The history of the von Neipperg family has been intertwined with winegrowing since the 13th century...
Stephan von Neipperg currently manages the Bordeaux estates acquired by his father in the early 1970s with talent and enthusiasm.
The upcoming generation, also deeply attached to the terroir, is preparing to perpetuate the family vocation!
Stephan's father, Count Joseph-Hubert von Neipperg, acquired Château Canon La Gaffelière and La Mondotte in 1971, followed by Clos de l’Oratoire and Château Peyreau a few months later.
Stephan von Neipperg took over management in 1985. He and his winemaking teams are determined to produce wine at these estates that is worthy of their pedigree, while continuing to explore other terroirs...
An ecological approach
Stephan von Neipperg's in-depth, uncompromising analysis of the situation at Canon La Gaffelière as soon as he arrived was based on a winemaking philosophy calling for respect for individual terroirs and the desire to find the best possible natural balance in each ecosystem.
Applied since the late 1990s, his ecological approach has, over time, perpetuated healthy vines for future generations. This idea of permanence and handing on something precious to his family is of utmost importance to Stephan von Neipperg.
2017: no risk, no fun.
2017 is living proof that it is still Mother Nature who holds the reins, for better or worse.
2017 was a vintage which is almost synonymous with the great late frost which swept much of Europe, though the damage it caused varied greatly in different regions.
So, to look back on this atypical, 2-in-1 vintage…
The winter and early spring were extremely mild and dry, in fact one of the driest of the century so far. This naturally led to quite uniform early budding, from the 26th of March in some of our plots, and an initial phase of rapid growth.
In the second half of April, however, the weather changed with the arrival of an anticyclone marked by clear skies and a north-easterly wind. The air mass therefore cooled and temperatures fell fast.
The nights of the 27th and 28th of April were devastating, not only because of the intensity of the cold but also the vast area where it struck.
No region was spared: the only difference was the scale of the damage.
65% of the production at Château Canon La Gaffelière was affected, while at Clos de l'Oratoire it was 70%, Château Peyreau over 90%, and Château d'Aiguilhe 60%. Only La Mondotte was spared.
After the initial shock and despondency that an event like this causes, it was time to set to work. It was time to seriously take stock of the situation. What should we do? Prune? Rush to work without a plan? No. It was essential instead to take time, to wait, to watch and keep watching, and to weigh up the life force still present in the wood of the vines… and only then intervene and fight…
Marking the vines, taking action to prevent disease, analysing the petioles, applying liquid compost, etc. There was a great deal of work to be done - painstaking, but necessary for the future, working in the short term for a second generation of grapes.
Yes, that was what it was about… betting on the second generation of this 2-in-1 vintage.
After the frost, the weather in spring was radiant and almost summerlike. Temperatures above the seasonal norms, combined with a dry spell that lasted until the end of June, led to a quick and consistent flowering, starting on the 15th of May in the earliest plots!
While late June was very wet, summer was amazingly dry, exacerbating the water shortage of the winter, even in clay soils.
Rain at the beginning of September brought the grape skins to full maturity, and the ripening process was very uniform.
Painstaking work that marked the whole vintage reached its culmination during the harvest, with the combination of first and second-generation bunches: picking of the first-generation grapes began on the 14th of September, finishing on the 29th, while the second generation was harvested between the 3rd and the 10th of October.
At this stage of development, our different crus are all fresh and elegant, displaying rich aromas, and tannins.
Skydetect: the vineyard's sentinel
In our Region, summer means sometimes storms and even hail on occasion. In order to fight those devastating events, detecting the risk of hail in advance is highly required to trigger the active fighting and protection systems at the right time.
That’s why the Skydetect technology has been installed in Clos de l’Oratoire, which hosts the first radar in Aquitaine. Clos de l’Oratoire’s vineyard is located on the north-eastern slope of Saint-Emilion where hail can make big damages.
