Angélus takes you through the different stages of the vine cycle via a series of photos of a single Cabernet Franc vine. This series, entitled “A Cabernet Franc Story”, will be sent out on a monthly basis until the end of the year.
This first photo in the series was taken on 24th February, after the pruning had taken place and new stakes had been installed in the vineyard. It sums up well the quite rainy start to the season that we had in Saint-Émilion and is a good picture of the general state of the vineyard, which is green and with soils that have been very satisfactorily replenished with water.
This second photo was taken on 26th March while the vines were in full bud. With the month of March being warmer than usual, the first bud-break in the vines actually occurred this year 10 days earlier than average.
Work in the vineyard has continued at pace thanks to the whole of the Angélus team rallying around to help. The canes have been tied to the wires, the bases of the vine trunks have been de-earthed, and the first sprays containing a copper sulphate base will be carried out over the coming days.
Finally, pheromone capsules have been installed across the whole of the vineyard in order to combat the European grapevine moth whose larvae feed on the interior of grapes. The term “sexual confusion” is used here to describe the effect of the pheromones which disrupts the sexual activity of the moths, thus drastically reducing the laying of their eggs. This technique, which figures in the list of specifications for organic farming practices, enables the use of traditional insecticides to be avoided.
This third photo was taken on 14th April when we were in the middle of inter-vine tilling, what we call “décavaillonnage”.
We had rain during much of the month of April, which forced our teams to carry out disease prevention work in many parts of the vineyard on foot, since the soils were too wet to use tractors and other equipment. This rain nevertheless did the vineyard a lot of good, because it replenished the soils’ water reserves. During this time we also carried out the task of removing any suckers from the vine trunks. We did this by hand, as always.
Right now we are getting alternating spells of hot sun and then rain. These conditions are conducive to outbreaks of fungal diseases in the vines, and this is something we are monitoring very carefully. However, the vines are shooting well and very evenly, and the future bunches promise a very good crop. The flowering process will be starting in a few weeks’ time.
At Angélus in late April, the constant care and meticulous attention of our teams were needed in the vineyard, not only to ward off any outbreak of downy mildew in the vines but also to respond to the threat of hailstorms. To this end, 8 anti-hail balloons had been released, and no hail damage was suffered in the vineyard.
This fourth photo was taken on May 4th after substantial mechanical weeding work. Now that the rain had stopped and the sun was shining again, our teams were able to concentrate their efforts on soil maintenance work. A first earthing up of the bases of the vines was carried out to ensure that weed growth in the rows was kept under control.
As for the vines themselves, while de-leafing work is currently being done and the trellising wires being raised, the vines are in full flower right across the vineyard and are making the most of the very favourable weather conditions.
This fifth photo was taken on June 3rd when we were right in the middle of raising the vine canopy wires. This process consists in helping the vine shoots to stand upright so that the foliage can spread out easily and the bunches can be well aerated.
Over the last weeks, the alternation of periods of rain and fine weather has greatly encouraged vine vegetation growth. Our teams have therefore been topping and trimming the vines and also earthing up the vine trunks, which enables us once again to control the growth of weeds in the rows.
The closure of the bunches is almost complete, and the first green harvesting will begin shortly.
This sixth photo was taken on 15th July during the phase of the closing of the grape bunches.
By this stage, the berries have almost reached their full size and will soon begin to change colour and ripen. This process is known as the veraison. This colour-change could be observed on some of Château Angélus young vines on 12th July, which is a relatively early date in the cycle.
Overall, in the vines, the downy mildew threat which we mentioned last month was kept under complete control, thanks to the constant vigilance of our teams and the fine weather we’ve had since the end of June.
The first green harvesting in the vines has just been completed. This stringent selection of bunches is a necessary process to ensure high quality and maintain healthy grapes. It enables us to keep only the best exposed bunches on the vines while avoiding any compacting of clusters, thus preventing outbreaks of botrytis.
Today the vineyard crew is busy topping and trimming the vine canopy and de-earthing the soil from the vine trunks, as well as, depending on how the weather goes, adjusting the height of the cover crop.
This seventh photo was taken on 5th August during the second green harvesting.
The veraison is still in progress in the Cabernet Franc vines but almost finished in the Merlot.
The berries continue to develop in ideal weather conditions with alternating hot, sunny days and cool nights.
In the vines, the last canopy tasks have been carried out, in particular an extra trimming of the shoots following a surge in vine vegetation growth.
The vineyard today is in very good health, and the coming crop should be a large one and of high quality. We are therefore looking forward to an outstanding 2020 vintage.
At Angélus the harvest, which began on 15th September in the Merlot plots and on 28th September in the Cabernet Franc plots, finished on 30th September, lasting a short but intense 15 days.
This eighth photo was taken on 29th September as the very last grapes of the Cabernet Franc from “Les Verdots” plot were harvested.
This year, the wet spring conditions enabled the water reserves in the soils to fill up before the arrival of ideal weather in the summer, during which temperatures were high but never scorching. The perfect weather condition since the beginning of the flowering and the meticulous work carried out by our teams have combined to produce a crop of high quality.
This 9th photo was taken on the 29th of October: one month after the very last grape of Château Angélus was harvested.
Alcoholic fermentations are now over and the Merlot, as well as part of the Cabernet Franc, have been put into barrels where they will start their malolactic fermentation.
The remaining Cabernet Franc on the other hand is to finish its malolactic fermentation first before being put into foudres and begin, along with the rest of the 2020 vintage, its 22-month aging journey towards excellence.
In the meantime, our teams have started the replacement of missing or unproductive vines, also called racottage in French, and sown the annual seedlings in the inter-rows. This includes varieties such as peas, rye and ratches.
These actions are crucial and ensure the good health of both the vineyard and its soils for the year to come.
This 10th photo was taken on December 22sd. Since our last post, the vines have gone into "dormancy", which is similar to a period of hibernation.
This mechanism allows the plant to store in its roots the nutrients it needs to last until the next bud burst that occurs at the end of winter.
During this period, our teams prune the unwanted shoots and only keep the best-located buds on the remaining ones.
While the pruning of the Merlot plots is currently underway, the pruning of the Cabernet-Franc plots is expected to start shortly.
This 11th photo was taken on 19th January, with the pruning in full swing. Stéphanie de Boüard-Rivoal, the Angélus CEO, brings to a close our series “A Cabernet Franc Story” with a final snip of the secateurs on a Cabernet Franc vine in the “Les Verdots” plot, which we featured throughout the 2020 vintage.
At Angélus, we prune the vines using the Double Guyot system, in which only two canes and two spurs are kept on the vine. The aim here is to guide the growth of the vine and to balance out the distribution of the future grape bunches.
Importantly, this pruning is also one of the first jobs undertaken to protect the vines from disease during the growing season, which is a tricky and complex exercise. We still have to wait several months for the vines to come out of their dormant period and for the new buds to shoot, thus signalling the beginning of a new vine cycle and a new Château Angélus vintage.