The 2017 Vintage Dourthe Vineyards

After an early dry white harvest, it was the turn of the reds and picking began 13th September in the Dourthe Vineyards

“This year we were all set in the winery very early on. For the vines not hit by frost in spring, it was already looking like an early season at flowering!” commented Frederic Bonnaffous, as he watched the first Merlot picked at Château La Garde arriving at the winery. The last Semillon musts are fermenting well, but “changeable, cool, damp weather during the second week of September left little respite between the end of the white grape harvest and the earliest-ripening Merlot. A return to more stable weather since the 18th is great news for the Merlot and later-ripening varietals.”


Harvesting was early this year, from 28th August – 6th September at Château Rahoul, 29th August – 4th September at Château La Garde and 30th August – 8th September at Château de Ricaud; a record at the estate.

The high-quality, healthy berries – in the case of Sauvignon blanc and Semillon – reaped the full benefit of the hot, fine, though not heatwave, conditions. The harvest commenced under optimum conditions. “As is always the case, we harvested early in the morning in mild conditions, to promote freshness and aromas, before the higher temperatures impact the grapes.”The grape musts were pressed under inert gas, then cold settled, and are now fermenting in stainless-steel tanks at Château de Ricaud, and in barrique at Château Rahoul and La Garde. The grapes were already tasting well on the vine, and initial tastings of the fermenting must confirm our hopes, revealing lovely balance and good aromatic intensity. Semillon, the leading varietal at Château Rahoul, offers notes of apricot and tropical fruit. The Sauvignon blanc at Château La Garde, with its lemon accent, reveals appealing freshness on the palate.

“We remain very confident about the potential of these wines, of which the last parcels are completing fermentation” confided Frederic Bonnaffous


Tuesday, 12th September: Merlot on our estates’ earliest-ripening parcels were tasted for the last time by Frederic Bonnaffous and his team. The grapes were high in sugar, full of flavour, with refined skins and showing great quality potential. The grapes grown on well-drained gravel are now ripe, while parcels on clay or older vines can wait even longer.

The vines were in excellent health and showing advanced stages of ripeness. However, rain at the end of the week brought our planned harvest date forward by 2-3 days for the parcels of young or very early-ripening, more fragile berries, as the skins were already very refined.

The go-ahead was given to the early estates – Château Reysson, Rahoul and La Garde – on 13th September. At Château Belgrave, where a number of parcels were affected by frost, any uneven or secondary bunches were removed during meticulous sorting prior to harvesting. On arrival at the winery, this rigorous process was backed by manual sorting, followed by optical sorting.

“Quality comes at a price” insists Frederic Bonnaffous, “only the best grapes enter the tanks in our winery, whatever the Château.”

Harvesting continued 14th September with young Merlot at Château Ricaud and at Château le Boscq on 15th September, the scheduled date.

With its traditionally later-ripening, clay soils, Château Pey La Tour was the last of the Dourthe estates to commence picking Merlot on 18th September, almost 10 days early compared to the average date for the estate.

“It was the right decision to harvest some of the parcels before the weekend of 16th September, which in the end turned out to be quite wet. We were slightly concerned about the cool, damp weather, but the first berries picked were very encouraging.We are going to carry out gentle extractions on the early-harvested Merlot to focus on elegance”, underlined Frederic Bonnaffous. “Good weather since 18th September is particularly beneficial to both the later-ripening Merlot and the Cabernets and Petit Verdot.”

Now we just have to wait…