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.
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La vie de château

The latest edition of our column: WINTER 2017-2018, n°33



Nature is the first player in making a great wine, particularly in the soils it provides us with. To produce a quality wine, you need good grapes; to harvest good grapes, you need healthy vines; and to have healthy vines, you need a soil in a good shape and full of energy. It must not be diminished, impoverished or damaged by an overabundance of chemicals or heavy metals. That is why we decided to work with essential oils of citrus fruit, pulses or grains, freeze-dried fl owers or algae. We dilute 250 cl in 200 litres of water to transform them into a mixture (not Bordeaux mixture, we have banned copper!) that we then spray on the plants, thereby protecting and strengthening our vines without altering our soils. For the 2017 growing season, in spite of the vagaries of the weather, we once again managed to use only these essential oils to care for our vines. We sprayed seven times between 18 April and 2 August. We should have done one more, as, at harvesting, the grapes were intact but the leaves had suffered at the end of the season and the vines had to draw from their internal reserves to complete the ripening process. In our Château Hourtin-Ducasse 2017, therefore, nature alone had its say; alas with only a small harvest as it also brought us frost in late April, reducing our production. The essential oils that strengthen the plants’ natural defences and protect them against the main threats to our vines, mildew, powdery mildew and botrytis, have no effect on the weather – unfortunately!

Soon, while continuing to nurture our terroir, we intend to experiment with a new technique to care for our vines: listening to them to decipher the messages they receive from the other plants so that we can measure their well-being. Thanks to “stress sensors”, we can better tailor our natural treatments to their needs to help them overcome the ordeals they encounter during a growing season. We always work with the same objective: let nature have its say and help it to work its magic in our wines.

Michel Marengo


« CHIN - CHIN… »

The expression “qing qing” was once used in China to invite a guest to drink. Written “qing” in Pinyin, pronounced “chin” in Mandarin, translates as “if you please”. French soldiers returning from the Chinese Campaign, after the second Opium War, who probably tried it while there, are thought to have brought back the expression, and we have adopted it. Another theory is that this expression comes from the Middle Ages. Poisoning was common at the time, so people had to check their drinks. Some of the drink was therefore exchanged in each glass: the fi rst drinker hit his glass against the other person’s to pour a little of the liquid in, and the second did the same: ‘chin’ then ‘chin’. Then, looking each other in the eyes, they both drank, and could therefore be sure that neither had any evil intentions. It was supposedly the sound of the two glasses chinking that left its mark. Choose which you prefer, but whatever you decide, here’s to your very good health!


With the trade surplus, sales of wines and spirits remained steady in 2016 (up 1% over 2015) in spite of fewer imports of our wines to the markets that have always been our biggest: Germany, the UK and Singapore. This was offset by continued strong demand in China, up 8%, and the USA (the biggest wine consumers in the world), up 13%. The second most positive industry, in front of Perfumes and Cosmetics and behind Aeronautics, it is a sector that can’t be relocated, that creates jobs (300,000 jobs according to customs) and that attracts many tourists (almost 5 million foreign wine tourists in 2016). You would have to sell about 118 Airbus planes to bring in the 10.5 billion euros from the export of our wines in 2016. Hats off to wine!


It scored 91 in the American magazine Wine Enthusiast, 15.75 with Jane Anson, 89 with Andreas Larsson and 15.75 with Vert de Vin. It was selected Cru Bourgeois and chosen for 1001 Dégustations 2016, Guide Internet des Vins français and Selection aus Lust am Genuss, in Munich. It received a bronze medal in the Hong Kong Cathay Pacifi c International Wine & Spirit Competition 2015 for food pairing with Oolong tea smoked pigeon, a silver medal at the Féminalise 2017 in Beaune, a bronze medal in the Decanter Asia Wine Awards 2017 in Hong Kong and a silver medal in the Elle à Table competition 2017 in France. We are naturally very proud.




Fans of numbers will argue that, with a few exceptions, years ending in 7 have a poor reputation. It is true that they have only rarely produced great wines. In Burgundy, 2007 required careful sorting and harvesting was more diffi cult because of rot. In 1997, low acidity and fairly fragile wines were common, as in Champagne where the critical vine growth periods were hampered by rain. In 1987 in Bordeaux, 2 weeks of rain shortly before harvesting diluted the grapes. The resulting reds were fairly fi ne and distinguished, but less good for keeping. After two good years, the 1977 vintage suffered from heavy spring frosts and a cool, wet summer, which prevented the grapes from ripening properly. Burgundy encountered the same problems. 1967 was again a vintage of Cabernet with a lack of maturity. In 1957, the small harvest in Bordeaux, due to a cold wet summer, had an excessively high acidity resulting in fi rm, austere wines. Only 1947 was a Grand Vintage. In Champagne, harvesting began early on 5 September, in Burgundy the wines were strong, and the red Bordeaux, like the wines in the Rhône were similar: rounded and full-bodied, the Bordeaux gave 1947 the reputation of being one of the great vintages of the century. Many are still at their best. But what exactly is a Grand Vintage or a Great Year? It is a vintage that everyone knows, and the famous tasters agree on the idea that the wines are good everywhere; all the media proclaim it loud and strong. And it’s true, sometimes nature is very generous to everyone. In these years, through the magic of the terroir, some usually remarkable wines are admirable, others, usually delicious, become excellent, and in general, all the wines are particularly good. Conversely, a Bad Year does not mean that all the wines are less good than we might expect; but there are big differences from one estate to the next, where nature is more generous to a privileged few. It is therefore the disparity of success that makes the Bad Year. However, there are some good wines, and they deserve to be tried, and often cost less. Thanks to a terroir suited to certain diffi cult weather conditions, to the wine growers’ work in the vines, to the winemaking and ageing techniques, there are plenty of Bad Years worth a try, full of promise, and delightful to drink.




Because of the wealth of information on wine bottle labels, partly the mandatory legal notices, but also because we like to tell you what happened during the 2 years when we worked on the vines and in the cellars, with the 2015 vintage our back labels tell you just a little bit more. Bottom left, you will fi nd a two-dimensional barcode on all the bottles. Use your smartphone to take a picture, or, if it does not read these particular codes, download an application to do so (QRbot, QRDR, QR reader, for example). Then scan the code and you’ll learn a little more about your wine.


Throughout the summer, we have welcomed you in our cellars to talk about and share our wines. But it doesn’t stop there. We are open all year round to show you how we cultivate our vines, our fermentation techniques, how we blend, how we choose our barrels… and of course to let you taste some of our wines accompanied by a few local gourmet specialities. Will you prefer the roundness of the 2006, the crunchy fruit of the 2007, the length of the 2010, the minerality of the 2011, or the astonishing smoothness of the 2016 not yet out of the barrel? Whatever your choice, each to his own, but a pleasure for all! Choose from several types of visit according to what you enjoy best. Go to our website, click on the “Visit us” tab and book online, or by email or phone. Hope to see you soon.


23-26 March2018 SALON DES VIGNERONS INDEPENDANTS in Paris, Porte Champerret.

7-8 April 2018 OPEN WEEKEND IN MEDOC: over 50 Medoc producers open their doors to reveal the wonders of our terroirs. At Château Hourtin-Ducasse, you can visit our chais and taste several vintages plus Les Roses de Marie; and you can get a preview of the highly promising 2017 wines.

19-21 May 2018 PIQUE-NIQUE DES VIGNERONS INDEPENDANTS: bring your picnic, we supply the garden tables facing the vines, and share a few of our wines.