We arrived on August 1st to Chateau Puynard. Andrew and an army of help had been here for 10 days already, getting things set up in the house, learning the ropes from Nicolas and Aurelie, working along side William and Laetitia who work in the vineyard year-round and finding his feet along with Isabelle, his right-hand lady in the daily goings-on of the business. A lot had been going on and a huge amount of time and effort been invested in the smooth transition of the workings of the business to allow for little or no hick-ups under new ownership. We, as a family, have been here almost a month now and so far the plan is working!
As well as acquainting ourselves with the village of Berson we’ve been exploring some other parts of the region – Blaye, Bourg, Libourne – and their respective markets – as well as Royan and Arcachon on the coast. Offerings range from real town markets with true local and seasonal produce, atmospheric and charismatic local cafes and bars, to the blistering heat and brilliant sands of Arcachon with a portion of perfect local oysters. In Berson village itself we have had a local Fete which was unexpected in many ways! In this sleepy village there appeared – as if they were a mirage – all sorts of amusement rides and games for four nights with music, food and a huge fireworks display on the closing night. For a brief interval the village was totally transformed but now it’s back to normal.
In recent weeks we have seen a team come and finish the effeuillage on several parcels of vines – labour intensive in a week of intense heat. No small task. The effeuillage is where the vine leaves are pruned back and the precious bunches of grapes are lifted and tied, allowing as much sun at them before harvest begins. The harvest is looking on track and as though it promises to be a decent year too, especially with our Cabernet Sauvignon grapes. There is intense heat at the moment and no rain so of course, time will tell. It is looking like the main harvest will begin in early October beginning with the Merlot and following with the Cabernet Sauvignon. There’s a team accumulating of family and old friends who are coming to help. It’s a new process for us so it will be interesting and there will be lots of mouths to feed too!
We have completed the blending of the new wines for 2015, and cleared out the old barrel room to bring it back to it’s former use, for barrelling some of the 2016 harvest. This has meant lots of ‘house work’ – cleaning, clearing and scrubbing to make way for what the new harvest reaps. Then came the rain in the past week or so, which was a welcome and unexpected turn in the weather. Good for the grapes to get that last thirst quencher, after a very hot and dry summer.
Last of the news is that of our visit to the Caves in St. Emilion, where Cremant is produced in the same way as Champagne, in the Champagne region. The grapes are harvested by hand and fermentation takes place in the bottle whilst stored in wooden racks (holding the bottles at an angle allowing the yeast to gather at the mouth of the bottle) in the caves. We visited the caves with a view to producing a sparkling Rose this year which is a very exciting prospect!