Petit Cantenac 2012

Made from our older Merlot, Cabernet Franc and Cabernet Sauvignon vines, the fruit for this wine was picked in perfect conditions during the cool early mornings of late September and early October.

The colour shows a deep dark red which is marked by its’ beautiful Cabernet character, complete with fresh, lush rich notes of black plums, cassis, cherry, raspberry, figs, and fine leather, with further hints of liquorice, spice and soft vanillary new oak.

On the palate, it is full-bodied with a pleasant attack of fine soft tannins and an aromatic evolution that spreads satisfyingly tight across the palate and becomes more defined as the wine lingers in the mouth. It is savoury, delicious and well-made wine, quite forward in style, with an elegant and rounded, supple blackberry and plum finish that displays good restraint and poise. Drink 2015-2020.

Vineyard: 3.5 hectares

Grape variety: 85% Merlot, 6% Cabernet Sauvignon, 9% Cabernet Franc

Harvest: 100% by hand on 24th September & 3rd October

Winemaking: Saignée, cold maceration (7-8°C) for 7 days to develop fruit aromas.  Alcoholic fermentation (25C) for 5 days with regular pumping over. Post-fermentation macerating (28-29°C) for 15-20 days, due to the exceptional fruit quality. Malo-lactic fermentation in oak barrels

Ageing: Aged in 40% New French Oak and 60% 2nd year barrels for 20 months

Alcohol by volume: 13.5%vol

Residual sugar: < 2 g/l

Production: 16,000 bottles

In Bordeaux, no two years are ever the same, but the contrast between 2011 and 2012 could not have been more striking. In fact it all started quite well with a cold winter followed by a relatively mild and promising March, but with difficult and changeable weather conditions from late April until June all the indicators were already signaling that a topsy-turvy, chaotic and confused 2012 vintage was on the horizon. Bud break was a full three weeks later than in 2011 and at least ten days later than in any ‘normal’ year and with late April and May  rain we had to be very vigilant of mildew, eventually treating our vines up to ten times over the growing season.

This period was then followed by some fine weather at the end of May, but the flowering in early June was very long and drawn out with more rain falling over the first two weekends of the month. However, the problem was not so much the poor flowering, fruit set or low yields, but the different stages of evolution from one bunch to the next and from one vine to the next and from that point on, we knew that we could expect a late harvest.

Then, it all quite suddenly changed with the temperature hitting 30C on 29th June and from then onwards it was plain sailing all the way through a wonderful July and a blisteringly hot August. In fact, the great weather persisted until 25th September when heavy rains finally fell again after three months of perfect conditions and for a few days it was like winter again.

However, it was by far the best summer that I can recall in 10 years in Bordeaux, characterised by fine and long hot sunny days and cool comfortable nights as daytime temperatures regularly hit 40C during August. In fact at times it was rather too hot and dry and the mini heat wave led to some of the younger vines suffering badly from water deficit and becoming stressed and blocked or simply closing down in the sweltering heat, with some of the exposed bunches of fruit also suffered a grilling in the intense afternoon heat. Veraison was also far later than usual in normal years and was quite protracted just like the flowering had been back in June and whilst this meant that in most parcels, the grapes changed colour at a very leisurely pace, there did not appear at that time to be any great hurry, certainly not at least while the good weather lasted.

Then under warming blue skies at 7.30am on Mon 24th September we started harvest for the first of the younger Merlot with the fruit in perfect condition and showing some good yields. However on Tuesday morning we had 40mm of rain and then more on Wednesday, mixed in with sunny spells, drying winds and evening showers. However on Thursday the weather improved and so we were able to start harvest again after lunch. We also did a big tour of the vineyard to inspect our Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot vines, which showed good fruit turgidity and an improvement of the skin taste but no over-expectation of the berries.

We finally started work again on Tuesday 2nd October and by very late afternoon, we had picked all of the best quality Merlot just as the day ended with the most spectacular sunset, followed by a wonderful sunrise the next morning as the team got to work again on the last of the Merlot and then finally, in late afternoon, the Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc.

It had been a real roller coaster of a vintage and another year of living dangerously, but finally it was all over and gratefully we were very satisfied with the early results.

Intense deeply flavoured layered with incredible finesse...frankly extraordinary”

Private Cellar, Nicole Arcedeckne-Butler MW, October 2009