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Château Trimoulet

At a time when an alarming number of châteaux are changing hands, the link between the Jean family and Château Trimoulet is unbreakable. Eight generations of the same family have contributed to this estate's considerable reputation.These roots, and a strong attachment to the estate, go back to the late 18th century when Pierre Jean, a vineyard worker in Saint Pey D’Armens (a village next to Saint-Émilion) began to grow his own vines, which he later left to his children. The love story between the family and this unique terroir can be said to have begun in the 19th century, with the arrival of Guilhaume Jean in 1802. Château Trimoulet's true fame dates back to the current owner's great grandfather, who had the unforgettable name of Jean Jean and who succeeded in promoting the wine abroad and entered it in competitions and exhibitions. Trimoulet won an impressive number of medals and diplomas which are currently displayed in the barrel cellar.

While Trimoulet is the place that ensures the Jean family's livelihood, it is, above all, the place where they live. The house has been changed over generations in keeping with the development of the vineyard. When Guilhaume Jean arrived in 1802, he introduced mixed farming and was also responsible for building a simple winegrower's house and dovecote. Fifty years later, several generations were living under the same roof and the house was significantly enlarged. Circa 1891, Jean Jean, proud of the success of his wine, added a tower and a slate roof to the house, transforming it into a "château". In the 1980s, many châteaux in Saint-Émilion decided to rip up parks and gardens in order to extend their vineyards. Refusing to follow this trend, Michel Jean did exactly the opposite, uprooting vines to create a garden and plant tree. He felt that it was more important for his family to have a pleasant place next to their home than to produce maximum profit from the vineyard. That is the spirit of Trimoulet, where family comes first. The current size of the vineyard is enough to generate a good income and the notion of profit thus comes after family harmony.

Cécile Jean, Michel's daughter, represents the ninth generation of her family at Château Trimoulet. She and her husband, David Dumont, feel a very strong attachment to the estate and do their utmost to produce wine keeping pace with its longstanding reputation. She states that "My father has been working at Trimoulet since the age of 19. From his point of view, as well as mine, there is a sort of mystical relationship between our family and the soil. I feel obliged to look after this place since it has given so much to us for generations. I am the first woman ever in the family to have been at the helm – along with my husband, David Dumont. I most definitely share the family values and have great respect for all the work done before me by my father. Furthermore, he continues to provide precious advice to both of us. Recent technical and scientific progress has called into question certain aspects of our role as winegrowers. We must pay increased attention to the environment, adapt viticulture to the terroir, and do our best to make great wine in every vintage."

The Jeans consider wine to be a product that derives its characteristics from the soil that produces it. Taking this as the foundation of their philosophy, they decided to commission an in-depth soil survey of every part of Château Trimoulet. The terroir is complex. Part of it, on the southern side, has rather sandy topsoil on Fronsac molasse . The other part, on the northern side, has clay and limestone outcrops. The soil is either deeper and sandy or a mixture of sand and clay on the western side, with iron hard pan.

Château Trimoulet's vineyards cover 17 hectares in a single block, located around the family home. It is in a unique location on the northern side of the commune of Saint-Émilion. The location on the northern slope entails a risk of frost with which they must contend every year. Humidity is also an important factor to take into consideration. This is caused by two factors during the winter :
the water trickling down from the Saint-Émilion plateau to join the Barbanne stream via the slopes of their vineyards combined with the high concentration of clay in the soil that makes it impermeable. During the summer however, the soil dries by degrees, according to the weather. This makes for moderate water stress and is conducive to producing quality wines.

These natural parameters call for very specific viticultural practices. Vines planted at the foot of the northern Saint-Émilion slope have less sunshine than vines planted on the southern slope and on the limestone plateau. Due to a special microclimate (resistance to frost, humidity, brutal changes in temperature, and excessive sunshine), Trimoulet's wines retain a freshness even in hot vintages. In order to keep close track of all the weather data at the estate, the Jeans invested in a professional weather station.

