Young branch with sunlights in vineyards, Pomerol, France (Shutterstock/FreeProd33)
Chateau Lafleur, a Pomerol vineyard whose top wines sell for more than $1,000 a bottle, is optimistic about its 2017 vintage, having survived two nights of frost in April using paraffin candles and fans even as many grapes across Bordeaux were destroyed by the cold.
“2017 is a really early and dry vintage,” Baptiste Guinaudeau, who owns the estate with his wife, Julie, and makes the wine, said in an interview in London this month. “The growing season started early. We had a really dry and warm June. The frost had no impact on Lafleur.”
Lafleur has 4.5 hectares (11.1 acres) on the Pomerol plateau and invested in anti-frost candles with its neighbor, Petrus. Both also have large turbines to generate wind to prevent cold air from settling on the vines. Petrus has three machines, which each protect 4 hectares of vines by pushing cold air up off the ground, and the smaller Lafleur property has one but is now purchasing another.
The frost of April last year was the worst to hit Bordeaux wine producers since 1991, when Guinaudeau’s parents were unable to produce their main wine and put the grapes into their second label. “With global warming, the growing season starts earlier,” Guinaudeau said. “So maybe risks are higher.” Following last spring’s cold-weather shock, “we decided to buy one more fan,” he said.
Guinaudeau said there are comparisons between the quality of the 2017 vintage at Lafleur and that of 2015. June last year was “warmer and drier” than 2015, while rainfall remained low through July and August. Its merlot grapes were picked in mid-September and cabernet franc later in the month and into early October.
Lafleur’s 2015 vintage on the Liv-ex online fine-wine exchange has a market price of 9,374 pounds ($12,983) per 12-bottle case, while the 2016 is 9,200 pounds, according to the Cellar Watch website. Wines from Lafleur’s standout 2010 and 2009 vintages are quoted at 12,456 pounds and 11,800 pounds respectively, and the landmark 2005 vintage is priced as high as 14,568 pounds a case.
The estate produces from 12,000 to 15,000 bottles a year, of which 9,000 to 10,000 are sold as futures in the spring following the harvest, while the rest are held for sale when they reach maturity in 10 or 15 years. The second wine is called Les Pensees de Lafleur.