Thanks to this new technology, all the winemakers having vines 30 km around the radar can benefit from the high precision detection and analysis made by the system which is able to precisely detect a storm cell formation at a farm-scale level and to give warning (via SMS or email) of the risk of hail well before the phenomenon takes place. Thus the winemakers know where and when they have to activate their protection system (balloons, wave canons, seeding techniques by rocket,…).
In the Comtes von Neipperg’s vineyards, balloons have been choosen. This active fight against hail is quiet and non-polluting. The system uses dedicated torches carried in hazardous clouds by intelligent balloons inflated with helium. For more details, click here.
2016 : a vintage full of surprises!
2016 was a year with many twists and turns!
Winter was rather gloomy, as well as exceptionally mild and rainy. This led to early bud break from the 24th to the 28th of March (variable depending on the estate).
Beautiful, dry weather in the first week of June was accompanied by markedly above-average temperatures. This changed things considerably at the beginning of flowering, which was quick and even (starting on the 2nd of June in the most early-maturing plots).
However, the profile of the vintage changed radically as of the 20th of June.
Temperatures returned to the seasonal average, although there were a few peaks above 35°C in mid-July. Fruit set and bunch closure took place under very favourable conditions.
The very dry weather brought about moderate water stress conducive to even véraison (colour change), which ended on the 15th of August in late-maturing plots.
Nevertheless, excessive water stress did not occur because reserves had been reconstituted thanks to rainfall in the early part of the year. Furthermore, the von Neipperg vineyards have deeply-rooted vines and excellent soil covering management.
The diurnal temperature difference in August and the first two weeks in September accounted for the very harmonious development of aromas and tannins.
It rained on the 13th and 30th of September, giving a boost to ripening. The grapes already had an attractive freshness and fruitiness at this time!
The month of October was cooler, but still very sunny, which enabled our Cabernet Franc and (rare) Cabernet Sauvignon grapes to ripen perfectly.
The harvest began on the 26th of September at Canon La Gaffelière and finished on the 18th of October at Château d’Aiguilhe.
At the present time, i.e. at this stage of ageing, all the wines from our estates are showing beautiful aromatic complexity. The new wines are fresh, well-focused, and fruity with good body and tannin.
First growths and certifiably organic? Yes, this is possible in Bordeaux!
The 2014 vintage will have finished barrel ageing in a few short weeks...
A look at the first certifiably organic vintage for Château Canon La Gaffelière and La Mondotte.
Stephan von Neipperg's far-reaching and uncompromising analysis of the situation as soon as he arrived at Canon La Gaffelière was based on respect for the various terroirs and his desire to find the best possible natural balance for their ecosystems.
His deeply ecological approach, applied since 1988 has, over time, perpetuated healthy vines for future generations. This idea of permanence and handing on something precious is of utmost importance to Stephan von Neipperg.
Close observation and taking into account various environmental aspects of each plot meant that viticultural practices could be adapted accordingly. Work in the vineyard is done according to the profile of each individual plot.
Observation and analysis are the mainstays of Vignobles Comtes von Neipperg, who appointed a person in charge of research and development as early as 2006.
2014 is the culmination of many years spent enhancing biodiversity and microbial life in the soil. This ultimately led to organic certification (FR-BIO-10) for Château Canon La Gaffelière and La Mondotte.
Both estates also obtained ISO 14001 certification as part of an Environmental Management System.
At the present time, Château Canon La Gaffelière and La Mondotte are the only red Premier Grand Crus Classé wines to be certifiably organic.
New vats for Aiguilhe
New fermentation vats were introduced to Château d’Aiguilhe for the 2015 vintage.
It was decided to acquire truncated cone-shaped concrete vats similar to the existing oak ones.
Like the wooden vats, the new ones provide very good thermal inertial conducive to the sort of slow, gentle fermentation favoured by Vignobles Comtes von Neipperg.
The 9 new vats add to the impressive 19 oak vats currently in use, as well as the stainless steel vats used for the second wines.
These new vats should make it easy to separately ferment grapes from the various plots of this 50-hectare estate located on the clay-limestone plateau in the Castillon Côtes de Bordeaux appellation.