There are hot streaks. And there are hot streaks. Chateau Leoville Poyferre has been on a hot streak that started shortly after Didier Cuvelier took charge of the St. Julien chateau. Think about it, more often than not, since 1982, Leoville Poyferre has made one of the top wines in not just the appellation, but in all of the Meodc. Most recently, 2009 and 2010 were probably the two best vintages in the history of the Second Growth estate.
2012 Bordeaux proved to the second difficult vintage in a row for Leoville Poyferre. How did Didier Cuvelier and the team cope with the production of 2012 Leoville Poyferre? To find out, we spoke with Didier Cuvelier, the owner of Chateau Leoville Poyferre about the 2012 Leoville Poyferre vintage and harvest.
Jeff Leve “Now that you’re already thinking about 2013, when you compare 2012 Leoville Poyferre with previous vintages, what do you think of the style of the wine?
Didier Cuvelier “At this early stage, 2012 Leoville Poyferre is more accessible than previous vintages. It is a pleasant Bordeaux wine with a nice tannic structure.”
Jeff Leve Did the drought and stress present you with any unique challenges?
Didier Cuvelier “With Leoville Poyferre, we are used to dry weather. Our roots go deep into the soil to look for water in these types of vintages. We needed water to reach phenolic maturity and the rains at the end of September arrived in due time.”
Jeff Leve What was the most difficult or stressful part of the growing season this year?
Didier Cuvelier “Patience. We were waiting for rain in September to help us reach better maturity. We were lucky as 60 mm of rain fell the last week in September.”
Jeff Leve Were you able to reach the level of maturity you were seeking with 2012 Leoville Poyferre?
Didier Cuvelier “There was a 2 week delay between technological and phenolic maturities this year. This had been the case already in 2009 and 2010.”
Jeff Leve Did you have problems with botrytis or other issues the April rains?
Didier Cuvelier “We spray the treatment directly on the grapes and therefore botrytis has not been a problem. We also de-leaf on both sides to compensate for the rising and setting sun, thus rot didn’t affect the berries.”
Jeff Leve Did you use optical sorting with the 2012 Leoville Poyferre harvest?
Didier Cuvelier “Yes. The optical sorting machine was very efficient with 2012 Leoville Poyferre. We needed this due to the due to uneven flowering. It was also quite helpful last year with the 2011.”
Jeff Leve Following the much needed rain in September, when did you start harvesting?
Didier Cuvelier “We began October 8 with the Merlot.”
Jeff Leve When did you finish picking?
Didier Cuvelier “We finished picking Cabernet Sauvignon by October 19.”
Jeff Leve Due to the quick change in the October weather, did you finish picking earlier than anticipated?
Didier Cuvelier “No because you need to remember that Cabernet Sauvignon has thicker skins, which swell and burst less than Merlot. So a reasonable amount of rain is not such a big issue.”
Jeff Leve Did you manage to finish harvesting before the rains fell?
Didier Cuvelier “We had showers, but no heavy rain, except the last day.”
Jeff Leve For the 2012 Leoville Poyferre harvest, how many pickers did you employ?
Didier Cuvelier “We brought in a total of 92 pickers for the harvest.”
Jeff Leve Since you started working at your Medoc estate, how late was 2012 Leoville Poyferre?
Didier Cuvelier “2012 Leoville Poyferre is the latest harvest since 1979. To compare this with more recent vintages, we started harvesting the 2008 October 6. As you know, 2008 was also a late vintage. Before that, we have to go back in 1983 for such a late harvest.”
Jeff Leve Did your new vats help in this vintage?
Didier Cuvelier “The additional smaller tronconic vats we added in 2010 are a big improvement. It helps us with the selection. We can now vinify with one plot per vat and work with much more precision on the grapes and extraction. This helped because we didn’t want to push extraction too much. Now, we can get better extraction with our new tronconic vats.”
Jeff Leve Will you add more vats in the future now that you see the results?
Didier Cuvelier “We do taste the difference at this point. In the future, we would like to have more of those vats.”
Jeff Leve Do you think any variety performed better in this specific year? If so, which?
Jeff Leve What are your alcohol levels with 2012 Leoville Poyferre?
Didier Cuvelier “We are between 12.8 % and 13% alcohol with 2012 Leoville Poyferre.”