Petit Cantenac 2016

Petit Cantenac 2016 is made with fruit from our older Merlot, Cabernet Franc and Cabernet Sauvignon vines and was picked in perfect conditions during the cool early mornings of late September and early October.

The colour of the wine shows a superb deep velvety red, almost black and is marked by its’ beautiful Cabernet character, with fresh and lush rich notes of black plums, cassis, raspberry, figs, and fine leather, with hints of ginger and spice and soft vanillary new oak.

On the palate, it is full-bodied with firm but carefully weighted tannins on the entry, which become more defined as the wine lingers in the mouth, with dense savoury and earthy characters leading towards a rounded, supple, blackberry and plum finish that displays good restraint and poise.

It is a delicious and pleasing wine with a firm satisfying freshness, quite forward in style, but with fine soft tannins and an easy aromatic evolution that spreads neatly right across the palate. It will drink well after only 2 or 3 years, but will also continue to develop nicely in the bottle.

Drink 2020 to 2030.

Vineyard: 3.0 hectares overall vineyard

Grape variety: 90% Merlot, 5% Cabernet Sauvignon & 5% Cabernet Franc.

Harvest: 100% by hand on 21st & 30th September and 7th & 11th October

Winemaking: One days’ cold soak (7-8°C) due to high extractability. Alcoholic fermentation (25°C) for 6 days with regular pumping over. Post fermentation maceration (28/29°C) for 10 days and Malo-lactic fermentation in oak barrels.

Ageing: Aged in 30% New French Oak & 70% 2nd year barrels for 12 months.

Alcohol by volume: 14%vol

Residual sugar: < 2 g/l

Production: 14,000 bottles

[:en]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.[:]

An elegant, floral and refined wine with an appealing interplay between the fruit, oak and acidity with the tannins also particularly well judged.”

Tim Atkin MW