La vie de château

Twice a year, we offer our customers a short, no-holds barred column recounting the evolution of the vintages they purchased, notable information about the estate, and the latest happenings with La Place de Bordeaux market.  This is our way of keeping in touch and sharing our passion with fellow wine enthusiasts. We write new pieces bi-yearly (summer & winter) for La Vie de Château, which we send directly to the subscriber’s email address.
If you’d like to receive our next edition or know of a friend who would, please sign up!

Receive the next 
La vie de château

The latest edition of our column: SUMMER 2017, n°32



Wine makers constantly seek to improve the quality of their wines. And so they should. We are just the same and we believe you have to begin by fully respecting the terroir. But it’s more than that: certain new technologies look very promising!

In the vineyards, drones, or even satellites, watch over the parcels to detect any need for soil improvement or treatments. A scanning device can assess ripeness within each bunch of grapes and advise on exactly when it should be picked. Some harvesting machines have artificial vision for optical sorting so that only perfectly ripe berries are selected, and all the other residues from the harvest are eliminated. In California, a famous vineyard has installed a moisture sensor together with a drip system around each vine to control and regulate the hygrometry with extreme precision by computer. Our favourite is a little solar-powered autonomous robot, programmed by smartphone, that moves up and down the rows to identify and remove the weeds; and it trots back home at the end of the day (we would love to be able to afford one!). In the vat rooms, software regulates the temperatures in the vats, all by itself. Fully automated systems take care of all the hoisting by gravity; the vat empties into a truck-tank which takes a lift to come and empty its contents back into the same vat (another one for our wish-list, made near us!). On our tables, the capsule machine allows you to choose your wine; each to his own bottle. All this promises an organised, well-ordered future… High technology helps us here; it facilitates, optimises and sometimes makes certain tasks more appealing.

Nevertheless, one parcel of land can differ from the top to the bottom; and this is what makes for the finesse and complexity of what it produces. Difference is what makes each vintage special; one year will have its own specific temperature, humidity and sunshine. If you smooth out these variations you take away the whole vintage effect. Sure, we’re geeks! But we want to continue expermenting and hesitating when we produce a wine. Our doubts and convictions are also very much a part of the spirit of a vintage and the story behind each bottle.New technology has its place, but it must not take over the soul of our terroir and ourproducts.

Michel Marengo

Prunning: Thanks to the dunkey

Global Legend has it that when doing his winter rounds of the monasteries, Martin de Tours took a break among the vines before reaching the Abbey of Marmoutier. After hitching his donkey to a post holding up a vine, he prayed that he would reach his destination without harm, drank a sip of water from his fl ask and, as he was tired, lay down to rest. Saint Martin slept. But not the donkey! He took advantage of the break to have a bite to eat and nibbled all the vines within reach of his rope. On awakening, Saint Martin saw the damage. All that remained was one plant, relieved of its vigorous branches. Saint Martin had to go and apologise to the monks for the misdeeds of his donkey, who was forgiven. But a few months later, imagine their surprise when, come harvest time, they picked from the vines “pruned” by the donkey, many large bunches of sweet, juicy grapes that produced a wine vastly better than what they had ever tasted. It is said that since this time, donkeys all go by the name of Martin and vines are pruned… short.

Rosé, at last!

Like all our grapes in the 2016 season, they took a long time coming. Harvesting began on 4 October (in 2015, all the grapes were in by then) with the Cabernet- Sauvignons and Cabernet Francs in the 3 parcels we had chosen for Les Roses de Marie 2016. These were pressed immediately and vinified separately, then two blending sessions sufficed to determine the proportion of each: 61% Cabernet-Sauvignon, 39% Cabernet Franc. On 14 February (for Valentine’s Day!), Les Roses de Marie 2016 were ready, with 6,600 bottles, 360 magnums and 35 double-magnums. Now we just need some sun!

Where do you buy your wines?

In 2016 in France, supermarkets were your favourite place to buy wine (78%). Then wine merchants (47%), purchasing direct from the producers (29%) and, in 4th position, Internet where 13% of you say you buy your wine. Of those, 53% use it only a few times a year, but there are the “big buyers”, the 37% who buy on line at least once a week. The good news (for us!) is that of those who buy on line, 50% go direct to producers’ websites. So if you feel like a château-hourtin-ducasse delivered direct to your home, go to our e-boutique. Delivery takes less than a week.

