L’exuberance 2016

Made from 93% Merlot and 2% Cabernet Sauvignon and 5% Cabernet Franc, the fruit for this wine was carefully hand harvested in the fine cool early mornings of mid to late September.

The colour shows a vivacious rose petal pink of instant appeal with intense aromas of luscious ripe cherries, raspberries and wild strawberries, with further notes of grapefruit, fresh tomato, bay leaf and green peppers.

On the palate it shows the same fine register of complex red summer berry fruit flavours with a soft attack of smokiness, spicy bananas and more delicate notes of vanilla and caramel.

It is a very seductive style of rosé, long and fresh, yet perfectly balanced by a lovely refreshing acidity and with a long dry silky finish. Drink this wine now until end of 2018.

Vineyard: 5.7 hectares overall vineyard – small parcel selection

Grape variety: 93% Merlot, 2% Cabernet Sauvignon, 5% Cabernet Franc

Harvest: 100% by hand on 17th and 18th September, then 28th and 29th September

Winemaking: Fermented in 15% New French Oak barrels, 35% 2nd and 3rd year oak and 50% in stainless steel

Ageing: 5 months on the lees with regular batonnage

Alcohol by volume: 12.5%vol

Residual sugar: < 2 g/l

Production: 8,000 bottles

As the 2015 harvest ended, autumn slipped quietly into the warmest winter on record in France since 1900 with the January and February temperature some 2°C above average. There was also twice as much rainfall as normal in January alone and then in February, the extra warmth led to an early bud-break at the end of March, around one week earlier than usual.

As spring continued, temperatures dropped back to 1°C lower than normal and heavy rain continued although Bordeaux escaped most of the destructive hail and frost that much of eastern France and the Loire experienced. The result of the high rainfall was a significant slowing of growth with some vines suffering from asphyxia as the cool and wet soils became seriously waterlogged.

Then a warmer spell towards the end of May put things back on track and the flowering finally got under way around 25th May, lasting until mid June and although further rain showers led to an uneven fruit set, there was no shattering or ‘coulure’. Flowering is generally more influenced by temperature than rain and as the fruit set well, yields appeared higher than in 2015.’

By the end of June the overall six-month position was 62% higher rainfall than usual but with 20% less sunshine, but then on 23rd June summer arrived and it was hot and very dry for the next 80 days and with only 10mm of rain. As the middle of July approached, we really started to worry and few could recall such a long dry summer without rain. There were 3 periods that were particularly hot; 17/19th July, 13/16th and 23/27th August, but at least in July the vines did not appear to suffer as the soil had retained good water reserves.

However, by early August we started to notice some blockages in the ripening in the mainly gravelly parcels, suggesting that harvest dates would be pushed back a little, but this also delayed ‘veraison’ which only got properly underway after the brief rain shower in mid-August. We also noted that some of the grapes, mainly on the outer rows, were suffering from sunburn and leaves were yellowing or even falling completely. In contrast, the slow ripening did also suggest that we could expect reasonable alcohol levels for such a hot year, coupled with acidity that was fairly low but still vibrant.

As harvest approached, temperatures remained higher than usual, but then the acidity also began to drop at an alarming rate until two most welcome showers on 13th and 14th September brought 40mm of cool rain that gave the berries time to regain some balance. Overnight temperatures were also down to just 10/15°C whilst the days fluctuated between 20/30°C but as long as the sun kept on shining, we knew we could take our time with harvest. Then on Saturday 17th September at 7am and under blue skies, we began our rose harvest picking small selected parcels of merlot and continuing on Sunday, we finished work at midnight on both days.

What conclusions can we draw from the 2016 vintage. Well, good weather during harvest in a late-ripening year like 2016 is of course essential, but it is also a risk, as waiting just because you can, doesn’t always mean you should. You will also find huge variations of picking dates across Bordeaux in 2016, sometimes driven by soils, sometimes by style choices, but everywhere I go, I am told that colour has been easily extracted this year. It’s hard to say which vintage to compare 2016 with, but going back to 1990, there was a similar cool early season followed by an extremely hot and dry summer. 2012 also had a long slow harvest with a beautiful Indian summer and some of the technical readings point to 2010, but the overriding fact is that that dry vintages are always quality vintages.

The colour is a triumph, a beautifully pale, shimmering salmon pink. A standout in the company of other Bordeaux rose leaving the mouth clean, refreshed and wanting more.”

Hugo Rose MW