Château Dauzac’s exceptional terroir and commitment to biodynamic farming have made the 49 Hectare vineyard a wine tourism hotspot
Laurent Fortin, General Manager of Château Dauzac, tells Vinexpo Daily how new technology, sustainable management and a commitment to biodiversity are helping the prestigious Bordeaux property futureproof its business.
WE ALREADY WELCOME ABOUT 7,000 PEOPLE A YEAR TO CHÂTEAU DAUZAC AND WOULD LIKE TO INCREASE THIS NUMBER.
Can you tell us some background and history to Château Dauzac?
Château Dauzac is a 5th growth Grand Cru Classé Margaux wine according to the 1855 classification. Its 49 hectares of vineyard includes 45ha within the Margaux appellation and 4ha in the Haut-Médoc. The estate is located near the Gironde estuary, which has a critical influence on the vineyard’s ecosystem. The property is also protected from ocean winds thanks to the surrounding 120 hectares of meadows and forests. This agronomic bubble and unique terroir have made it possible to develop precision farming through plot selection, highlighting the exceptional characteristics of this Grand Cru Classé wine.
What are your main wines?
Château Dauzac: Dedicated to the expression of terroir and dominated by Cabernet Sauvignon, Château Dauzac reveals a complex bouquet that slowly unfolds during aeration. On the palate, it strikes a subtle balance between the richness of its tannins and the aromatic diversity of its supple fruits, emblematic of great wines for ageing. Cabernet Sauvignon dominates with its complexity, elegance and minerality, while Merlot adds roundness and silkiness. Deep in colour, Château Dauzac expresses a subtle balance where fruits, owers and spices are combined, with a complex body and tannins ensuring an emotional tasting experience.
Aurore de Dauzac: Produced from vines on a specific geological vein with ne, sandy gravel, the plot selection of Aurore de Dauzac provides a wine characterised by crisp and intense fruitiness. Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon are used in almost equal proportions, resulting in a nicely balanced style reflecting the minerality and character of the Margaux terroirs, with an emphasis on fruit.
Labastide Dauzac: Produced on clay and gravel soils, which are so conducive to the best expressions of Merlot, Labastide Dauzac also has the intensity of Cabernet Sauvignon coming through. It is characterised by its great suppleness and fruitiness. True to the Margaux terroir, it is a well-balanced wine.
Haut-Médoc de Dauzac: Haut-Médoc de Dauzac comes from a 4ha adjacent vineyard, classified in the Haut-Médoc appellation. It is given the same attention as the property’s other wines and is also vinified in Château Dauzac’s cellars.
What are your key export markets?
Our main market is Asia, particularly Korea, Japan and China, followed by the US and the UK.
You have developed a new alternative process for pump overs in the winery. Can you explain why you are doing this?
The idea was to rethink the pump over process which was an opportunity for Philippe Roux, the Château’s technical director, to devise a different approach. “Traditional pumping over poses certain disadvantages” he said. “By spraying the fermenting must, preferential channels are created that obliges us to deconstruct the must afterwards.” Instead he has come up with an alternative process that means the juice is in homogeneous, permanent contact with the berries, so a cap never forms. He then worked in partnership with a local manufacturer to set up this new system that replaces the use of pumps.
How does this new process work and what benefit does it have for the grapes?
By keeping the berries in permanent suspension, we are able to give the optimal respect to the fruit and grapes which, in turn, allows us to develop silky, more elegant, rounder tannins. The methodology has since been patented by the manufacturer under the name «Air Pulse», and adopted by prestigious Bordeaux Grands Crus.
You have a strong reputation for innovation. What other developments have there been?
Over the past few years we have been introducing new techniques in the work we do in our vineyards. In 2016 we looked closely at the selection and multiplication of indigenous yeasts in the Château Dauzac vineyards. Then in 2017 we invested in research and development work on grapevine diseases and started to use plant paste instead of egg white in the fining process in order to produce a vegan wine.
