Ignore the experts – this is the perfect time to visit a vineyard

It is fascinating to taste the wine at this early stage when fermentation has barely started. By sampling from different tanks, you can see which have already developed more color and how the intensely sweet juice reflects the different characters – or terroir – of each plot.

After that it’s a waiting game. The grape and seed pulp is raked from the tanks leaving the pure juice and the next stage will be the blending of the different tanks in January. Then de Gironde’s taste buds will be under stress again, deciding on the exact proportions that make up the top wine, which undergoes a second fermentation in oak barrels or barriques before finally being bottled. In the case of the highest quality wines, it then takes years before they are ready to drink.

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So we have no choice but to go to the shady tables under the trees next to the castle, where the estate workers take a break for the traditional harvest lunch. De Gironde uncorks a bottle of the 2018 vintage. It has been another long, hot summer – and the wine is only just ready to drink. It may evolve over the coming decades. In the meantime, in four or five years, a bottle of the 2022 will be on the lunch table.

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essentials

Nick Trend was a guest at Chateau Troplong Mondot (troplong-mondot.com) in St Emilion. You can stay on site where prices start from £245 B&B per person at the Vineyard House just next to the main castle. His Harvest Dive is available in September and October. It lasts four hours and 30 minutes, ends with a team lunch at the harvesters’ table, paired with old vintages from Château Troplong Mondot, and costs from £120 per person, based on a group of eight

You can also rent the castle yourself. Newly refurbished, it sleeps eight people in sumptuous comfort and costs from £6,254 per night (including breakfast and a behind-the-scenes experience in the vineyard and cellar).

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The Michelin-starred Les Belles Perdrix restaurant overlooks the vineyards opposite the chateau and serves set menus from £43 for lunch and £73 for dinner

St Emilion is a 45 minute drive from Bordeaux Airport which is served by both British Airways (ba.com) and EasyJet (easyjet.com) from Gatwick. By train, the journey from St Pancras to Bordeaux Central Station takes six to seven hours, including transfers and transfers in Paris (eurostar.com)