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Maverick Wine Maker Bruno Duhamel's Latest Vintages Available Now


CHÂTEAU L’HOSPITAL
AOC Côtes de Bourg
Grand Vin de Bordeaux

Christine et Bruno Duhamel
33710 Saint Trojan
France


Geography :

6.4 Hectares estate settled in one block on the clay soil situated on the heights of the Bourg Hills, between the Gironde and the Dourdogne only 20 miles north of The City of Bordeaux and 2 miles from the UNESCO world heritage Citadelle at Blaye. The cote de Bourg is well known thoughout the region for the microclimate produced by it’s relative geographic situation. The Cote de Bourg enjoys 10% more sun, 1- 2 degrees less severe temperature swings and 10- 12% lower rain fall annually than the surrounding areas.

Regional History

The region as a whole produces around 31 million bottles a year, equating to almost one third of Frances wine production. Within this relatively small region there are around 7,000 Chateaux, 57 Appellations, 13,000 growers and 300,000 acres of cultivated vines. The popularity of this wine has it’s history as far back as the Roman’s who recognised the quality of the terroir as early as 2 AD.

By the 14th Century Bordeaux was firmly established as a wine making province and began to grow exponentially. This growth was in part fed by Bordeaux’s individual position whereby the wine was produced and controlled by the growers and merchants rather than by the church. Such was the demand for Bordeaux wines an area of swamp between the Gironde and the Atlanic Ocean was reclaimed to cultivate, now called the Medoc this region is perhaps held in higher regard than it’s venerable older brother. By the 15th Century The City of Bordeaux became on of the busiest ports in Europe as fully half the Bordeaux produced was exported straight to England to be aged and bottled in the cellars of London’s finest wine merchants.

It was not until after the second World War that Baron Rothschild began to age and bottle his own wine on the vineyard rather than selling the ‘wine’ as pressed grape juice. However following the war as much of France tried to rebuild and the economic state of Europe was far from stable most vineyards began to only cultivate the vines and sell their juice to the cooperatives to be made into blank Bordeaux ‘Vin de Table’. Very few Wine makers produced wine under their own label and those who did are now regarded as some of the finest wines in Bordeaux. Highly respected merchants Berry Brothers and Rudd suggest that Cote de Bourg is grape for grape the best Bordeaux for your money.
L’Hospital’s History

This estate takes it’s name from the farm houses’ use as a leper-hospital in the 16th Century most likely owned by the Knights of Saint john- known as the knights Hospitallers.

Although there is no evidence to support the theory it is fair to assume that grapes would heve been cultivated for wine on the estate at this time as traditionally irt was the monks of France that produced all of the alcoholic drinks much as beer and mead were produced in the Abbeby’s of Medieval England.

During the restoration of the present wine cellar proof was found to support that estate has been cultivating vines in this volume since 1897 although the previous owners held the estate from the beginning of the 20th century it seems that little has been kept in the way of historical documentation.

In July 1997 this beautiful 6.4 Hectare estate was bought by Christine and Bruno Duhamel adding the beginning of a new chapter to this ancient estate’s history.

The Duhamels

Bruno : executive manager (15 years) Labour leader turned renegade wine maker Bruno Duhamel is truly a maverick amidst the traditionalists of Bordeaux. After leading an 8 day strike at the company where he was a HR manager Bruno was left with no mistaken idea that his services were no longer required. So he took the dec ision to follow his 20 year dream of becoming a wine maker. He and wife Christine a doctor of archaeology and anthropologist began a course in vineculture. Once they had gained their degrees the Duhamels began to look for vineyards, with a young daughter (Elinor) and another on the way (Alex) they roamed through Côtes du Rhône to Gers and Lot et Garonne before they found and fell in love with L’Hospital. 

Producing their first wine in 1997 the learning curve for the couple was steep as the local growers were mostly professional farmers who had been born into the life and they looked cautiously at their new neighbour. 1997 itself was a light vintage and so was more a test of the family’s backs than their taste buds. They have produce at least one wine every year since 1997 with a particularly well regarded red in 2000 and again with the 2005 L’Estocade. Many of the worlds top restaurants hold Bruno’s wine ranging from Local restaurants to Michelin 3, 2 ands 1 star properties in France, Belgium, Germany, Japan, USA and UK.

