On the road to Saint-Julien -Beychevelle, a stone's throw from its church, the impressive quadrangular tower of Château La Tour Carnet rises in the axis of a monumental gate. If the dense enclosure walls could talk, they would tell stories about the rich historical past of this authentic feudal castle. They would awaken the sound of knights galloping across the drawbridge in the 12th century, and the sound of "drums beaten by sticks, used to announce the maturity of the harvest and scare away wolves and boars" in the 17th century. And they would summon up the glorious days of the 19th century and the "1855 classification", the dark hours of phylloxera, before the great viticultural revival of the 20th century.
With the passion and the requirement that he is known for, Bernard Magrez has undertaken, to raise the Grand Cru Classé Haut-Médoc even higher…
To understand what makes the richness and unique personality of the wines of La Tour Carnet, we have to both understand what makes the originality of its soil and its technical excellence in viticulture and winemaking. The terroir of Château La Tour Carnet is a mosaic of multi diversity land. The use of the most modern techniques such as drone acquired by Bernard Magrez to analyze the plots, has optimized the virtues of this land by assigning the most suitable varieties: the hill is a soil conducive to Merlots, hillsides rather the Cabernets. But obtaining exceptional grapes would be nothing without careful winemaking techniques to make the best of it. This is why, for several years, Château La Tour Carnet returned to traditional methods that rely heavily on manual labor.It is a patchwork of soils composed, in the far west, of sand and gravel, becoming siliceous-gravel, siliceous-clay and calcareous-clay toward the west and center. To the east are the gravel slopes of the finest vineyards, including La Tour Carnet. Here, the soil is mainly composed of graves (fluvial pebbles, gravel and sand) from the Gunzian glacial era and is very similar to the neighboring appellations of Pauillac and Saint-Julien.
With its south-southwest exposure, a large part of the calcareous clay subsoil slopes are covered in a thick layer of Garonne River and Pyrenean graves. On this broad border of gravel slopes are located the finest vineyards. The 1855 classification confirmed this reality, and especially distinguished the Château La Tour Carnet. In the western part of the estate is ridge of asteriated limestone with Sannois clay slopes. This is the “Butte de La Tour Carnet” a geological curiosity that still leaves experts in wonder. The eastern part stretches across the south-southwest facing slopes of a gravelly hill typical of Médoc's grands crus. The calcareous clay subsoil is covered with a thick layer of Garonne and Pyrenees graves. The final part in the north consists of a large plateau of fine graves.
Years of painstaking experimentation have enabled us to get the very best from these soils by planting them with the most-suitable grape varieties—the Butte is most suitable for Merlots, while the slopes are best suited to Cabernets.
Grapes are harvested by hand at optimum maturity. Sometimes only part of a row can be harvested while the remaining section is harvested several days later, when the grapes are perfectly ripe. This plot-based management of our crop is specific to the Château La Tour Carnet, and requires great knowledge of the vineyard and impeccable organization. The speed with which our many harvesters intervene enables us to optimize grape ripening.
Grapes are sorted by the pickers, and then placed in small crates to minimize the risk of the fruit being crushed.
The crates' contents are carefully placed onto a sorting table. Undesirable scraps such as leaves and leafstalks etc. are eliminated along with green or spoiled bunches. The grapes are then destemmed to remove the fruit from the stems. Pressing is not performed systematically. The grapes undergo further selection on a sorting table and are then conveyed to the oak fermentation vats. Any plant debris likely to bring a “grassy” flavor is thus removed to focus on the roundness characteristic of Château La Tour Carnet's wine. From next year onwards, 50 % of the Grand Vin will be vinified in 18 wooden vats, which will be replaced every four years. The remainder ferments in stainless steel vats. The usual technique of pumping-over is replaced by hand-plunging, where the cap is pushed into the fermenting juice to gently extract substances desired, such as tannins, anthocyanins, and polyphenols, etc. The flow of the grapes by gravity, the use of oak vats and hand-plunging are a return to the traditional methods used in the Médoc region in the past. The aim of these techniques is to obtain a complex, silky wine, with powerful balanced tannins and great aromatic persistence.
Fermentation temperatures never exceed 30 to 32° in order to aid the development of delicate aromas. Alcoholic fermentation takes place for 8-9 days. Maceration, meanwhile, lasts three weeks. The free-run wines are separated from the press wines. Malolactic fermentation takes place in new barrels.
1,500 new barrels are bought each year! These barrels hold the new vintage and are gathered together in the impressive amphitheater-shaped cellars of the Château La Tour Carnet.
Grand Vins are matured in barrels for 18 months—50% of the barrels are new. Vinified according to the same method as our first wine, Les Douves de Carnet, Château La Tour Carnet's second wine, has a round and pleasantly fruity structure, but is less intense than its distinguished partner, so may be tasted younger. “Les Douves de Carnet” is aged in barrels for about15 months. Racking is performed delicately, on specific days of the month, and without pumping. We use the traditional method of egg white fining.
A month before bottling, the wine is returned to vats to round it off and then is blended, the final step that will reveal Château La Tour Carnet's vintage.
A thorough work and the Grand Wine
The first sorting is done directly in the vineyards; it is a manual sorting on a shaking table, followed by a destemming with a WINERY of Pellenc. The sorting is done by the naked eye, grape by grape. A cryonegic tunnel (use of liquid nitrogen spraying) is used in order to cool down the harvest. Tha maturation process is done in wooden vats and in small capacity cement tanks. Cold pre-fermentation maceration (8 ° C), fully hand-held porkings, low-temperature alcoholic fermentations (28 ° C), maceration time from 25 to 32 days, barrel aging for 16 months, 30% new barrels.