Grapevine Archive for winemaking
Raise a glass to the memory of Denis Dubourdieu, who died on 26th July.
Many members of The Wine Society will know him as the owner of Château Reynon in Premières Côtes, Clos Floridene in Graves, Château Cantegril (the excellent source over several vintages of The Society’s Exhibition Sauternes), and, with his father, of Château Doisy-Daëne in Barsac.
The Society has been regularly following his wines for over 30 years, because they have been consistently excellent examples of red, dry and sweet white Bordeaux at prices most can afford.
He first made his reputation by revolutionising the quality of white Bordeaux, but a tasting we organised in London recently of ten vintages of Château Reynon Rouge for Jancis Robinson showed the keeping quality and class of his red wines too, with his 2005 and 2010 more delicious than many classed growths.
Not so many may have known of Denis’ immense importance in raising the standards of Bordeaux wines in general and that his influence extended far beyond his home patch. He was a highly valued consultant at châteaux as varied as Haut-Bailly, Batailley, Pichon Comtesse Lalande, Giscours, Cheval Blanc and Yquem, and many others in Bordeaux.
He consulted also in Burgundy, the Rhône, the Loire, Languedoc, Italy, Spain, Greece and in Asia.
He believed passionately that a wine should express the terroir it came from, quoting Émile Peynaud: ‘A cru wine is a taste one can recognise.’ He said that a terroir is not only the soil, climate and grape varieties of a place, but the capacity of all these to give a wine a delectable and specific taste recognisable by the customer who cannot find the exact equivalent elsewhere.
Denis, the son of Jean-Pierre Dubourdieu of Doisy-Daëne, was born into wine and married Florence, the daughter of a vigneron owner of Reynon, which they made their home. Together they created, almost from scratch, Clos Floridene, a property whose vines planted on limestone have produced wines that often outperform and outlive many Pessac-Léognan crus classés.
As Professor, since 1988, at the Oenology faculty of Bordeaux University and, since 2009, director general of the Science of Vines and Wine at the university, he gave countless young vignerons and winemakers the benefits of his scientific knowledge and practical experience.
For me, as wine buyer, visits each year in spring to Reynon to taste his newly made wines were an essential pleasure, because I could not only assess his own wines, but learn from his honest, informed view of the recent vintage all over Bordeaux; both its strengths and its weaknesses.
Denis proved that, if you worked hard in the vineyard, it was always possible to make good wine. He brought an extraordinary attention to detail, needed to make good Sauternes, to the making of red and dry white too, often making several consecutive pickings to catch grapes at their optimum.
Florence, his wife, and his trained oenologist sons Fabrice and Jean-Jacques will continue, I am sure, to make excellent wine at the properties they own, but this remarkable, modest man will be very much missed, while his legacy lives on.
Sebastian Payne MW
When I first started in the wine trade, nearly a quarter of a century ago, there was a certain sense that ‘terroir’ was a word somewhat derided by Australian wine producers. These were the heady days of big bold flavours, big brand marketing and cross-border blending. The point was to make pleasurable, consistent wines that matched customers’ perceived tastes. This was something the Australians did exceptionally well, turning on a whole new generation to the delights of wine and for this we are all grateful.
But at The Wine Society we have never been the biggest champions of this style of wine preferring to seek out individuals who make wine on a much smaller scale; wines with an extra dimension that talk of the land which made them. Wines which our members tell us they appreciate. Our growers down under do talk about their ‘patch of dirt’ (some even say ‘terroir’) and many have several generations’ worth of knowledge and experience of tending their vineyards. And just because Australia is referred to as the ‘new world’ it none-the-less is home to some of the world’s oldest vines. When it comes to soils, it has some of the oldest on the planet and it is the ever increasing understanding of these and their potential for fine-wine making that is what makes the Australian wine scene so exciting.
When we asked some of our growers to tell us about their particular ‘patch of dirt’. Naturally they all said their region was the best and why would you want to make wine anywhere else (!) but they also provided us with some great videos and images to help paint the picture and explain how they get the best from their soils.
Chester Osborne of d’Arenberg talks about how he looks after his 100-year-old grenache vineyard in McLaren Vale and shows us what the infamous dead arm looks like. Vanya Cullen of Cullen Winery in Margaret River tells us what makes their cabernets unique, not just in Australia, but in the world. She also gives some insights into biodynamic winemaking of which she is a keen proponent. There are plenty of a atmospheric images to give the flavour of each region too.
We hope you enjoy reading what they have to say and watching their videos. Do let us know what you think of our Australian Regional Heroes article by leaving a comment at the end.
Meanwhile, our offer of wines from the best ten regions down under is open until Sunday 18th May while stocks last.
I was in Rioja last week and during a visit to Remelluri in the Alavesa they were bringing in the first tempranillo grapes last Friday (the 2010 harvest is especially late). This short clip shows the steps the top Bodegas take to maximise quality. Ten staff, working non-stop, selecting only the best grapes for the fermentation vat. This is the first stage of Rioja’s complex winemaking process which will be completed once the 2010 reserva is released in about 4-5 years!