The choice of grape varieties, and which part of the estate they are planted on, depends to a great extent on the type of soil in each plot. For instance, Merlot does wonderfully on clay soil. Each variety adds its own special touch: Merlot (60% of plantings) contributes roundness and fruitiness. Cabernet Franc (35%) and Cabernet Sauvignon (5%) provide structure. The final blend displays Trimoulet's trademark balance and ageing potential. The vines are 25 years old on average and they are replanted regularly in order to provide a healthy balance and to ensure the renewal of the vineyard. Old vines, planted by Michel, can still be found on half the estate.

Trimoulet's difficult north-facing exposure to the sun and its unique soil call for constant, rigorous work, plot by plot, in order to make the most of the vines' potential. After the harvest, the soil throughout the vineyard is ploughed. Grass has been left to grow between the rows for over 10 years, keeping a careful eye on how the vines develop. This helps to regulate the effect of humidity, prevent erosion on gentle slopes, and naturally reduce yields by providing hydric competition. The first step towards a quality crop takes place during pruning, which starts in December. The double Guyot method is used at Trimoulet. Bud pruning is done systematically, leaving only 6 to 8 buds per vine. Leaf removal and green harvesting are done during the vegetative growth cycle with the purpose of adjusting the yield, aerating the bunches of grapes, and enhancing ripening. They take environmental protection seriously, and use supervised control. Thanks to close observation in the vineyard, and in conjunction with technicians from the local chamber of agriculture, chemical sprays are used as little as possible and their use is very carefully timed. In keeping with this philosophy, Trimoulet has stopped using chemical herbicides altogether. At Château Trimoulet, the vines are not tended according to any mathematical formula or any rock-hard theories. Everything is adapted to the close observation of what happens in the vineyard through the seasons. The Jeans have no desire to impose their will on nature. Instead, they do all they can to allow it to reveal its full potential.

By the mid 19th century, winegrowing had become the estate's main source of revenue. This called for the construction of a vat room and ageing cellars. These two buildings, as well as many maisons girondines, were built by Jean Jean in about 1855 on the northern side of the property, located behind the château. In about 1950, the wooden vats were replaced by a series of different-sized concrete vats. The most recent refurbishments date from the 1980s and 1990s. An underground vat room with several concrete vats was built in order to provide greater capacity. Two bottle storage cellars were constructed as was a grape reception area. The work done in the cellar seeks to make the most of painstaking efforts made in the vineyard all year round, vintage after vintage. All that is done in terms of winemaking is to be a sort of midwife to the raw material, and there are no set rules about how to do this.

Grapes from every vineyard plot are harvested and fermented in order to bring out their unique characteristics. Fermentation begins as soon as the grapes arrive in the cellar. From a technical point of view, it is absolutely necessary for this stage to go well. The aim is to make sure that only perfectly ripe, healthy grapes go into the vat. The grapes are destemmed and then meticulously sorted on a special vibrating table purchased in 2004. Every winemaking operation revolves around tasting - this is the key to successful winemaking! The grapes undergo cool pre-fermentation maceration when necessary. Alcoholic fermentation most often takes place with indigenous yeasts. The wine is pumped over in vat, and the délestage ("rack and return") process is used. The length of time the wine spends on the skins (1-4 weeks) depends upon the style of each vintage. The Jeans seek gentle extraction of flavours as well as the tannic structure and colour typical of their wines. Malolactic fermentation takes place in vat and the wine is put into barrels in December.

Ageing is necessary to bring out the full quality of the young wine and all of the wine at Château Trimoulet is barrel-aged. The barrel cellar contains an average of 250 barrels, of which a third are new every year. The origin of the oak (mostly fine-grained French oak), the degree of toasting (generally average), and the expertise of the various coopers the estate works with add considerable complexity to its wine. Lasting 12-18 months, this oak ageing is done in order to strike the ideal balance between fruit and oak. During this period, the wines are tasted and analysed every month. This is done by all family members as well as two consulting oenologists: Denis Galabert from the laboratory in Grézillac and Pascal Poussevin. Racking is done as necessary based on tasting evaluations. Once the wine has finished ageing in barrel, it is blended. The assemblage, or final blend, is based – once again – upon the tasting and analysis of each lot. The most concentrated, tannic, and well-balanced lots constitute the grand vin of Château Trimoulet. The other lots, fruitier and more rounded, go into the second wine, Emilius of Château Trimoulet.

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