Bruno is truly a maverick, although he has a great respect for the AOC he breaks tradition regularly in an innovative attempt to keep the region up to date and produce some exceptional new wines. Against all advice he has made a sparkling Rose from his Cabernet crop- despite it being widely praised in the highest wine circles the wine may only be labelled ‘vin de table’ as it is not a traditional Bordeaux product. Likewise his vin de piscine and white are frowned upon by the AOC but guzzled willingly by the populace. L’Hospital’s philosophy of innovation, ecology and energy is a heady mixture that produces some exceptional wines and this more renegade approach will help keep France at the very tip of modern wine making.


Terroir

With the aid of oenologist Mr Michel Guiraud and agricultural advisor Mr Richard Vanreterghem the estate produces the very highest quality hand made wines through 100% organic techniques. The quality of the soil and over all topography at L’Hospital (predominantly clay and a little lime stone and a deep bed of sand) is such that the Duhamels could concentrate on their wines immediately rather than spending years cultivating the soils.

Eco- sound, biological techniques such as the Guyot pruning technique, raising the hight of the plants to produce a greater total surface area of leaf per plant (now 1.2 meters) allows a better quality yield from the 5,100 plants per hectare without the use of chemicals or machines. All the pruning and care of the vines is carried out by hand, usually Christine’s as Bruno uses the winter season to sell the wine around Europe. Each vine is carefully studied to select only the best shoots and buds for cutting and cultivation.

Although wine growers in the region have access to France’s new wine satellite and are at the very forefront of wine production technology using phenolic maturation to fix a harvest date Bruno places a great deal of faith in his and his teams ability to judge by sight, taste and intelligence when to harvest.

Come the harvest family and friend s flock to the estate for Le Vendage and the very minimum of machinery is used in the harvesting. Where the premier cru house use huge machines to cut the grapes from the vine L’Hospital uses secateurs. Where other local produced use enormous trucks to move their grapes from field to shed, L’Hsopital uses a small tractor and a quad bike with a trailer. One small machine is used to separate grapes from stalk and to transport them up conveyor belt into the cuvees. The leaves, sticks and other detritus collected in the picking is removed by hand to assure nothing but the grapes makes it’s way in to the wine.

Every part of the operation is conscientiously planned to have the least effect on the terroir and ecology of the area as a whole. There is a pay off to all this painstaking work and conscience. Soon L’Hospital will finish it’s 5 year testing period and be able to proudly display on it’s bottles that the wine within is AOC certified organic produce. Every few moths for 5 years the AOC team will inspect the vineyard, vats and take samples of everything to assure that no inorganic compound has been used anywhere on site- however after this period L’Hospital are one of the very few 100% organic wine producers in Bordeaux.

The wine

The converted bar that houses the Cuvee’s has been designed, re-designed, added to and altered over the last decade and a half to produce a perfect open environment for a regular renewal of air and stable humidity and temperature. Built as a gravity type cellar, perfect as L’Hospital favours a malic fermentation process. The grapes are handles as little as possible before being added to one of the 6 7.5,000 litre concrete cuvee or the 1 larger 14,000 litre tank. The grapes are macerated and fermented in the Cuvee. The reds are cycled through the must in the Burgundy style to aid in maceration primary fermentation twice a day. The secondary fermentation (malolactic) takes place in the cuvee also prior to the wine stock being settled in French Oak barrels in the cellar.


Differents tanks and wines

3 cuvée red wines (Also 1 ‘irregular’ vintage labelled with either L’Estocade or L’Impatient)
1 cuvée white wine
1 Sparkling ‘Vin de Table’ Rose

Red wine (5,40 ha)

Château l’Hospital (barrels)
Year N (2001) 15 000- 20 000 bottles
Merlot 80% (50 hl/ha)
Malbec 10% (30 hl/ha)
Cabernet franc and sauvignon 10% (50 hl/ha)
Barrel maturing 16-24 months. Renewal of the barrels 1/3 every year. Wine blending in tanks 3 months before bottled in the month of may ore july (N+2).

Château L’Hospital cuvee (CDB)
N+1 (2001) 6000 bottles/year
Blend 70% Merlot (50 hl/ha) and 30% Malbec (30hl/ha)
7 months maturing in tanks (after malolactic fermentation)
Bottled in may (N+1) +1 (2000) (2001)

Château de Laplace
N+1 (2001) 15 000 bottles / year
Blend 90% Merlot (50hl/ha) and 10% Malbec (30hl/ha)
7 months maturing in tanks (after malolactic fermentation)
Bottled in may (N+1) +1 (2000)(2001)

White wine (0.30ha)

(0.15 ha Semillon and 0.15 ha Colombard)
old plants yeld 30hl/ha, hand crop, maturing on the lies in new barrels with regulated temperature (16°) for 2 or 3 weeks fermentation.


 


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