A Mentor Passes | Summer 2019

Professor Gérard Seguin of Bordeaux passed away this April. His writings guided some of my most important decisions in my quest for terroir expression at Hardscrabble. Seguins’ research applied to Bordeaux, but is very pertinent to winegrowers in Virginia. Cornelis (Kees) van Leeuwen wrote Seguin’s professional obituary. I’ve highlighted excerpts below along with my own comments.

“As early as 1969 he published a paper in which restricted but regular water supply to the vines was shown to be a key factor in wine quality, a result which has been confirmed by many researchers ever since (Seguin, 1969).”

Bordeaux and Virginia receive rainfall during the growing season, unlike California where growers regulate and restrict water through irrigation. Our water regulation is addressed through slope, drainage, and soil water holding capacity. Matching the appropriate grape variety to soil and site conditions is the main reason that most of my vineyard has been removed and replanted over the past two decades.

“Seguin was also convinced that high terroir expression is only possible when grapes ripen at the end of the growing season, in relatively cool conditions (van Leeuwen and Seguin, 2006). This concept is gaining importance as the climate warms up.”

Earlier in my career I thought that the early ripening, warmer harvests were our best vintages. My library proved me wrong as wines from these vintages fell apart relatively quickly, whereas the “average” vintages are still going strong, picking up more nuance and complexity with time.

My perfect season is to harvest between equinox and early October. The white wines have ripe flavors, good acidity (minerality), and terroir expression. The reds have deep color, balance and ripe, but fresh tannins.

These two core concepts: Matching specific varietal preferences to soil water holding capacity and fine tuning the vineyard to ripen in the late September/early October “sweet spot” have driven my replanting decisions.

Chardonnay is sited on cooler, more clay based soils, east facing and planted with later ripening, higher acid retaining Wente clones. Cabernet Sauvignon is mainly on steep southern slopes with thin, rocky, granite based soils.

Thank you Professor Seguin.

Grape Press, Summer 2019

Jim Law