Sources: Baromètre SOWINE/SSI 2016



A few taisting rules...for maximum pleasure

As early as the 4th century BC, Plato listed the main flavours and classified scents into types; Aristotle had a sensory tasting system defined by the four elements (air, water, fi re and earth). The landmarks have changed but it is still worthwhile using a few rules, then move away from them if necessary. So let’s take a look at some basics. Tasting involves seeing, smelling, tasting and then analysing to be able to talk about it and share with others.

LOOK. The colour and highlights of the disk indicate how the wine will develop (the rusty red notes of our 2007 come from its age). The intensity of the colour gives information (not always correct) on the strength and concentration (the density of our 2014 is found on the palate). Clarity is a promise of the body to come.

SMELL AND SMELL AGAIN. The first nose, without swirling the wine, speaks of the wine’s generosity (our 2008 opens immediately). It also signals any defects so you avoid an unpleasant experience on the palate. On the second nose, after swirling the wine in the glass, you get the aromas. That is when you place your sensations in the main families (animal, balsamic, woody, chemical, smoky, spicy, ethereal, fruity, fl oral, mineral, vegetable) and even identify them accurately. A complex wine will express a large number of aromas from several families. They are called primary when they come from the grape variety (the mineral notes of the 2011), secondary when they come from the fermentation (the boiled sweets of Les Roses de Marie 2012) and tertiary from the ageing (the liquorice of our 2006).

SAVOUR. When you finally sip some wine you get the texture (you touch it at last) and detect the bitter, sweet and acid flavours. You grasp its overall balance. Then swill it round in your mouth (the sensors for acidity, sweetness and bitterness are not all in the same place) and breathe in through the mouth and out through the nose to separate the aromas. Some people like to chew the wine. Finally, analyse and enjoy the length on the palate and the quality of the remaining sensations (don’t miss the perseverance of our 2010). Now it’s your turn to add that absolutely personal, but no less fundamental, notion of pleasure! After all these reflections, there is one question that is too often forgotten: did I like it? All the other procedures should bring you to this answer. Tasting enables you to appreciate the qualities of a wine but especially to know what you think and to speak about it properly. So let’s taste… and share in the enjoyment.



Come and fill up...on electricity

For those of you who have already been to see us on the estate, you know that, in addition to producing wine, we produce… electricity. Our 150 photovoltaic panels, produce over 40,000 kWh a year, whereas our annual consumption is around 29,000 kWh. If you wish, we can share the surplus with you. Charging points for electric vehicles (type 2 sockets) are now installed on our car park and are available for use free of charge (!). Two vehicles (including a Tesla) can be charged simultaneously; they can recharge their batteries (22kWh output) while you come and learn about and taste our wines. Ready, steady, charge!

We have loving 2006 at the moment

Because we like to let time do its work and allow our wines to develop slowly in their bottles, after “forgetting” them for a few months in a corner of our chai, we recently uncorked a château-hourtin-ducasse 2006 to drink with a rib of beef one Saturday evening by the fi reside. Its strong garnet hue augurs well… Then the voyage begins with a bouquet of ripe black fruit, then exotic wood, sandalwood, mild spice and fresh leather… Smooth and full on the palate, its wonderfully voluminous fruit transports us into a world of sensuality and gourmandise. Pure delight! It also works without the fi reside, or the rib of beef…

Tasting together

24 - 27 March – SALON DES VIGNERONS INDEPENDANTS in Paris, Porte Champerret. Just ask and we’ll send you an invitation.

8 - 9 April – OPEN DAY WEEKEND IN THE MEDOC Like over 50 châteaux in the Medoc region, we are opening our estate to talk about our wines while you taste them over a dish of snacks. After a glass of Les Roses de Marie 2016, to celebrate the return of the sun, we suggest a Battle of the Generations: we will compare our opinions of the château-hourtin-ducasse through time with a 2004, 2010 and 2014.

15 - 30 May – WINE TOUR IN CHINA Beijing, Guangzhou and Wuhan are some of the towns in which we’ll be presenting our wines to professionals and amateurs during this wonderful trip.

3 - 5 June – PIQUE-NIQUE DES VIGNERONS INDEPENDANTS Bring a picnic and have a sit to enjoy together some of our vintages.

Hello, hello…

Sandrine takes care of everything! Your orders, invoices, and appointments, the organisation of your tours, your boxes and your deliveries or collections… and it’s Sandrine who answers when you phone the estate.
So give it a try, +33 5 56 59 56 92, and she’ll answer all your enquiries.