“We’ve had some great times at Grand Mayne: happy memories and some even better wines”Jacqui McArthur, Berkshire
Key to the quality of our wines is the terroir – the unique combination of soil, and microclimate.
The vineyards benefit from occupying just one integrated area around the cellars, with soil that is 80 percent clay and sand, and 20 percent limestone. These are soils that are ideally suited to the production of top quality wines, and provide us with a variety of different styles of fruit each year which we then blend to make the perfect wine from that vintage. Because the substructure of the vineyard is clay, the soil retains water deep in the ground to feed the roots. This means that the vines do not suffer from a lack of water once they are established. Their deep root growth also improves the physiological maturity of the vines and the grapes.
The climate is dictated by the Atlantic but Grand Mayne’s position in the valleys of the Lot and Garonne provide a protected site and special micro-climate. The rainfall is below the regional average, especially in summer.
Vines are the prescribed noble grape varieties for the appellation Côtes de Duras: Sauvignon Blanc and Sémillon for the white wines; Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc for the red wines. They are planted on south and west facing slopes.
• The surface area 34 hectares (1 hectare = 2.5 acres)
• White grapes Sauvignon 12ha, Sémillon 1ha
• Red grapes Merlot 12ha, Cabernet Sauvignon 6ha, Cabernet Franc 3ha
• Vines per hectare 3300 vines
2018 started with lot of rain from January to early July. It just didn’t seem to stop. Rain, rain and more rain. It was difficult to manage the pressure of disease in the vineyard (which resulted in a serious loss on Merlot), and difficult for the vineyard workers. And then a day after the rain stopped, came hot and dry weather without a drop more rain from July to September which saved the vintage, but this too was very hard to manage.
The level of sugar of the Merlot was going up strongly but the skins were not mature.
As a huge part of the quality of a red is in the skin, we decided to wait as the level of sugar and the level of acidity are just one part of the quality of a berry. The most important is the balance and the quality of the skin.
The work in the cellar was then done well to extract the best fruit without extracting the hardest tannins and the result will be very good.
It’s in this kind of vintage that we appreciate how good our vineyards are, because at the end, despite all these difficulties the wines are fabulous.
The whites and rosé are very well balanced with a beautiful freshness. And the reds have reacted very well in the cellar with beautiful balances and structure.
Just as we were getting used to easier vintages like 2016 and 15 along came 2017.
An early bud burst at the beginning of April, was followed by a heavy frost at the end of April.
We were less affected by this than some others but in the final analysis lost some 30% of the average production, mostly from the limestone at the bottom of the hill.
Some rain was then followed by a hot dry summer. The frost damage and a second post frost bud burst resulted in some challenges in even ripening of the vines and this created the need for a green harvest, and in some cases picking of individual rows over a number of days but the harvest took place in perfect weather.
As much of our plantings of Cabernet are lower in the vineyard in the frost affected areas, the red cuvees have more Merlot than in other years but the quality is very good indeed.
They say that great wines are made in the vineyard and in 2016 its true to say that everything came together for us perfectly.
The buds left after winter pruning started to develop in perfect temperatures in April unaffected by the risk of late frosts. Dry weather reduced the risk of disease and meant that the team were able to spend more time in May removing excess shoots and buds to manage yields and ensure quality.
Flowering of the vine with the appearance of tiny caps of fused petals and the subsequent pollination ensured a good crop and ripening took place during a long dry summer with the perfect combination of hot days and cool nights right through to the end of the harvest. There was hail around but it missed us!
As a result 2016 was not only a plentiful vintage but one that provided us with some fantastic quality from which we could select some great parcels of fruit for the Reserve wines. We’re also lucky to have fruit growing on both limestone and clay which give very different characteristics. The limestone more structured and finer, the clay with greater richness.
Mathieu has been able to benefit from this and capture the perfect balance of fruit, tannins and acidity of the vintage with careful oak treatment in the very best barrels.
The Reserve white
Fermented in barrel then aged for eight months in a combination of French and Austrian oak. ¼ was new oak.
Mathieu’s note. “The Reserve white is my favourite wine ever at Grand Mayne with a beautiful balance between the richness, the freshness. A fine minerality brings something different with a hint of “Sancerre” style and purity. To start to drink now and for 10 years.”
The Reserve red
Fermented in stainless steal tanks then aged for 12 months in French oak. ¼ was new to ensure that we didn’t overpower the natural fruitiness of the wine.
Mathieu’s note. “A lovely balance between richness and finesse. Rich body softened by subtle flavours and tannins. This wine is a teddy bear. A strong and powerful bear with a great sensitivity and an unctuous and transparent texture. The subtle flavours make it enjoyable now but it will give pleasure for many years.”
In the winery we focused on what we can do to improve even further our wine style, whilst retaining the essence of Grand Mayne’s historical quality. New tanks and barrels have helped, and we were rewarded within an outstanding 2015 vintage. A long, dry summer where our limestone and clay spoils held just the right amount of water, with warm days and some coolish nights, were completed by a perfect harvest where the only concern was that everything ripened at once. Our rapid harvesting machine really came into its own last autumn.
Varietal wines are fresh, pure and easy drinking, and Reserve wines in barrel rival top Bordeaux.
Coming on the back of difficult vintages in 2013 and 2014, yields in 2015 were naturally quite low despite the conditions and this resulted in wines with a greater level of concentration.