Château Giscours 2021, looking back at the birth of a new vintage
on 22/12/2021
Château Giscours 2021, looking back at the birth of a new vintage

Making a fine wine is meticulous work that takes a whole year. The harvests are the most important point in the production process. We trace the origins of the 2021 vintage with Jérôme Poisson, General Manager at Château Giscours.

What do the harvests represent at Giscours? What are their characteristics and challenges?

The harvest period is a very special time in the life of a wine estate. We are finally bringing in the fruit of a year’s work. For months, Giscours winemakers have had to help the vines adapt to climatic variations, right up until the moment that they are picked.

We have 160 hectares of vines at Giscours (100 in the Margaux appellation and 60 in Haut-Médoc). What makes our job so complex is the need to anticipate and adapt harvest times in a vineyard as huge as this.

However, this difficulty is also one of Giscours’s great strengths, because the huge diversity of terroirs and grape varieties means that every vintage has plots that stand out from the crowd. The challenge for our teams is to do everything they can to ensure that the fruit is harvested at perfect ripeness, at exactly the right moment; however, this ripeness can vary by vine age, grape variety, or the vine’s geographic location.

We aim to balance various different elements: analysing the grapes’ sugar and acidity levels, tasting grapes at the plots, and ultimately anticipating the current weather in order to tailor harvest dates.

We therefore undertake very precise harvests to ensure a high-quality vintage and beautifully radiant aromas.

‘At Giscours, we seek to create fine wines with three dimensions: structure, freshness and density.’

Jérôme Poisson
General Manager at Château Giscours
Jérôme Poisson, General Manager at Château Giscours

Why harvest the grapes in stages?

At Giscours, we are hugely fortunate to have an exceptional terroir, with the oldest plots planted in 1923. We therefore have to tailor harvest dates to the age of the vines.

We also pay very careful attention to how different plants are harvested. Every year, the few dead vines in these old plots are replaced with young ones in order to preserve and refresh production in the plot. The old vines are more consistent and take longer to ripen. The young vines have a different dynamic due to their shorter roots. They are more affected by drought and temperature variations. They are picked and vinified separately, allowing us to harvest them when the fruit is still fresh and crisp, before ripening grinds to a halt.

The human factor is also vital at this time of year. How are the teams organised?

Every year, we tailor the size of our harvesting teams as the weeks progress. The team can include up to 200 people in some weeks.

We listen to the vines and nature so that we harvest at the right moment and our harvesting teams are tailored to best suit the year’s harvests.

How are the vines monitored throughout the year? What key stages guide your choices up until the harvest date?

The season begins with tailored pruning of the vines, during which we analyse the quality, position and diameter of vine shoots to ensure that high-quality grapes are produced the following year. We also seek to balance our vines as far as possible and to respect their sap flows in order to preserve their vitality year after year.

We closely monitor budding time, which heralds the start of the growing season and is a fragile period in terms of susceptibility to frost. Next comes flowering, the stage when the flower develops, which then turns into fruit during fruit set. This is when winegrowers perform green pruning: they guide the creeping vines to produce the best possible grapes. From fruit set onwards, we can gain an initial idea of the quality of the grapes we will be harvesting. That makes this a key time of year.

Veraison is another key moment, when the grapes develop colour. We monitor the uniformity of grape development and remove any bunches that may be lagging behind. The vine becomes less susceptible to disease at this point.

From the end of the summer onwards, we start tasting the grapes and taking ripeness samples from each plot every week (200 grapes). We weigh them and measure their sugar and acidity levels. This is a valuable indicator for when we should begin the harvest. In terms of aromas, everything is done by hand, with Didier Forêt (Giscours Technical Director) tasting the grapes virtually every day. Once or twice a week, consultant oenologist Thomas Duclos and I tour the vineyard and discuss the flavour of the grapes in order to determine the ideal picking date and harvest organisation. It is true teamwork.

We are fortunate enough to have an exceptional quality terroir. Our role is to preserve it and allow it to produce the best possible wine, whilst respecting its particular form of expression.

‘Our role is to take the rest of what nature offers us and to transfer the features of the grapes into the bottle.’

Jérôme Poisson
General Manager at Château Giscours
Picker in Giscours

How was 2021 for the Giscours vines?

The year hit the ground running with early budding. 2021 will also be remembered for its significant period of frost, which we fortunately managed to mostly avoid.

Giscours does not use any insecticides, herbicides or CMR (carcinogenic, mutagenic, reprotoxic) products, and the majority of our plots are in fact entirely organically cultivated. Our vines are treated virtually exclusively using products such as sulphur (to combat powdery mildew) and copper (for downy mildew).
June was a particularly rainy month. We suffered from downy mildew in 2018, but fortunately we learned from the experience and this year we were ready to respond quickly to any issues. We have invested in equipment and staff to ensure that we have enough resources to treat all of our vines within 36 hours. Thanks to this and the dedication of our teams, we experienced very little downy mildew this year.

The rest of the summer was rather cool, with average temperatures of around 21°C.
In September we had a few days of rain, but we were able to harvest the Merlot at the end of the month. The first Cabernet was harvested in early October. We had to adapt to the poor weather conditions during this month, in some cases halting harvests for a few days, before ultimately finishing in subsequent weeks amid wonderful sunshine!

‘2021 was a year of many challenges for our teams, who were able to adapt and redouble their efforts. We are very proud to work with people who are so committed to the vineyards and the winery! Our best plots also ensure a wonderful vintage. It is in years like this that the best terroirs and winemakers stand out.’

Jérome Poisson
General Manager at Château Giscours
Mains de vendangeur à Giscours

How would you describe the 2021 vintage? What can you say about it?

The harvests went very well thanks to the work put in by all, and a few risks we took that paid off. It is a fantastic year for Cabernet, as these grapes enjoyed ideal conditions at the end of the ripening process (cool nights at 3°C then a sunny 22°C during the day). We waited until the last possible moment to harvest them, and we are convinced that this will contribute a lot to the final blend.

With input from Thomas Duclos, our team tasted the wines regularly before running them off. This was followed by blending tastings until mid-December, to ensure the best results from all this work and start to create the 2021 vintage.

‘Château Giscours 2021 will be different from recent years, which have been very sunny. We have regained our historic Bordeaux climate that gave Médoc wines their fame. This promises great things for the new vintage.’

Jérôme Poisson
General Manager at Château Giscours

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