In St. Emilion, at Valandraud, you can trust me on this, Jean Luc Thunevin, Murielle Andraud and the rest of the team are still excited over their recent promotion to Premier Grand Grand Cru Classe! Jean Luc Thunevin wears many hats. Not only is he a busy winemaker, he consults numerous Bordeaux chateaux in St. Emilion and in other appellations, and he’s a negociant as well!
We managed to catch Jean Luc during one of his rare moments of down time. Jean Luc is a frank speaker. He’s upfront, straight forward and opinionated. If you ask him a question, you’re going to get straight answer. We asked him several about the just completed 2012 Bordeaux harvest and vintage at Valandraud.
Jeff Leve Compared with 2011, did you need to spend more or less time on sorting this year?
Jean Luc Thunevin For the 2012 Bordeaux vintage, more sorting was required. To help with this at Valandraud, we have bought a second Tribaie Sorting machine. During the 2012 Bordeaux harvest, we were on the drastic side, regarding sorting.”
Jeff Leve After the strong April rain, did you have issues with botrytis at Valandraud?
Jean Luc Thunevin We experienced very limited attacks of botrytis. At Valandraud, we spend a lot of time during the year working on deleafing and green harvesting as well as on the general sanitary state of our vineyard.”
Jeff Leve Did you change your vineyard management techniques due to the uneven flowering in the 2012 Bordeaux growing season?
Jean Luc Thunevin “No. You have to be patient and wait for the right time to harvest and focus on sorting the all the grapes.”
Jeff Leve With the extreme heat and drought in July and August, were you worried about your vines becoming too stressed?
Jean Luc Thunevin “Not really as we are really reactive in the vineyard all year long. We are constantly adapting our work. For example, more deleafing or not? More green harvesting or not?”
Jeff Leve With the difficult 2012 Bordeaux growing season and harvest, were some terroirs more cooperative than others?
Jean Luc Thunevin “The clay and limestone soils.”
Jeff Leve When did you start harvesting?
Jean Luc Thunevin “September 18 for the white wines and October 8 for the red varieties. We did not finish until October 29!”
Jeff Leve Was there any specific moment during the 2012 Bordeaux growing season that got you feeling nervous?
Jean Luc Thunevin “The week end of October 6 and 7 was difficult because of a sudden we developed an unexpected, kind of tropical climate. We immediately did a lot of work from Oct 8 to 10. That helped give us some room to breathe.”
Jeff Leve Did any particular grape varietal perform better in the 2012 Bordeaux vintage at Valanndraud?
Jeff Leve What was the problem with the Cabernet Sauvignon?
John Luc Thunevin “The Cabernets Sauvignon missed 10 days of sun. the variety needed more sun to ripen. We ended with Cabernet that have some unripe character like old Bordeaux style with some vegatal character, similar to what you found in Bordeaux wine from the old days.”
Jeff Leve How will that effect the wines?
Jean Luc Thunevin “It will not really change the wines, especially Valandrau. First, it’s only 5% of our vineyard, and that varietal is only placed in the 2nd and 3rd wine.”
Jean Luc Thunevin “None. For the moment we only use Merlot and Cabernet Franc in the blend for Valandraud in 2012. The other varieties are too young.”
Jeff Leve As the 2012 Bordeaux vintage and harvest were very late this year, what were the conditions like for you during the harvesting?
Jean Luc Thunevin “We experienced alternating days of sun and rain. This was not a problem with the way we work, except of course for our workers in the field and our peace of mind.”
Jeff Leve How many pickers did you employ?
Jean Luc Thunevin “We use up to 60 workers to help with the harvest.”
Jeff Leve What are your alcohol levels showing with the 2012 Bordeaux vintage?
Jean Luc Thunevin “13 to 15%, depending on the plots.”
Jeff Leve Now that your vats are fermenting, what previous year does the 2012 Bordeaux vintage remind you of?
Jean Luc Thunevin “Maybe we are going towards 2001? But I am thinking more of a super 1997? You can tell us in April!”