Weather & wine

Martin Krakewski 150x150Fed up with the weather? Complaining about the weather takes on a different meaning if your livelihood depends on it.

Take Martin Krajewski : his love affair with wine started while he was playing rugby in England, enjoying an occasional tipple after a match and curious as to why each wine tasted so different. A successful career later, no doubt drawing on his Polish heritage to work hard and succeed, led to him to Château de Sours in Bordeaux, where he has been making good red, white, rose and sparkling wines for several years now. His winery is 10 km from St. Émilion, and ‘within a stone’s throw from Cheval Blanc.’

He has just introduced two new Grand Cru St. Émilion wines from old and disused vineyards he bought from neighbours, and now has 5.8ha, slightly larger than a typical St. Emilion holding. He has re-created a small clos and a barrel hall, albeit ‘in miniature.’ Martin is rightly proud of his new Clos Cantenac and Petit Cantenac wines – they are already highly sought after, and rate among the top St. Emilions of the area.

However, in 2013 catastrophic weather in Bordeaux played havoc in the vineyards. Damp and dull conditions in Spring failed to ignite the passion of the birds and bees, so fertilisation of flowers and resultant fruit was low, with few grape bunches forming. The summer was glorious, and growers kept their fingers crossed for a small, but good quality crop. That is, until the end of July, when two freak hailstorms decimated their harvest. Within thirty minutes a 20 kilometre arc of St. Émilion vineyards saw their plump grapes rattled off the vine by enormous hailstones.

Grape quantities plummeted, and winemakers like Martin were devastated at the loss. Salvaging the remaining crop was the pressing priority. The longer-term issue was having to face customers, explaining how he didn’t have enough wine to supply their needs. A big drop in income underscored everything. Growing grapes is essentially farming, with all its unpredictable difficulties.

Next time you find yourself complaining about the weather, spare a thought for our farmers, fishermen and their European cousins, winemakers, who really know what it means to be ‘under the weather!’

Ch. de Sours Bordeaux Blanc 2010 has a gorgeous creamy flavour and texture, with delightful baked lemon, and a touch of honey. Restrained use of oak gives a bit of texture and depth. €21 from Next Door shops nationwide. This benefits from a couple of years in bottle, up to 5 years at most.
Ch. de Sours Rosé 2012 Martin believes this wine will be at its best at 18 months ie towards September 2014. This is a dry rose, made by bleeding off some of the juice of the red early in the fermentation phase. It is particularly light in colour – eye of the partridge (which doesn’t exactly translate well!) Rosé volumes have dropped as a result of switching into more red wine.
Ch. De Sours Bordeaux Rouge 2010 has an exceptional balance of ripe fruitiness against tart flavours of cranberry, plums, and with classic firm tannins and a hint of cedar. To my mind it’s firm and very classic, making it very much a food wine. €20 from 64 Wine, Glasthule.
Petit Cantenac St. Emilion Grand Cru 2011 is a wonderful harmonious tapestry of flavours and textures including autumnal berries, hints of leather, mocha, tobacco and sweet spice. At best now, and will continue as such for several years to come. €32 from Superquinn, Donnybrook Fair.

Clos Cantenac 2010 is already selling at top prices at en-primeur, although the wine is perhaps not fully recognised yet. It’s a gorgeous silky, sultry, velvety marriage of cedar and fruit. Good now and will certainly improve with age. About €50.