The winegrower does everything possible to improve yield, flavor, disease resistance and uniform development of the vines. Vines can age up to hundred years, depending on the grape variety, though yields drop considerably with age.
At Chateau Carsin, we have 9 different grape varieties in production; three white grapes and six red ones. The majority of our vines are the common varieties of the Bordeaux region, but we are also proud of the less common varieties such as Sauvignon Gris, Malbec, Petit Verdot and Carmenere, which have showed great results in our vineyards.
This is the grape variety that has historically produced the great sweet wines of Bordeaux. The Côtes de Bordeaux region produces sweet wines just as do its more famous neighbours, Sauternes and Barsac. In this way Chateau Carsin’s sweet wines are classified with the region’s own appellation “Cadillac”. However, for the dry whites there simply is no local appellation, which means that they are classified under the common Appellation Bordeaux Contrôlée.
Semillon is the main white grape variety used at Carsin. When young, Semillon can resemble Sauvignon Blanc with its fresh, acidic and crisp characteristics. With bottle ageing, wines made from Semillon lose their green tones and become fatter, rounder and fleshier. This variety also gives wines finesse and elegance, the quality elements it is traditionally known for. Semillon is apt to rot easily because it has large berries and thin skins. The variety produces fine perfumed wines with subtle aromas if well cared for. The wines can have good body and high alcohol content if the fruit is allowed to ripen fully.
Sauvignon Blanc ripens earlier than Semillon and it has higher natural sugar and acidity levels. This helps the grower spread out picking at harvest time. Sauvignon Blanc grapes are small and hard and are formed in tight bunches.
Wines made from Sauvignon Blanc are often intensively aromatic. In some cases they have tropical fruit characters and in others, greener herby notes. Compared to a single-variety Semillon wine, one with a proportion of Sauvignon Blanc will have more personality.
Sauvignon Gris is an old and traditional “variety” which has been used for a long time in our region. It had at one point, however, become nearly obsolete.
The colour of the grapes is pink or grey, like the grapes of Pinot Gris. The fruit tends to mature relatively early and it has a quite a high sugar content. There is less risk of rotting since the skins are very thick.
The wines produced with Sauvignon Gris are quite aromatic just like those produced from Sauvignon Blanc. They are characterized by the aromas of gooseberries. Sauvignon Gris has often also some flowery and perfumed characters. The acidity level is good and the wines have a good concentration of flavors.
In the Cadillac Côtes de Bordeaux the topsoil is often rich in clay. This is ideal for Merlot since the clay soils give depth of flavour to this grape variety. Further, Merlot ripens easily and early, and so the fact that this is a cooler soil type is not a problem.
Merlot matures before the two Cabernets and it has large berries and rather thin skins. It produces dark coloured wines, which soften relatively quickly. Such wines are also fleshy and full in style, meaty and plummy – in short, easy to drink.
Cabernet Sauvignon is the predominant grape in the Mèdoc region of Bordeaux. There it produces tannic, long lasting, powerful wines from small, thick-skinned berries. This variety ripens slowly – each year it is the last to be harvested. Cabernet Sauvignon is also slow to mature in the bottle – it really needs patience from the consumer.
Cabernet Sauvignon is less prone to diseases and rot than many other varieties. But in our case it needs good growing conditions right up to harvest time in order to attain its full potential. In the Premières Côtes region it is not regarded as the main grape variety. Rather it is one that gives structure and backbone to a wine. We only have very limited amount of Cabernet Sauvignon at Carsin, as we wish to make wines that are easy to access and have balanced fruit.
Cabernet Franc is regarded as the “little brother” of Cabernet Sauvignon. It ripens earlier and produces a similar style of wine. Its aromas are a little less intense and complex but it gives a wine good weight in the middle palate. In ripe years Cabernet Franc will give a very harmonious wine with great finesse.
Petit Verdot is very rare grape variety in the Cadillac Côtes de Bordeaux. It is mostly used as a marginal blending partner in the Medoc and in other areas of Bordeaux with gravely soils. We wanted to plant an experimental plot of Petit Verdot in one of our more sandy soiled parcels and the first proper vintage was in 2008. In warm years we will get inky and structured wines from this variety.
We have also planted Carmenere on perhaps our two warmest parcels with good gravely soil. Carmenere is an old variety of the Medoc, which has lately become famous in Chile where it produces spicy wines of high quality. We believe that 2 – 3 % of Carmenere will complement all our red wines with complexity and personality.
We also have two parcels of Malbec in production. We are very fond of our Malbec, since it gives good structure and full-flavoured spicy characters to our wines. We used to blend our Malbecs with some other grape varieties to make our “Cuvée Privée Rouge”, but the last year for this wine was 2007. Since then, Malbec has been an important part of our Cuvée Noire and Cuvée Millésime wines.