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The 2014 harvest at the Ponty Winery

Dear Friends,

It’s early October in France and we just finished harvesting our 2014 vintage. Fortunately, the weather of September in Fronsac was warm and dry, and there was much sunshine to ensure the great vintage we hoped for following doubts after a cool and rainy summer.

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Our team of 15 harvesters started hand picking the grapes on September 24th. They are usually students looking to experience the harvest before school starts, or locals who come to our winery year after year. This year we started the harvest with Clos Virolle, the vineyard close to the river with sandy soils leading to earlier maturation of the grapes, and finished with Chateau Grand Renouil where the cool soils and old vines require more time to reach the perfect maturity.

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The best time to pick the grapes is in the morning, when the grapes are still cool from the night’s low temperatures. Our pickers work in teams of two for each row on the vineyard. Carriers (usually men) collect the baskets from 3-4 pickers and bring their bucket full of grapes back to the tractor. The goal is to bring the grapes back to the cellar while they are still fresh. Once there, we put the grapes through a machine called “erafleuse”, which separates the stems from the berries, and sends the berries to the vats where the fermentation process will start almost immediately.

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Only 20% of French wineries still harvest by hand today, but we believe it is a necessary step to achieve great wines. Moving forward, we now need to carefully monitor the fermentation process in the cellar where the sugar turns into alcohol. The next few months until December will be crucial for us to make the best use of our grapes and put our family signature onto this vintage. The grapes are in the vats but the work is not over yet!

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Wishing you a great month of October!

For the Ponty Family,
Helene Ponty

Our Blanc de Grand Renouil 2013 is now available!

Dear Friends,

After a shortage due to too much popularity on our Blanc de Grand Renouil, we are happy to announce that we just finished bottling our 2013 vintage, which is now available for sale. Part of the 3000 bottles production was pre-sold, and we will do our best to accommodate all requests, but don’t wait too long! 

As July came to an end, grapes slowly started turning from green to red, ripening until mid-August. During summer, our role is to create all the conditions for the grapes to reach their best potential for the harvest. So how do we do that? First step is the “effeuillage”: removing the lower leaves from the vines so that the sun shines directly on the grapes, allowing for faster maturation and faster drying when it rains, lowering the chances of rot. Second step is the “green harvest”: cutting down some of the grapes on the vines, to keep only the best. These lucky ones will then receive more nutrients from the soil, resulting in a richer grape juice, and thus richer wine. As for everything we do, those delicate steps are done by hand in our winery.

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Effeuillage

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Green Harvest

We are now expecting the 2014 harvest to start around September 22nd. Many harvesters are already booking their spot to be part of the challenging, but very fun, experience of the harvest. If you want to see a “traditional” grape harvest done by hand, feel free to come and visit us at that time.
 
Enjoy your summer,
On behalf of the Ponty Family,
Helene

Steps of the vine vegetative cycle

Bud Break (March – April)

During March, you can start to see the buds on the branches. They are wrapped in a set of very thin filaments protecting the bud like a cocoon. In early April, these filaments are pushed and torn up by the many little leaves opening up : this is the Bud Break. Each bud will give birth to a new branch.

 

The sprouting of the vines (April – May)

After the first leaves appear, the vine will take advantage of the warm spring weather, the rain, and the sunshine to develop new branches carrying the future grapes. The sprouting will continue all along the vegetative cycle, up until a month before the harvest.

The Flowering (May-June)

Flowering is an essential step in the reproductive cycle of the grape. Weather conditions are very important during this process. Typically, temperature between 20 and 25 degrees is accepted, and we pray for minimal rain on the flower. Unfavorable weather conditions can sometimes lead to a bad pollination : we call that « Coulure » or « millerandage ». Often, such bad pollination will decrease quality and quantity of the harvest.

The Fruit Setting (June)

After the flowering, the flowers will grow into fruits during the fruit setting phase. The future wine grapes show small little green berries that will slowly grow, while staying green.

« Veraison » or Onset of Ripening (July – August)

Around mid-July, the grapes slowly change color. The components of color in the grape berry are the anthocyanins. During this process, along with the maturation of the grape berries, the quantity of acids diminishes significantly while the quantity of sugar increases quickly.  The color goes from green to pink then blue-red to black for the red grape varieties.

The maturation of the berries

The onset of ripening gives way to a phase of grape maturation, lasting 35 to 55 days, during which the grapes increase in size and accumulate mineral elements, amino acids, phenolic compounds (such as tannins, aroma molecules, and anthocyanins responsible for the color of red grapes). When these components are optimum, the maturity is reached and the harvest can start. The maturity depends on the grape variety, and can be tested by analyses and by tasting the berries.

The winter rest

After the harvest during late September – early October, the leaves turn yellow and fall around mid November. This is the beginning of the vegetative rest of the vine which will last all winter until March.

Our Plum Tree is blooming!

prunierThe winter 2013/2014 has been so warm in Bordeaux, our plum tree is already blossoming! We hope this is the sign of a great vintage ahead of us… Over the last two months we have had a lot of rain, causing floods in Bordeaux vineyards close to the rivers (we were spared, fortunately), but the temperatures have been uncommonly warm. We are crossing our fingers we won’t have a late frost!