Jeff Leve Congratulations on finishing your new cellars in time to produce the 2012 La Conseillante! How long did the entire project take to complete ?
Jean Michel Laporte “It took nine months. We needed more space in Pomerol. So we had to demolish the 1971 vatroom and build a new one.”
Jeff Leve How did your new cellars help you with the production of the 2012 La Conseillante?
Jean Michel Laporte “By being able to pick each plot at the perfect date. Each parcel now has its dedicated tank, so the decision of harvesting each parcel of La Conseillante depends only of its own ripeness.”
Jeff Leve How many vats are in your new cellars?
Jean Michel Laporte “We built 22 aerial concrete tanks, plus one underground. We kept the three small garde-vins, open stainless steel tanks.”
Jeff Leve How many parcels do you have in the vineyards of La Conseillante?
Jean Michel Laporte “We have 15 parcels, but three are big enough to be divided. 18 tanks are dedicated to these. The 4 other vats we built are made for blending and keeping the wine.”
Jeff Leve What was it like being able to vinify on a parcel by parcel basis for the first time while you were making your 2012 La Conseillante?
Jean Michel Laporte “Not much surprises yet for the Merlot. We know the origins, and time will really permit us to go deeper into their comprehension. It’s different for the Cabernet Franc, as we only filled one or two tanks before, and had four this year. The main interest of this new cutting is the precision we can get at each stage: date of harvest, vinification (more or less pumping over, length of the vatting, etc.) And the fact that now we’ll have much smaller lots when we think about the blend. It’s a brand new mosaic of tastes!”
Jeff Leve What are the differences between vinifying in concrete over stainless steel?
Jean Michel Laporte “Inertia is the point. But after that, it was for us more a question of shape of the tank (plus the smaller volumes of course). The previous steel tanks were quite thin and vertical. The new ones are less high, and larger. So the contact between marc and wine is better. That brings more natural extraction, without being obliged to do lots of pumping over or pigeage.”
Jeff Leve What was the most difficult or stressful part of the 2012 La Conseillante growing season?
Jean-Michel Laporte “Managing the mildew attacks during the spring was tough. We had a lot of rain, and very few sunny days to spray. As we are quite early pickers in Pomerol, Botrytis was not complicated in the right bank as it was on the left bank.”
Jeff Leve Even though it’s early, what previous year does the 2012 Bordeaux vintage remind you of?
Jean-Michel Laporte “The weather was very close to 2000 or 2009. But the wine is not going to be another 2009! It could be 2000, but as the wine making evolved a bit at Conseillante, I think that it could get more weight in the mid-palate. We are very pleased with 2012 in Pomerol, and comparing it with 2000 is not totally insane.”
Jeff Leve Compared to 2011, did you need to spend more or less time on sorting this year?
Jean-Michel Laporte “It was easier to sort this year. The major trouble in 2011 was the number of pink berries, which could only been sorted by eye or optical machines. This harvest was more classical. We purchased a new destemmer and new vibrating/rotating sorting table. Both of those permitted us to obtain a superb quality of berries.”
Jeff Leve What special vineyard techniques do you need to do when the flowering is uneven, as it was this year?
Jean Michel Laporte “The second green harvest was dedicated to that. We took out everything that was too late (still green or pink when the rest of the clusters were black/red). That’s why it takes place at the end of the veraison, which is close to the beginning of August.”
Jeff Leve Did the drought and stress experienced in the 2012 Bordeaux growing season present you with any unique challenges?
Jean Michel Laporte “We have a lot of clay in our soils and subsoils. As it was not really problematic in 2011, it was the same this year. Only the baby vines suffered at the end of the maturity, so we picked them quite early, on September 18th.”
Jeff Leve Which of your terroirs performed best?
Jean Michel Laporte “We have two types of terroir in Conseillante: clay and gravels. Both lie on iron clay subsoil, the crasse de fer. These clays underneath fed the roots with water even during the drought. So I don’t have any favorite for the moment, they both taste great.”
Jeff Leve When did you start harvesting?
Jean Michel Laporte We started September 18th with the youngest vines. We moved to the older Merlot a few days later, September 24.”
Jeff Leve When did you finish picking?
Jean Michel Laporte “We finished the Merlot on October 1st. We picked the Cabernet Franc on October 5 and again October 9.”
Jeff Leve What were the conditions like for you during the harvesting?
Jean Michel Laporte “We only picked without rain. But we had to stop sometimes a day or two to wait for better weather. It was easier to harvest the Merlot. Conditions were getting complicated for the Cabernet Franc.”
Jeff Leve When you mention that conditions were getting more difficult for the Cabernet Franc, did you finish picking earlier than anticipated at La Conseillante?
Jean Michel Laporte “No, we finished before it got REALLY complicated!”
Jeff Leve What are your yields in the 2012 Bordeaux vintage?
Jean Michel Laporte “We should finish around 39 hectoliters per hectare, which is in our target range of 38 to 42 hectolliters per hectare.”
Jeff Leve Do you think any variety performed better in this vintage?
Jean Michel Laporte “I really prefer the Merlot. They were more homogeneous, and picked early. So they had plenty of time to ripe completely, before the weather changed.”
Jeff Leve What are your alcohol levels in the 2012 La Conseillante?
Jean Michel Laporte “13.9 %. That is almost the same than last year and a little higher than our average at La Conseillante.”