Ready, set go! at Larcis Ducasse (#chateaularcisducasse), Premier Grand Cru Classé for the new vintage 2016. Harvest starts this Tuesday 11th October for the Merlot which makes up 78% of the vineyard and Cabernet Franc will follow later. It normally lasts 10 to 12 days in all but as the sun continues to shine there is no rush.
It is about the same size as the Pomerol jewel, Petrus and is as steep as the Pomerol star is flat. Located on the prestigious Côte Pavie (immediately east of grade A Pavie) the 11 hectare estate occurs in one block but on different levels and soil types. It is more like a large garden and its treated in that way. Here each vine gets individual treatment and is treated according to its vigour and potential with 3 to 13 bunches possible on one vine.
In Bordeaux the heat this summer slowed the vine’s metabolism so the changing of colour and ripening took place slowly. Cold nights have added complexity and preserved freshness and now skin ripeness has joined relatively sweet grapes to signal optimum ripeness on both fronts (the alternation of cold nights and warm days means that the skins are continually dilating and expanding which helps to thin the skins and makes the aromas, tannins and colours more available to go into the eventual wine).
David Suire (who also helps to make other mini St Emilion star Beausejour Duffau Lagarosse) is in charge here as part of the Nicolas Thienpont team. The owners of this 11 hectare estate are the Gratiot Attmane family who entrust this one of St Emilion’s finest ‘bijou’ to the proficient team. In terms of what goes into the vats to be turned into the wine of 2016 David puts it simply “we pick want we would want to eat !”.
The vineyards start on the prestigious limestone plateau ‘asterie’ (fossilised sea-shells and star fish which give a sponge-like capacity) and descend steeply in terraces some fifty metres to the bottom of the hill. The fruit ripens slowly in these cold soils which are naturally drained.
Facing south towards the wide Dordogne River in the distance means that they benefit from sunshine all day but the expanse of water tempers any climatic extremes. Trees found more often in the Mediterranean thrive in this sheltered sunny micro-climate. The vines produce small quantities of concentrated grapes here but with preserved freshness. Like a forest strawberry develops complex aromas due to its cool long growing season.
On the plateau the vines suck up water just enough to keep them from suffering even in the very dry warm summer of 2016. You can see from the green foilage here in the photos despite not having any water for months on end. the fact that the vines are sheltered from any cold winds from the north enable
Even the soil further down the slope is full of chalk (600g out of every kilo of soil) that has been eroded from the mother rock into the clay and sand. Recent studies have shown that there are no less than 85 different zones of soils in this compact vineyard which helps to explain the amazing complexity of the wines of Larcis Ducasse. The philosophy of the property is that “wine is inextricably linked with its soil”.
The picking will take place according to these micro plots and the small concrete vats enable them to be vinified separately.
In this maritime climate where weather conditions vary from year to year, the canopy management in the vines is adapted accordingly. Notice in the photos above an small wooden extension to the top of the vines. This year David decided that the plants could do with some extra foilage, extra photosynthesis to feed into the grapes.
The wines are vinified traditionally but there is no splitting of the skins beforehand. This means that more of the aromas are preserved in the juice and wine (and less in the winery atmosphere) and the wines are clearer naturally so less racking, fining and filtration are necessary.Otherwise the extraction of the skins is done gently with minimal intervention overall during the grape’s time in the vat.
Part of the ageing takes place in 500 litre barrels which also enables freshness to be preserved due to less oxygen exposure and evaporation. There are only 50% of new Bordeaux barrique (225 litre barrels) and the wine is blended at the end of the ageing.
The wines of Larcis Ducasse are powerful but fresh and complex with a mix of mineral, blackcurrant, cherry and spice aromas. The second wine is called Murmure de Larcis Ducasse’.