The 2018 vintage Dourthe vineyards


Dourthe 2018 harvest gets underway

24th September 2018,



Pickers harvested the first parcel of Sauvignon blanc at Château La Garde on Wednesday 29th August, in the cool of the early morning.

“After a challenging 2017, the first few months of 2018 have kept us on our toes in the vineyard. After a lovely summer, harvesting the white grapes has got off to an early start amid excellent conditions, and for the moment we remain totally relaxed about the rest of the harvest!”

Follow the progress of the new vintage with Frédéric Bonnaffous, Director, Dourthe Vineyards/ Vignobles Dourthe.


Abundant rainfall and periodically very cool temperatures marked the start of the year. “For the 2017/2018 winter, we returned to similar conditions to the 30-year average, which we have not seen for several years now”, explained Frédéric Bonnaffous. “The growers and equipments both struggled with these winter conditions, with heavy rainfall sometimes making managing work in the vineyard complicated, for man and machine!”

Sustained grassing over and temporary cover crops, tailored to the requirements of each individual parcel, prevented surface run-off, erosion and soil compaction, while also promoting good rainwater drainage and boosting hydric reserves, which are so essential to the growth cycle of the vine.


Rather reluctantly, spring took its time to make an appearance. A few buds revealed their timid heads on 5th April at Château de Ricaud, and 6th April at Château Belgrave, followed swiftly by good bunch set. It was not until the summer-like week of 20th April that growth really kick-started in the vines. Good flowering during the last ten days of May confirmed a great start to the season. We fortunately managed to escape the hail storms that hit 21st and 26th May, which seriously impacted some of Bordeaux’s vineyards. This said, as warmer temperatures began to set in, evaporation in the water-drenched soils reached its peak, and brought with it the pending and significant threat of mildew. “Through tireless work and constant monitoring by our teams, not forgetting our strict adherence to environmental protocols, the vines remained fully protected. For a number of years now the vineyards have been managed according to sustainable plant protection and since 2016, all our estates have either either been certified Terra-Vitis and HVE 3, or are in the process of certification.”

We have managed to maintain the vineyards in perfect health, and are ready to face the summer months always remaining vigilant, yet fully confident.


Following an erratic first half of the year, summer set in seamlessly mid-June, continuing with hot weather and sometimes heatwave conditions, and the risk of storms; and once again we managed to skirt the mid-July hail. This hot, dry summer weather curtailed disease pressure in the vineyard and restored calm among the growers. Veraison followed without incident during the last few days of July; on 23rd July at Château Le Boscq and 25th at Belgrave for the Merlot. The return of cooler nights from mid-August, followed by lovely hot, sunny weather, was particularly favourable. The vines continued to ripen evenly, in both the red and white grapes. By the end of August, the early ripening Sauvignon Blancs on gravel soils were already ripe and showing very intense aromas and perfumes.


With good water supplies to the vines and great summer weather, the white grapes developed quickly. On the early-ripening soils of Pessac-Leognan and Graves, we began picking the Sauvignon Blanc on 29th August at Château La Garde and a day later at Château Rahoul. After a few days break, picking should recommence 5th September at Rahoul and finish 6th September at Château la Garde. On the marginally later-ripening clay soils, harvesting the whites at Château de Ricaud should start early September. As for the Semillon, the grapes are ripening to perfection, slowly but surely.

“Retaining freshness and balance in the white grapes is essential. Opting for an early harvest date helps retain good acidity levels, while maintaining aromatic intensity in the grapes. The whites are hand-picked in the cool of the morning. At Château La Garde, we keep whole bunches in cold store before they are pressed the following day under inert gas, to garner the very best of this great vintage.” explains Frédéric Bonnaffous, “Our initial impressions of the Sauvignons on tasting are already very encouraging with very well-balanced, highly perfumed, fleshy and complex juices.”

Since 29th August, the reds are taking full advantage of the sunny weather and cool nights to complete the final stages. At this stage, we envisage picking the early-ripening Merlots around mid-September. More to follow! A suivre !