There has also been changes in our winery and production process. We started working in 2015 with the Sequin Moreau cooperage to create wooden vats with transparent double staves. This has allowed us to tackle our winemaking with even more precision, by going into the core of the cask, where fermentation takes place. Being able to observe our grapes even more closely has helped with our overall quality.
IN 2016 WE WERE THE FIRST 1855 GRAND CRU CLASSIFIED PROPERTY TO CLAIM 100% VEGAN PRODUCTION
What steps have you introduced to improve your sustainability and biodiversity?
The diversity of the property’s 120ha (a combination of vineyards, meadows and forests) all come together to determine the way in which the Château Dauzac ecosystem is managed. The steps to improve our biodiversity started with the development of a vegetable garden and arboretum. This was followed by installing 15 bee hives, that has not only helped create a healthy bee population on the estate, but it means we are now able to produce our own Dauzac honey (with two or three harvests per year). 250 metres of hedges were then planted by our teams to help attract and encourage certain species.
Biodiversity is not possible unless different species are encouraged to live together. Egrets and herons live on the property and also contribute to this wide diversity. Small mammal pests are regulated by a club of archers. All in all our objective is to promote a friendly, ecological and environmental spirit at Château Dauzac. We also have picnic benches and tables open to families and friends, who can freely take advantage of the surrounding peace and quiet.
How was the 2018 vintage for you and the quality of your wines?
The 2018 vintage will be remembered as one of vigilance. The winter was mild, and also one of the warmest since 1900. During the rst six months of the year, signi cant rainfall enabled the vines, which like water, to display vigorous growth. The heavy rain also meant our growers had to be extra vigilant to guard against the threat of disease and keep a close eye on the vines during their growth. This is when having an in-depth knowledge of your terroir means our growers are able to response quickly to any danger of disease, which is essential.
After flowering, which was fast, the weather changed dramatically, with the arrival of a hot, dry sunny period that continued for four months, from the end of June to the end of the harvest. This exceptional summer spell, combined with the ample groundwater reserves, enabled the grapes to undergo a complex, re ned ripening phase, without becoming overly stressed by the lack of rain.
The first bunches were picked in the first week of September with significant differences between the châteaux and terroirs. The harvest took place in the sunshine and there was no pressure to pick quickly. The grapes were absolutely perfect, remaining exceptionally healthy and reaching optimal ripeness. All the elements were present for the production of an exceptionally fine vintage.
While storms had a severe impact in some areas in neighbouring appellations, especially in the Haut-Médoc, the Margaux appellation was spared. The 2018 vintage displays a rarely achieved level of quality and is characterised by notes of ripe cherries and spices with superb concentration and exceptionally silky tannins. In the final analysis, as in all vintages, the weather played an essential role in forming the character of this excellent 2018 vintage.
You are moving towards biodynamic winemaking – how are you doing that?
For over 30 years, Château Dauzac has worked to preserve biodiversity. Here, sheep, bees, egrets, herons and small mammals contribute to its richness. Virtuous viticulture uses new techniques like deep sections, electrical resistivity tests and weather sensors. The fertilizers we use are solely biological, and the use of insecticides is banished.
We use the best of biodynamic practices. We use tisanes to reinforce the vines’ immunity and increase resistance to climate hazards, we work the soils based on the lunar calendar, and use algae to combat mildew. In 2016 we were the first 1855 Grand Cru Classified property to claim 100% vegan production, when we introduced vegetable proteins to replace egg whites traditionally used for fining.
What do you see as the key opportunities for the Château going forward?
Wine tourism. We have the chance to talk about biodiversity, biodynamics, and our exceptional terroir and wines. We already welcome about 7,000 people a year to Château Dauzac and would like to increase this number.
What is your biggest challenge?
Direct communication with our consumer is our biggest challenge.
Photo: Laurent Fortin, General Manager, Château Dauzac