigorous vines.
Lovely flowering, some 15 days ahead of schedule, commenced 26th May. Even and rapid, irrespective of grape variety or locality, it took place in great, hot, dry weather conditions, with little difference between the Merlot and Cabernets grapes.
A very hot, almost rain-free summer for 7 weeks from mid-June to the end of July, slowed growth in the vine as it began to shut down and struggle on the sandy and stony plots on our estates on the left bank.
The vines coped best on the clay-limestone terroirs. The vineyard remained healthy and all the work in the vineyard during this period focused on reducing unnecessary evaporation.
Veraison commenced mid-July (16th July) at Grand Barrail Lamarzelle Figeac, and almost everywhere else during the week commencing 20th July. Dry conditions slowed growth in the vine, and veraison was slow to start, while rainstorms from 28th July to 3rd August, with thankfully no hail, kickstarted its progress as well as reinvigorating the vine, nevertheless offsetting the early flowering.
A good August, with summer temperatures and relatively evenly spread heavy rainfall, helped the berries to swell, which were still very small at the end of July. Veraison continued undeterred and ripening in the earliest plots of Merlot commenced mid-August. Work in the vineyards ensured that the grapes benefit from the best ripening conditions until harvesting.

Ideal weather conditions during the relaxed, drawn-out harvest


An atmosphere of total calm pervaded the harvest this year.

«Exceptional weather for the period with clear blue skies, temperatures not too hot around 24-25°C during the daytime, and cool nights and mornings (with 10-12°C day/night temperature variation), and a refreshing light northerly wind » commented Patrick Jestin smiling.

« As well as suiting us, the grapes remained in pristine health in these conditions and the grape harvest was picked at optimal ripeness at a relaxed, drawn-out pace »
added Frederic Bonnaffous, Director of Dourthe Estates.

Harvesting was carried out the mornings of 1,2,3 and 8th September at Ch. La Garde, where Sauvignon is the predominant varietal; 27th August, 1, 2, 9, 10 and 15 September at Ch. Rahoul, mainly planted with Semillon, and on the right bank, at Ch. de Ricaud, on 4, 7, 9 and 10th September, also predominantly Semillon.

«The Sauvignon Blanc for Dourthe No. 1 was picked with the same care and attention, where given the sheer number and diversity of the terroirs, the harvest lasted from 30th August to 11th September» added Patrick Jestin.

Great quality grape juice and straightforward fermentations


Picked early morning to keep the grapes cool and preserve the aromas, the fruit was then cold-pressed under inert gas, using nitrogen or dry ice. Further to cold settling, at the very start of fermentation the juices were transferred to barrique (at Ch. La Garde and Ch. Rahoul), and stainless steel tanks at Ch. Ricaud, for low-temperature fermentation at 15 - 16 °C.

« Made from plump, pristine grapes, the must shows excellence balance, with average alcohol around 13% and 3.2-3.3 pH depending on the grape variety and terroir. The aromas are already really expressive, and the overall result, with less lively acidity than in 2013 and 2014 should produce really lovely wines» noted Frédéric Bonnaffous

Straightforward fermentations for 7-8 days, in both tanks and barriques, are already finished for the first few parcels. We are now moving to the maturation phase, with the first batonnage carried out at Ch Rahoul and La Garde.

Dourthe rosés also picked

While our focus in this newsletter remains on the dry whites, it is also worth mentioning the pressed rosés. Crafted using red grapes, essentially Cabernets, from vineyard plots allocated and cultivated exclusively for our rosés, the wines are made in exactly the same way as the dry whites.
Harvesting took place at Ch. Pey la Tour and Ch. de Ricaud the mornings of 8, 10 and 11th September. The must displays excellent fruit quality and freshness.

