The predominance of heavy and fresh soils (calcareous clay or Fronsac Molasses), combined with the fickleness of the meteorological conditions, both demand a certain knowledge and experience, as well as a daily dose of pragmatism, to temper the grape so that it can express the very best of itself.
In 1999, therefore, a certain initiative seemed to us to be judicious. The laying of plastic sheets on the ground between rows, in order to avoid the penetration of water, detrimental at the end of the “veraison” (changing of the colour of the grapes), to give the grapes the opportunity to mature more fully and harmoniously, particularly on the late ripening soils of Fronsac.
The experiment was planned to stretch over three years, covering a surface of approximately 1.6 hectares of Merlot on two steep parcels. This in order to be able to reuse the same tarpaulins cut to size to fit the length of the rows. This experiment represented a certain investment.
Thus, in 1999, the results proved extremely convincing. The tarpaulins had been put in place on 8th August and until 25th September – harvest time. Around 120 mm of rain had fallen. The grapes were in perfect sanitary condition and considerably sweeter with a better extractability of the anthocyanins and furthermore a more advanced maturity of the pips. The results were impressive and were confirmed by the quality of the wines produced from the protected vines. Nobody, in a position of authority, took the trouble to come and taste the wine and the produce of this experiment, was directly incorporated into the wine of Fontenil.