La Cabanne is a traditional Pomerol estate with a large, (large by Pomerol standards) 24.7 acre vineyard planted to 92% Merlot and 8% Cabernet Franc on a terroir of gravel, clay and sand with some iron deposits as well . Their parcels are spread out over the Pomerol appellation, which can make harvesting difficult for the estate. Francois Estager filled us in on the details of their 2011 La Cabanne harvest.
JL: How would you describe the 2011 La Cabanne growing season?
FE: “1 : Wonderful / 2 : Dry / 3 : Wet / 4 : Stressing / 5 : Very good”.
JL: What date did you start harvesting your 2011 Merlot?
FE: “We began young plants on September 5”.
JL: What effect does an early harvest have on the style of your wine?
FE: “Nothing in 2011. This is not the same as what took place in 2003. In 2003, pH were high and we found over maturation very early.We respect the evolution of phenolic maturity of each parcel, depending on the terroir.”
JL: What are your early thoughts on the vintage?
FE:” It was complicated because our vineyards are heterogeneous. So, more sorting and selection was needed which slowed down the harvesters and reduced our yield”.
JL: Did the July rains come at a time that helped your vines?
FE: “The summer was cool with cloudbursts. The evolution differed, depending on the parcels and their microclimates. The rains helped, but they came quite late. We are lucky to have clay in Pomerol. This helped the plants find water. However, some parcels experienced a freeze in maturation. That’s why we have hetrogeneity”.
JL: Do you have fears of rot? If so, what are doing to avoid that issue?
FE: “We knew this vintage was precocious. We were ready. Of course, grey rot is an anxiety consideration. Disease prevention; leaf removal, thinning is still the best way to prevent rot.”
JL: After your fire in 2010, did you add new equipment or make changes or improvements to your wine making facilities?
FE: “As you know, we had a fire in 2010. Today, we have a new winery with a powerful, thermic regulation (Glycol in temperature under 32 F) tronconique vats, which you can see in the picture”.
JL: What specific choices will you need to make during the vinification for 2011?
FE: “We are careful with the hygiene of the harvest and our cellar materials. We also are careful with extraction that will have to be gentle. We don’t want to make hard and severe wines.”
JL: What previous vintage does the 2011 growing season remind you of?
FE: “Even “old” people don’t see any similitude with another vintage. If we had the same weather 30 or 40 years ago, the result would have been different (bad) because now, we work differently in the vineyard to prepare the harvest in best conditions.”
JL: Can you please share some technical information? What are your potential alcohol levels, pH numbers and IPT numbers from your early vats?
FE: “Our alcohol levels are around 13%, pH ranges from 3.55 – 3.60 and our IPT readings are at 80, with one vat reaching 91.”