The estate of Grand-Puy-Lacoste comprises 90 hectares - 58 planted with vines - that are entirely located around the Château.
Since its acquisition by the Borie family in 1978, the vineyards at Grand-Puy-Lacoste have been patiently replanted. Today the balance between young and old vines is fully established at an average age of 38 years.
The domain is planted with 75% Cabernet Sauvignon, 20% Merlot and 5% Cabernet Franc. Cabernet Sauvignon is the ideal noble grape variety, forming the backbone of Grand-Puy-Lacoste's wines. The two other varieties bring nuance to the assemblage which emphasize this growth's typical character.
Grand-Puy-Lacoste is deeply committed to a very precise management of its vineyard: during 20 years, chemical treatments have been halved. No insecticide has been used in the past 10 years, restoring the natural fauna. The soil has always been worked manually, using physical labor, no herbicides, double Guyot pruning.
High-density planting is a factor in quality. At Grand-Puy-Lacoste there are 10,000 vines per hectare, one plant per square meter.
Each year Grand-Puy-Lacoste employs a team of faithful, experienced pickers who share the same values as the Borie family.
Always with a view towards quality, a first "green harvest” (while grapes are still unripe) is made to bring yields down around 40 to 45 hecoliters per hectare.
Each year the date of picking is very carefully determined to achieve the best possible maturity. Depending on changes in the weather, just a few days can alter the fruit's balance. The grapes are picked by hand using crates to keep them intact until they reach the vat house.
The Borie family calls on harvesters who have come from the same village in Spain for 45 years. They are housed on the property, requiring precise organization by Marie-Hélène Borie. Faithful to Grand-Puy-Lacoste, these harvesters work wholeheartedly to achieve the finest results. Their first visual sorting in the vineyard is vital to prepare and simplify the work when the grapes arrive at the vat house. Thanks to a mix of generations in the picking teams, decades of experience is handed down and perfected.
After picking, the grape bunches arrive at the vat house and pass along two vibrating sorting tables before de-stemming. This process of double sorting was instituted in 2006 and has contributed to a significant improvement in quality.
For François-Xavier Borie and his team, the best techniques mean nothing if they don't give expression to the terroir.
A vat house equipped with the latest technology is used for a carefully controlled, classic vinification. Forty-three temperature-controlled vats of different capacities allow very precise winemaking that respects the unique character of each parcel of vines.
Vatting lasts around three weeks. First, the grapes ferment for 8 to 10 days. Grand-Puy-Lacoste favors soft extractions at a temperature of 28°C, with daily pumping over to help alcoholic fermentation and enrich the wine's color and tannin with each pass through the layer of grape skins.
Maceration lasts around 10 days more to complete this extraction. During this period the temperature of each vat is carefully checked and adjusted according to its grapes' potential. Then comes malolactic fermentation to stabilize the wine and lower its acidity, making it more supple and round.
Grand-Puy-Lacoste's philosophy is simple: work with nature and follow its progress carefully; adapt to each vintage's profile as precisely as possible; minutely adjust the château's "signature” as needed. Even the most sophisticated techniques mean nothing without a basic, guiding principle: to make the best wine possible taste your samples, and then taste again.
The assemblage is the decisive moment in the creation of each vintage, calling into play the talents of all.
Each vat is regularly tasted to get an early understanding of the vintage profile before the assemblage takes place, usually in December. This is a team effort, with François-Xavier Borie, his wife Marie-Hélène, their daughter Emeline, their consultant oenologist Eric Boissenot, their research and developpment director Christel Spinner (who is also an oenologist), their cellar master Philippe Gouze and their vineyard manager Antonio Flores.
How many tastings for each vintage? How many trials, tests, meetings, doubts? When it is a matter of giving voice to the terroir, of finding the right balance between Château style and vintage profile, time matters little. This extraordinarily precise work calls upon taste memory, sensation, and intuition to anticipate how each lot will develop as it ages, how each one will contribute to the finished wine.
Each year's selection reflects the principles of excellence that have guided the family for over thirty years. The wines not selected for inclusion in Grand-Puy-Lacoste go to the second label created in 1982: Lacoste-Borie, a wine made for drinking young.
The typical character of each grape variety subtly influences the balance of the whole.
During the assemblage, the winemaking team plays on the complementary character of the vineyard's three grapes to preserve Grand-Puy-Lacoste's complex style every vintage.
Cabernet Sauvignon gives vigor and firmness to the wine. It develops very characteristic aromas of red fruit, and its aromatic palette gains in complexity with time.
Merlot is its indispensable complement. It is prized for its roundness, finesse and generosity.
Cabernet Franc has a great potential for finesse, imparting elegance to a wine.
After assemblage the wines are put into barrels and transferred to the ageing cellar which is kept at constant levels of temperature and humidity.
Grand-Puy-Lacoste selects barrels made from fine-grained Allier oak for its delicate and subtle tannin. Two-thirds of the barrels are new each year, with one-fill barrels completing the total. The Château limits its purchases to just three trusted cooperages.
Depending on the year, ageing will last from 16 to 18 months, with gravity racking every three or four months. All work is done with the greatest respect for the classic methods which have produced the Médoc's finest wines.
During the entire period of ageing, the mysterious alchemy between wine and wood is at work. Great care is constantly taken to follow the wine's development right up to the time of bottling.