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Learning to de-bud and train the vines in Saint-Emilion


We were very happy to return to Saint-Emilion for the opening of the 2021 vintage Wine Discovery Days at Château Coutet at the end of May and beginning of June.  The aim of these days spent with the winemakers, is to learn about all of the work necessary in the vineyard to produce the best possible grapes for the coming harvest. And as we found out, it’s a mammoth task!  Even more so, as we discovered the challenges of doing so organically!

 

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We got introduced to each other over a welcome coffee and croissant on the lawn in front of the chateau.  It’s a place steeped in history, and Adrien has a natural talent to recount it.

We started by wandering through the different vineyard plots to learn more about the various grape varietals and soil structures of the estate.  We were now experts in identifying the differences between merlot and cabernet franc, sandy and clayey soils!

On the top of the limestone plateau, we stopped in the plot were our adopted vines are located.  This is the best terroir at Château Coutet, and the vineyard is surrounded by some of Saint-Emilion’s most prestigious wineries such as Château Angélus and Beauséjour Bécot.  We each immortalised the moment and took a few pictures with our adopted vines.

 

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On one of the days, we watched a donkey tilling the soil, a method that respects this exceptional terroir as much as possible.

 

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There is always some participative work to do during the experience days, and we discovered how to de-bud the vines and raise the training wires, the two main tasks during spring.

The aim of de-budding is to select the branches best adapted to producing grapes on the vine.  It seems a little complicated at first, but Adrien’s explanations enabled us to quickly come to grips with it.  We each got stuck into the real work of a winemaker.

 

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Raising the training wires is an important job for several reasons, and is done by raising a wire either side of the row of vines, at the same time ensuring that the branches are spaced out and caught between the two wires.  Firstly, it helps to protect the vines from the wind by supporting the weight of the vegetation and grapes.  It also helps manage the shape and structure of the vines, making it easier for the tractor to pass through the vineyard, increasing the efficiency of the treatments, and improving the airflow around the leaves to reduce the risk of mildew.  After having listened to the instructions on how to do so, we spread out among the rows and started to raise the training wires.

 

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There isn’t much shade in the vineyard, and so the aperitif under the trees was very welcome.  After a few large glasses of water, we tasted the very refreshing Claret de Coutet, and its fresh fruit aromas awakened our taste buds for lunch.

The 2017 Château Belles Cimes, the winery’s second wine, is made principally from young vines, and is a Saint-Emilion wine with red and black fruit aromas that paired wonderfully with the foie gras terrine.

Food and wine pairings generally work best when matching a dish and wine from the same region.  The traditional south western French main course of magret de canard was enhanced by the 2017 Château Coutet, a blend of merlot, cabernet franc and cabernet sauvignon, with a touch of Malbec.  We then compared the wine with the 2016 vintage, which was a little more refined thanks to the extra year ageing in the bottle.

The Demoiselle red wine concluded the tasting over cheese.  The wine is made from the oldest vines that are worked by horse, and are pampered at each stage.  It’s a wonderful wine that captured the relaxed moment enjoyed in the shade of the trees in front of the winery’s old chapel.

After the excellent lunch, Adrien and Alain explained the advantages and challenges of cultivating the vines organically.  It’s something that is very important to them, as the vineyards of Château Coutet have always been organic.

 

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We finished the day with a visit of the fermentation hall and the family cellar where the old bottles are stored.

We look forward to coming back for the Harvest Experience days in September to learn more about the next stage in the work of a winemaker, and to share other great moments with the David Beaulieu family.

Comments

  • Thanks for this fabulous day that was full of interesting information, doscoveries and exchanges! We can't wait to come back in September

  • Hello Benoit and all the team!
    Thanks for the really enjoyable day that we spent with Benoit and Alain. The organisation and the explanations were excellent, as well as the weather and the meal. To do again and I won't hesitate to recommend you!
    Take care and see you again soon.

  • Our discovery day was awesome, and the sun was shining too. We thank Benoit warmly for his welcome!

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