“At Château La Cardonne, it’s not simply a marriage of soil and climate. It’s the gentle slopes offering themselves to the sun, the hare that leaps happily over the vines, the birds who nest in our trees, the bees who come to visit in search of wild flowers, and the sea of clouds that float past us in the early morning. It is our communion with these surroundings that allow us to compose our wines, embracing it all, and bottling it for others to love.”
During the past twenty years we’ve really worked hard to minimize environmental impact ensure a safe, healthy workplace through the use of environmentally and economically sound practices. Initially certified ‘Agriculture Raisonnée’ we are currently following the yearly HVE (Haute Valeur Enviromentale) level 3 and ‘Terra Vitis’ certification models.
Since time immemorial, our vineyard Château La Cardonne has dominated the north of the Medoc peninsula. Sitting on the highest plateau, the horizon spans more than twenty kilometers to the East and to the North. Our 45 hectares of vines slope gently, exposed to both the west winds from the Atlantic Ocean, and the influence of the Gironde river.
Our vines are planted on a mosaic of different soil types: On the plateau, gravel soils are dominant, layered on different depths of clay. As we travel down the slope, we reach the parcels comprised of clay-limestone soils, layered on blue marl with limestone outcrops. There is such diversity in each parcel, each creating their own variety of wine. That’s we vinify each parcel separately, giving rise to complex and elegant wines.
Our vineyard currently grows three grape varieties, and overall, we have 54% Cabernet Sauvignon, 41% Merlot and 5% Petit Verdot growing on the vineyard today.
The majority of vines are between thirty and forty years old, originally planted by previous owners, Domaines Barons de Rothschild (Lafite).
Cabernet Sauvignon is the backbone of our blend. It expresses itself with aromas of black fruit and provides us with concentration, color and tannic structure.
The vines ripen later than most varieties and are therefore planted on gravel parcels where pebbles absorb heat during the day and continue to radiate heat during the evening
Aging in oak barrels exposes the wine to gradual levels of oxidation softening its tannins, and the unique wood aromas of vanilla and spice complement the natural grape flavours.
The Merlot vine is particularly fond of clay-limestone soils that provide the freshness necessary for the development of its red fruit aromas and provides the perfect blending partner for Cabernet Sauvignon making lush, plummy, velvety wine that can soften Cabernet’s more austere frame.
Merlot tends to be noticeably lower in tannins and acidity than Cabernet, which makes it much more voluptuous to taste and, on the palate, provides lots of fruity impact as it ages.
Petit Verdot is the latest of the grape varieties to the harvest party, and we expect it to become more prominent in our blends should temperatures continue to increase over time.
It provides a supporting actor in our blends, with its strong tannic structure, its acidic freshness, and its spicy notes and over time adds ethereal aromas of plum, lilac, violet and sage with gravel-like minerality.
Prior to our 2019 vintage, a small percentage of Cabernet Franc was included in the blend of Château La Cardonne.These vines have recently been uprooted, and the parcels will rest for up to five years before we replant.
THE FOUR SEASONS
OF CHÂTEAU LA CARDONNE
The Bordeaux wine region sits right in the middle between the Equator and the North Pole, and benefits from a temperate, mediterranean maritime climate. The variations from season to season is what makes each vintage unique, and we think of it as a gift of nature, and as winemakers we love the challenge to compose something special each year.
For the vine, it’s time to rest, whilst human intervention is essential. For the winegrowers our focus is preparing for the following season. We must prune each vine, and it’s a complex task that requires years of experience to perfect. Each vine is different and requires individual attention. We select only one branch on each side of the rootstock, gently bend and tie them, ensuring they grow in the right direction.
The rising sap awakens the vines. The buds hatch and develop into branches that start carrying leaves in April. Their tiny flowers appear and open in June, their powerful perfume embalming the air around. We remove superfluous shoots (épamprage), and as the branches grow taller, we guide them between training wires, such that we provide the fledgling clusters with the best conditions for growth.
The leaves become thicker and darker, the green berries grow larger, and suddenly change colour (véraison in french). The top of the vine canopy needs to be trimmed (écimage), leaves need to be removed around the fruit to ventilate the bunches (effeuillage), and depending on the size of the crop-load, some bunches may need to be cut away in order to enhance the ripening of the grapes (éclaircissage).
Day by day, the grapes become less acidic and sweeter. At the end of the summer, the temperature contrast between day and night favours the synthesis of the elements that will give the wine colour and structure.
Analyses and more importantly tasting the grapes, parcel by parcel on a daily basis comes into play, as we choose the optimal harvest date for each plot. The berries are beginning to express what we might expect from the vintage. When harvest time arrives, the progression of each parcel can affect our timing on a daily basis. We might condense picking into 2 weeks or it could easily be spread over 4 weeks. This is the busiest time of the year, with little sleep, occasional pleas for help from above, and more often than not, euphoria as we start to taste the results of another hard year’s work.
THE FIFTH SEASON
Producing exceptional grapes would not make sense if it was not then vinified with ultimate care and attention. At Château La Cardonne, we are constantly investing in the most innovative equipment as we seek to deliver added pleasure to those drinking our wines. Add to that the patient work of aging in oak barrels, which can last between 12 and 16 months as we seek to refine the structure, aromas and complexity of each vintage. After the bottling, our wines mature for many years, ten metres under the vineyard, in a cellar called “the Cathedral”. The bottles of Château La Cardonne are released at full maturity, so that wine lovers around the world can enjoy each bottle as we dreamed they might.