Chateau Lafite Rothschild is to host the individual finals of the Medoc pruning challenge this weekend, as pruners from top estates battle to win the Golden Secateurs trophy.
Organised by the Asavpa (a national association for agricultural workers), the first two heats of the Inter-Chateau Medoc pruning Challenge were held in December 2008 and January 2009.
In the team heats, the overall winner was Chateau Beychevelle, in Saint Julien, whose elite pruning line-up narrowly beat squads from Pauillac’s Chateau Pichon-Lalande and Chateau de Pez in St-Estephe.
This weekend sees the individual finals take place on the hallowed terroir of Chateau Lafite in Paulliac.
In the individual challenge, Gilles Fontalirand of Chateau Beychevelle has so far won two heats out of three, with Rato Teixera of Chateau Lynch-Bages in second place. The leaders have 176 and 164.5 points (out of 190) respectively. In third, outsider Daniel Duclos from Chateau St Ahon in the Haut-Medoc is currently threatening Teixera’s position with 165.5 points. However, in the vineyards of Lafite, Teixera will have the advantage of being on his favoured Pauillac turf.
All will be competing for the coveted Golden Secateurs on Saturday.
Fontalirand’s manager, Philippe Blanc, who is director of Chateau Beychevelle, would not reveal Fontalirand’s game plan but praised the level of skill shown so far in the competition.
‘It’s an excellent way for vineyard workers to show their craftsmanship,’ he told decanter.com. ‘Pruning is a delicate skill, and the best workers know their job – and are highly prized.’
The competition sees each pruner work on 20 vines over 30 minutes, followed by a theory test.
‘But it is not about speed, it’s about quality and precision,’ said Blanc.
The Bordeaux departmental challenge will be held at Chateau Mazeyres in St-Emilion on 7 March.
Written by Jane Anson and Oliver Styles