An exceptional terroir
A winemaking that combines tradition and modernity
The niche approach to vine growing, a diverse geology, and the emphasis on finesse and balance give a unique typicity to the wine of Couvent des Jacobins.
Our wine making philosophy at Couvent des Jacobins emphasizes finesse and balance. Structure and concentration are important attributes, but they must be present without attenuating the underlying soil, vines, and the love and work we put into it when making it.
The vineyard spreads over 10.7 hectares with three grape varieties : merlot (70%), cabernet franc (25%) et petit-verdot (5%). The petit-verdot is a newcomer complementing the others in 2010/2011 by bringing further aromatic complexity and density. Included in the blend of Couvent des Jacobins since the 2014 vintage, it reinforces the identity of the estate without changing its underlying winemaking philosophy. The average age of the vineyard is about 40 years.
Couvent des Jacobins vines grow over 14 different types of sub-soils. These are grouped into 4 main ones. The cabernet franc, on the limestone plateau of Saint-Émilion, right in front of Couvent des Jacobins; the cabernet franc, at the « Rivalon » plot, a sandy-clay zone in the Southwest slope, with the unique characteristics of having a high share of limestone reflux ('molasses du fronsadais') in the soil; the merlot, on the sandy-clay plots of the Southwest hill of Saint-Émilion; and the petit-verdot, on the clay and limestone soil of the Northeast plateau, at the entrance of Saint-Émilion.
We use four-way ploughing throughout the estate (no herbicides have ever been used), some plots being grassed to regulate the energy of the plant. The estate is currently under organic conversion. The relatively old age of the vineyard gives the berries a natural concentration with yields of typically 35 hectolitres per hectare in a given year. We follow the plots agronomically to optimize leafing, green harvesting and control the homogeneity of the crop. But never excessively.
The harvest generally takes place between September 25 and October 20, depending on the vintage, exclusively by hand, with a first sorting on the plant.
Once the grapes are harvested, they are brought in small containers ('cagettes') to the cuvier of Couvent des Jacobins, one of the rare ones located at the center of Saint-Émilion. The grapes are delicately destemmed, and the berries sorted a second time. The vatting takes place by gravity to maintain the integrity of the berries, with an emphasis made on parcel-specific vatting. We vinify the petit-verdot separately in oak given the very small quantities. The berries go through a cold pre-fermentation maceration during a few days, depending on the years and the plots. Given our emphasis on finesse and balance, the maceration generally does not exceed 30 days, and typically takes place below 30 degrees.
We barrel the wine by gravity, generally in November and December after the fermentation is completed. We age all the first wine in oak barrels. The choice of the barrel and the proportion between new oak and one-year oak depends on the vintage, though our philosophy of balance and finesse generally leads us to use a maximum of 50% to 55% of new oak. The moderate use of new oak helps preserve the aromatic complexity and the finesse of the fruit. Ageing generally lasts 12 to 15 months in the air-conditioned roman cellar, with regular tastings. We rack the wines during ageing only if we deem it necessary after tasting, generally two to three times.
We finalise the blend once ageing is complete. We do a last selection of the barrels and use only the most qualitative ones for Couvent des Jacobins. In some vintages, will may already have identified that certain plots were destined to our second wine, Menut des Jacobins. Those will be aged separately in barrels of one wine from the onset. The wine blend of Couvent des Jacobins was generally 75% to 85% of merlot and 15% to 25% of cabernet franc until 2013. Vintages after that include 2.5% to 5% of petit-verdot. Annual production varies between 2,000 and 2,500 cases of Couvent des Jacobins, and between 500 and 700 cases of Menut des Jacobins.
Once blended, we let the wine rest. Bottling is then undertaken in the underground cellar from the cuvier by gravity. It is in those ideal conditions that the wines of Couvent des Jacobins start their long ageing process.
We invite you to read more technical details on this page.