All along the vegetative cycle, the best possible conditions are created in which to obtain ripe, well-constituted and healthy grapes.
Pruning, performed manually in winter, determines the number of shoots each vine will produce the following growing season. It is the first important act in the cycle and has a bearing on the future harvest, as well as the long-term health of the plant.
Manual operations employed in spring and summer remove unnecessary shoots, placing in better position those that will produce the harvest. This also assures better distribution of leaves and grape clusters, which then find themselves aerated, well-exposed to the sun, well-spaced on the row, and in controlled quantity.The greatest care is brought to each different operation : the number of workers is doubled from May to July, and quadrupled during the harvest period.
Concerning the fight against parasites and pests, as modernisation has always been considered with circumspection, chemicals used in the 1960s and 1970s were never used in excess at Château Boyd-Cantenac, leaving the vineyards with a remarkable biological equilibrium. Likewise, chemical fertilisers are unknown. Compost is used to maintain a moderate degree of richness in the soil, and in particular, to maintain the soil's natural biodiversity and level of organic matter.
At a point which varies from year to year during the month of August, vine growth stops, the grapes become dark purple, and the period of maturation begins ; now energy produced by the leaves, under the effect of the sun, is available to ripen the grapes, and later, for the trunk and roots allowing the plant to survive winter and grow again the next spring.
Periodic analysis of the grapes, both visual and gustative, allows the date of the harvest to be fixed. This is of utmost importance because it is often the final days of grape ripening on which the future wine depends for its charm, its noblesse, and its personality. It is also when the aromas become sublime and tannins attain their maximum elegance.
The harvest, done manually to allow rigorous selection, begins with the Merlot because it is the earliest-ripening varietal. The harvest lasts anywhere from 10 to 25 days, depending on the ripening rate of each varietal as well as the differences resulting from vineyard location.
The wines continue their evolution during 12 to 24 months in split oak barrels. At Château Boyd-Cantenac, the free-run wines are traditionally aged in new oak. During their stay in barrels, they progressively separate from their lees which then become the object of special care, and are used to enhance further the complexity of the wines.
The grapes from each block of vineyard are fermented and barrel-aged separately. The different lots are tasted periodically, and the most complementary ones and those embodying the greatest potential are combined to produce the wine of Château Boyd-Cantenac. The other lots, as well as the wines coming from young vines, are most often used in the composition of the second wines.
The recent vintages are dark and dense, with complex aromas of fruit and spices, before the bouquet which develops during bottle ageing arrives to complete this harmony.
On the palate, the attack is often clean, lively, followed by a sensation of volume that fills and coats the mouth. At the finish, the woven tannins guarantee the wines' excellent ability to age.
Beyond this sketch, according to the specific climatic conditions in which it was born, each vintage will have its own personality.
We do not know the true extent of the influence that this or that hot summer day had, or one September rain, on speeding up the grapes' maturity, or one night cooler than another had on the Cabernet's aromas, but with bottle-aging, Margaux wines always confirm, after several years in the bottle, their identity, among which is their forever-surprising ability to be at the same time intense, dense, complex, long, delicate, elegant, with lovely freshness and of undeniable harmony.
Is it not wine that inspired Montaigne to say « our pleasure is more refined if we pass through the stages of discovery and acquisition of the knowledge ourselves, forming our own tastes and opinions, without stopping to listen to what others would impose on us » ?
These few recommendations might perhaps be of help to you while undergoing this process.
Great and lesser vintages
The great vintages, those that are the best known and the most sought after, should not eclipse those that pass as more modest vintages.
For the wine taster looking for optimum pleasure, the rule is that a good vintage will improve with age because it was vinified and barrel-aged with this in mind.
It appears that five years is often the minimum necessary for the great vintages to reach the stage where they will have started to develop their bouquet and become more rounded in structure. They can, at this stage, begin combining power, intensity and density with complexity, balance and length, but also finesse, subtlety, freshness and suppleness. These wines become unmatched in their capacity to improve with age, giving ultimate pleasure at the time of opening.
For the more modest and less solid vintages, vinification is oriented more towards the expression of aromas and balance, and less towards deeper extractions, in such a way that the wines produced can be enjoyed earlier. These wines are not any less seductive, often surprising by the pleasure and emotion they produce, by their aromatic intensity, and by their subtlety and finesse. Such vintages are 1980, 1984, 1987, and more recently 2004 and 2007.
Food and wine
The wines of Château Boyd-Cantenac accompany wonderfully well a great variety of dishes : cheese entrees, grilled and roasted meats, and fish in red wine sauce all pair well, as do many cheeses (avoid blue cheeses, however, and other strong-flavoured cheeses).
Low temperatures reinforce acidity and astringency in wines and dampen their aromas whereas high temperatures encourage the alcohol to dominate the wines, making them heavy. Thus, young red wines are best served at around 15–18°C, and more developed wines around 17–20°C.
Avoid disturbing the bottle before serving the wine in order not to stir up any eventual deposits at the bottom of the bottle.