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Jean Merlaut on Vintage 2011: « Château Gruaud Larose is very pure, tannins are powerful and tasty with a good acidity and a great freshness. »

13 janvier 2012 No Comment
A few months before the new En Primeur campaign, Jean Merlaut, owner of Chateau Gruaud Larose, discusses the 2011 Vintage.

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Could you tell us more about the 2011 Vintage at Chateau Gruaud Larose?

Jean Merlaut: "2011 was an atypical year. Indeed, the winter was relatively mild with little frost. Then, March was particularly hot and dry, with a very early budbreak (15 days in advance). Spring temperatures accelerated the development. Then Flowering followed, more than 15 days in advance. This abnormal drought in the early growing season has fostered a deep rooting, also favored by our farming methods. Rainfalls in June - not heavy but spread over time - were not big enough to make up for water deficit. During the summer, temperatures were below average seasonal figures with some periods of rain.These conditions imposed a delicate leaf stripping (on both sides), then a green harvesting that was extremely important. Veraison, which started early, ended before Aug. 15 and let us consider a particularly early harvest. However, as September was approaching, water stress was increasing, which slowed down the ripening process. Some raisins were still green!"

JM: "Rains in late August and early September revived the activity of the vines but we were afraid of the probable arrival of botrytis. But sometimes nature knows how to make pleasant surprises ...In Mid-September, a hot and dry weather reminded us of summer temperatures. The harvest of the Merlot grapes started on September 15 at an optimal level of maturity and in perfect conditions. Particularly favorable weather conditions allowed us to wait patiently for picking Cabernet Sauvignon and Petit Verdot, also with perfect maturity levels. Once again September was decisive for the quality of the vintage."

JM: "However, these perfect conditions did not mean that sorting grapes was not necessary ... In fact, the major feature in 2011 was the heterogeneity of maturity that we could notice on some grapes. On a single grape, we could sometimes find some “passerillé” berries, while others were dry or even green. This heterogeneity was particularly surprising because, in a large majority, the remaining grapes were in perfect conditions and mature. As our long fermentations do not permit any compromise with regard to the quality of the grapes, our high-performance equipment was used efficiently.A machine with high-precision cameras permitted to select the perfect and ripe grapes only. The fermentations lasted 9 days on average and, despite a relatively high natural sugar content, went on well, in perfect conditions. Colors and tannins appeared quickly. Therefore, it was necessary to be vigilant and not to extract too much in order to maintain a perfect balance in our wines. Everyday, the tastings of each tank allowed us to determine any need for pumping over or oxygenating.."

JM: "Overall, for 2011, we can say that we needed less intervention than usually. The components of the ripe grapes disseminated quickly and easily in the juice. Malolactic fermentation went on well. Like every year, the quality of press wines was closely related to the quality of the grapes we used. For 2011, around 20% went into press wines and a significant proportion of this was considered of "High quality", which means they could be incorporated into the Chateau Gruaud Larose wine. At the end of the vinification, the 2011 vintage already shows its character: the wine is very pure, tannins are powerful and "tasty" with a good acidity and a great freshness. We do not feel any strong alcohol thanks to a higher acidity than usually and also thanks to the complexity of the tannins. With this balance, barrel ageing will add complexity to the wine. As a summary, 2011 reminded us that the daily work in the vineyard helps to deliver outstanding results. And it also showed, one more time, that our job is to accompany and provide the wine with the best conditions to express itself fully.."

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