All systems go for the red grape harvest

«At the end of the day, only the weather could tame our optimism for the 2015 red harvest » commented Patrick Jestin. «The vineyard is now fully mature; the outstanding work carried out in the vines has been tailored to the specific conditions of the vintage; the weather has definitely been on our side over the last few weeks; the grapes are lovely and healthy, showing even ripeness and have further improved since the beginning of September. The cellars and the winemaking equipment are positively gleaming in anticipation – everything is ready on our side, it’s all systems go. »

« It seems that the good weather has put us slightly ahead of our initial schedule»
points out Frederic Bonnaffous.
« Conditions in the vineyard are perfect. The grapes are ripening well. Depending on the weather over the next few days, we should be able to start with the Merlot on the earlier-ripening soils around 17th September or week commencing 21st September.»

To be continued.

A very calm start to the harvest


Monday 21 September was bathed in glorious sunshine. Just another day for Frederic Bonnaffous and his team to assess the vineyards for parcels of vines ready to pick.

«We already picked a few blocks of Merlot on the very early ripening sandy gravel soils at Château Rahoul in Graves, on 17, 18 and 21 September, along with the first parcels at Château Belgrave, Haut-Medoc, on 18 September. But we were only warming up» he pointed out.







More intensified picking planned for this week


The Merlot planted on lighter soils is picked before the grapes on gravel-clay or on soils with greater limestone content.

«We will start the Merlot on clay-limestone at Château Reysson on 23 September. From what we saw at Château La Garde (Pessac-Leognan) and Château Pey La Tour (Bordeaux-Bordeaux Superieur) as Patrick Jestin and I went round the vineyards on Monday, picking at these estates will also start 23 September. Harvesting should commence towards the end of the week at Château Le Boscq (Saint-Estephe) and Château Grand Barrail Lamarzelle Figeac (Saint-Emilion Grand Cru).»

The first Merlot grapes brought in are showing even ripeness, with smaller berries than usual which should result in good concentration in the wines. The juice, though still only at pre-fermentation stage, has a potential alcohol of 13.5% with average acidity. To be continued…

Calm, drawn out harvest for the Merlot


Well underway now for just over two weeks, the Merlot harvest came to a close on our early-ripening estates and in those vineyards with lighter soil structure, so 1 October at Château Rahoul, followed by 6 October in the Médoc at Chateau Reysson, Le Boscq and Belgrave, and Chateau Grand Barrail Lamarzelle Figeac in Saint Emilion.

Harvesting continued this week on the more clay-based soils of Chateau La Garde in Pessac-Leognan, and the limestone-clay soils on the right bank at Chateau Pey La Tour and de Ricaud. The berries are rich and concentrated.




Lovely ripeness in the later varietals – Great Cabernets


Conditions at the end of September were ideal for completing ripening in the Petit Verdot. Vineyard plots in La Garde, Rahoul, Le Boscq and part of Belgrave were picked 1 and 2 October.

The Cabernets are looking really great. Picking kick started 5 October with the Cabernet Sauvignon on the left bank at Château Belgrave, Le Boscq, Rahoul and Reysson, and also on La Garde’s magnificent gravel plateau.


«The grapes show good balance, typical of great Cabernet Sauvignon”, pointed out Frederic Bonnaffous. “The bunches are evenly ripe, with healthy, very delicate skins, while the berries are small, and therefore concentrated, suggesting great potential in terms of aromatics, colour and tannins, with good levels of acidity and alcohol. The mature Cabernet Franc vines at Château Grand Barrail Lamarzelle Figeac also reached perfect ripeness this week.»

The birth of a great vintage


The Merlots are macerating in tank further to straightforward fermentations «Offering charming, delicate aromas and appealing vibrant colours, the wines on the left bank are perhaps less powerful and tannic than 2014, but the moderate alcohol and acidity levels are extremely well-balanced. I can already relish the potential quality of the blends using the Cabernets we are currently harvesting »enthuses Patrick Jestin.

«The Merlots from the right bank show remarkable concentration» confirms Frederic Bonnaffous. «The wines reveal intense colour, and I particularly like the fruit, body and intensity, and the quality of the tannins. We are leaving the grape juice to reveal its full potential, pending the “icing on the cake”, the arrival of our last Cabernets and Petit Verdot.»

The harvest is gradually coming to a close at the Dourthe estates. «Fermentation may still be underway in tank, but based on what we have already experienced, observed and tasted in recent weeks, we are right on track for lovely, even great red wines. » Patrick Jestin



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