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Some insights from the HelloMerlot workshop

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James Downes, Olvier Berrouet, Yvonne Lester and Danielle Le Roux.
James Downes, Olvier Berrouet, Yvonne Lester and Danielle Le Roux.

On Friday, a workshop organized by the Merlot Forum or HelloMerlot as this producer body will be known going forwards. Guest speaker was Olivier Berrouet of Chateau Petrus in Pomerol who when asked for advice on how to improve the quality of local Merlot replied as follows: “You are the beginning of writing your story. Beyond the introduction perhaps but no further ahead than the first chapter. Don’t be afraid to make mistakes. Experiment. You have to think more than we do in Bordeaux [as we have been at it longer than you]. One thing is for sure, though, terroir is everything. I find it a little bit shocking that you have so many different varieties on the same property.”

Another key take-out was provided by James Downes of Shannon Vineyards in Elgin. “Bordeaux has an average of 497mm of rain from budburst to leaf-drop. That’s more than many local growing areas receive in the whole year and the result from a viticultural perspective is that you are constantly managing your vines for stress – get it wrong and you end up with jammy, alcoholic wines. In Elgin, meanwhile, we get an average of 506mm of rain during growing season, which means we have to contend with too much vigour and delayed ripeness, the issue here being wines that show a green character.”

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