An Interview with Marielle Cazaux, Estate Manager at Château La Conseillante
12 May 2021
Since July 2016, Marielle Cazaux has been the Estate Manager of La Conseillante. She is responsible for both the vine-growing and wine making at the great estate. She is a qualified oenologist and studied at the University of Bordeaux. We had a chat to Marielle about how the 2020 vintage has been, discussing the weather, wine making process and harvest at this great Pomerol Château.
In general, how has this year's harvest been?
This harvest has been very nice. We had a dry season from the end of August to the 24th September. During this period, we had very high temperatures during the day, and we had to harvest during the morning to avoid the high heat of the day. We spent the first 6 mornings picking the Merlot and on 21st September we began harvesting the Cabernet Franc, finishing on the 30th September. The weather and quality of grapes was perfect. Of course, we faced issues elsewhere regarding Covid and had to take extra measures to protect the team, which was at times a challenging process.
Was it an effortless growing season?
So many people are complaining about the season and yes if you look back, it was challenging due to the rain we had in April and May because of the fungus threat. From my point of view, it was a great harvest because the whole team were here, no one was travelling so we were all really involved. We could prepare the vines very delicately and keep them safe from the fungus. We had nearly no rain during the end of June, July or August but we were lucky that the ground was hydrated enough. We had 9 days in July and August at 43 degrees, then at the end of August we had 30mm of rain; the grapes were big and juicy and this made the skins thinner and beautifully finished the ripening.
We had a good yield this year, 39 hectolitres per hectare. The flowering was very early, starting in early May when we had no rain, so we had the perfect conditions for flowering. We had a dry season with a lot of water already in the clay, which was fantastic. For us this was not a challenge, especially when compared to the 2018 when we had the challenges of fungus and travel.
How does the 2020 compare to other vintages?
It is a mix between the 2016 and 2010, for me it has the sophistication of the 2016 and the power and refinement of the 2010, it is very unique. It is a mixture of these vintages, we have an abundance of quality, something that will age for years.
Tell us about your picking team.
We have a lot of retired people who work for us, we only harvest for 4 hours in the mornings, so it isn't too hard for them. We also use a business if needed who send some more people from St. Emilion and last year we had some Spanish pickers, but due to Covid this year we only used local people.
Did you change fermentation technique during this harvest?
No, we never make a heavy fermentation or a heavy punch down; the only thing we have changed over the last 2 years is that we are now picking in the morning. This is very important to help protect the fresh side of the fruit. Then we do a gentle extraction at 26 degrees which is the same method we used with the 2018/2019. The wine is rich, the grapes are rich, the tannins are very well integrated, creating a very well-balanced wine. The wine tastes so fresh, there is good acidity there as well as a juicy side to the wine.
How would you characterise the 2020 vintage?
Sophistication is the true essence of this wine for me, everything works so well together. If you think of a beautiful woman: lovely clothes, beautiful perfume, sophisticated elegance, everything is working together to create the perfect end result. This is the epitome of the wine for me, it is fresh, rich and perfumed, powerful, and everything is in a perfect balance. Nothing is too much or too little.
We know you have tasted Le Pin and L'If this vintage, what did you think?
I started with L'If and it is amazing, the brightness is phenomenal. Of course, Le Pin is Le Pin and I was not disappointed. It was brilliant, you have all the sexiness, richness, roundness with the Le Pin. Whereas L'If is bright, it is a beautiful wine that can age. They are both very different but equally incredible.
We have heard a critic say it is a Merlot vintage, yet people we have spoken to say that the Cabernet Franc has been amazing. What are your thoughts on this?
2019 was a very difficult wine to try and improve but we had a wonderful Merlot and a good Cabernet Franc. In 2020 the Cabernet Franc has been even better and initially when we weighed and looked at the grapes I was not sure about the quality, but in December when we blended in the barrel it was amazing and this was because of the quality of the Cabernet Franc. I have spoken to Frederic from Figeac and he says their Cabernet Franc and Cabernet Sauvignon are just amazing this year, I also heard good things from the left bank on the quality.
Can you shed any light on the En Primeur Campaign this year?
We start communicating with journalists from 10th-15th May, then we will release certainly in the middle of June. We have to say that this year there is a lack of enthusiasm and joy for the campaign because we do not have all of you in Bordeaux with us. We pray that in 2022 with the vaccine things will be different and we will all be together again!