The vineyards covers thirty-five hectares, planted on alluvial gravel with a sub-soil of clay, sandstone and red gravels, deep and well-drained. The varietal planting is 45% Cabernet Sauvignon, 35% Merlot, 15% Cabernet Franc and 5% Petit Verdot but the proportion of each in the finished wine will vary every vintage, dependent both on the conditions of the harvest and on the percentage of vin de presse used. It is worth noting that since 1998 the proportion of Cabernet Franc has gradually been reduced at Château de Lamarque in favour of Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot, for qualitative reasons. Recently the blend has been around 53% Cabernet Sauvignon, 42% Merlot and 5% Petit-Verdot, with the Cabernet Franc going into the property’s second wine.
Recognising that there had been something of a laissez-faire approach to vineyard management in the past, and that the quality of the harvest and the nurturing of the vines is essential to the finished wine, Marie-Hélène took steps to improve vineyard practices. Production has been savaged under her jurisdiction as she has introduced an extremely rigorous regime of crop thinning. Generally, when we meet at the end of a long day’s tasting, black-toothed and grim, we are greeted by Marie-Hélène looking wonderfully glamorous. It is hard to imagine her out amongst the vines yet she is a demon with a set of secateurs. Pierre-Gilles sometimes winces as he relates how low the production has been in some years… yet the results show in the concentration of successive Château de Lamarque vintages.
Having decided to concentrate on the vineyard, questions inevitably arise as to how to maximise the quality of the crop, while respecting and safeguarding the land for future generations. Château de Lamarque leans ever closer towards organic viticulture and for fifteen years the Gromand d’Evrys have exercised a revolutionary viticultural system devised by Jean-Pierre Cousinié. This involves researching, monitoring and assessing the vines from sub-soil through to the grapes. A great deal of painstaking work and investment has gone into plotting a minutely detailed map of the vineyard, parcel by parcel, which has enabled a much greater understanding of the diversity of soils and how best to look after the vines. Any treatments used are balanced and very precise. The vines are healthier, more resistant to disease without recourse to chemicals, and better able to await later harvests so that full phenolic maturation can be achieved. The results are already exciting and they now underpin the future planting programme of the Château. Cabernet Franc, deemed too capricious, will give way to increased proportions of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and an elevated 12% to 15% of Petit Verdot.