The vines may be 2 or 3 weeks ahead of flowering and winemakers looking at an early harvest, but the vines are not the only flowers just loving this hot dry spring. This year, the roses in the vineyards are some of the most beautiful I have seen.
Roses in the courtyard of Château Langoa Barton
Visiting the gardens of Château Langoa Barton
in Saint Julien, I learnt that the property has over 2000 rose bushes – a most spectacular display. I don’t know if it’s the Irish connection but Château Kirwan
also has a wonderful rose garden with an alleyway of roses in full bloom and Château Loudenne
(another Anglo-Saxon association) also has a world-class rose collection.
Roses at Château Loudenne
There is more to see than just vines in the Bordeaux vineyards. Roses are scattered throughout the vineyards as a legacy to their use as a warning sign for mildew, not a problem we have had so far this year with this dry weather. The rose and the vine are related and owing to their sensitivity to mildew and odium the roses were the indicator as to when the vineyards should start to spray the vines with the traditional ‘Bouilli Bordelais’ (Bordeaux mixture), a lime and copper sulphate solution. It wasn’t unusual in damp springs to see the blue tinge on the vines that had been sprayed.
Legend has it that this solution was found after vines that had been sprayed with copper sulphate solution on the edges of Château Ducru Beaucaillou
’s vineyards in Saint Julien to prevent predators (human ones!) from stealing the grapes. These vines were then seen not to suffer from the disease.
These days however winemakers use the less romantic but much more effective measurement of precipitation, humidity, wind and temperature by mini weather stations situated throughout the vineyards. All linked to computers, along with a detailed understanding of what constitutes the risk of the development of these diseases this does a much better job of indicating when and just how much to treat the vines, making for a more efficient and hence lower use of chemicals in the vineyards as the properties in Bordeaux move towards sustainable agriculture.
To prove it’s not just a Left Bank thing – here’s another beautiful displayat Château Angelus in Saint Emilion
Luckily for visitors however, many vineyards have kept the traditional roses on the end of the vines where they were originally placed to encourage the oxen, that pulled the ploughs, not to turn too quickly and damage the ends of the rows.The oxen were not great flower lovers – they didn’t like the thorns!