Chateau Hourtin-Ducasse, a 25-hectare cru bourgeois estate in Saint Sauveur in the northern Medoc, has announced that it will not be making a 2012 wine.

‘No wine': the chateau’s graphic

Owner Michael Marengo told local paper Le Journal du Medoc they had been fearing such a decision as far back as August.

Due to the difficult growing season ‘our minimum quality requirements have not been met,’ he said.

On the chateau’s website, under a ‘no bottles’ graphic, Marengo said spring brought ‘a combined attack of downy mildew and powdery mildew in strengths rarely encountered. On 9th and 10th June, our leaves were literally drenched by heavy rain, destroying the plants’ internal protection and allowing downy mildew to take hold on the grape clusters.’

‘It’s been a very difficult decision and I hope one that I never have to make again. It feels like we have been working for nothing.’

Marengo said that the estate had harvested enough good quality Cabernet Franc and Cabernet Sauvignon grapes to make a 2012 rosé, Les Roses de Marie, although that decision will not be made until after the blending.

‘I hope it can offer us some consolation,’ he said.

‘But the rest will be cut off the vine and left. We are already looking to next year, and have hired extra advisors to help us prepare, including Marx Quertinier from the Pauillac oenology laboratory.’

The Marengo family has owned Hourtin-Ducasse since 1975; the current generation took over in 2000.

The vineyard uses no chemicals, including replacing copper treatments against oidium with a preparation made of essential oils and flower essences.

‘We use natural treatments because we believe in them, and believe it gives our wine great finesse, but we will be even more vigilant in the future about the timing of applications.’

Marengo stressed that his decision in no way affected his neighbours: ‘Others have been far more successful than us this year. I am not talking about the whole vintage, just our experience at our vineyard. It is tough as a small wine producer to get your wines known, and I didn’t want my clients to be disappointed upon opening the bottle.’

Although many of the larger estates in Bordeaux are reporting cautiously optimistic results in the cellars, with good alcohol levels and ripe tannins, it has been a challenging growing season, and several estates in Sauternes are withholding a decision on releasing a 2012 vintage until vat tasting over the next few weeks.

A spokesperson at the chateau confirmed the decision, and said a letter explaining the decision to their clients is due to be sent out this week.

Written by Jane Anson in Bordeaux