Bordeaux 2014 – the red harvest begins

September 26th 2014, by

This report also appears on JancisRobinson.com and Liv-ex.

The red wine harvest has got under way in Bordeaux, shortly before the end of an exceptionally sunny September. Merlot, the most widely planted variety and the first of the reds to ripen, has started to come in from the more precocious terroirs and from younger vines on drier soils. Yet there’s no rush. The forecast is for more sun this weekend, and most chateaux and growers are holding off for ’optimum’ ripeness after the relatively cool and humid summer.

Even at this late stage, the vintage is still too early to call. The next two to three weeks will be crucial as most of the Merlots have yet to ripen fully and the Cabernets will soon follow.

Il faut être patient et flexible.’

Palmer 24 Sept 2014 - 081

Many of the top estates in Pomerol and on the left bank (above) tentatively started picking their early Merlots this week under blue skies, although we’ll see a lot more activity from next week onwards. The dry whites, which are always the first to be harvested, were picked from the start of September in Pessac-Léognan and later in the Graves and the Entre Deux Mers; what’s left is being brought in now. The only possible downside was that the weather was almost a little too warm for these whites: the autumnal chilly mornings only kicked in from Tuesday 23 September.

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Harvesting in the dark – in pictures

September 24th 2014, by

We like harvesting in the dark. We started the Sauvignon Blanc at Bauduc on Tuesday 16 September and over the next ten days we harvested just a parcel each morning by machine. Thanks to the fine weather, we’ve had the relative luxury of being able to wait for each block of vines to ripen, instead of having to rush everything in at once – and the grapes have been brought in during the coolest part of the day. Although picking by hand has more romance about it, I’m a big fan of picking Sauvignon Blanc when it’s comparatively chilly and away from the glare of the midday sun.

Bauduc 23 Sept 2014 - 060 - Version 2

It’s been a hot and sunny September, yet we faced a worrying shower on Wednesday night (17/9) and then a brief storm on Thursday afternoon. That storm brought hail to some growers up the road, poor sods, but we survived with just some heavy rain for a few minutes.

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Hand-picked start to Bauduc 2014 harvest – in pictures

September 16th 2014, by

We kicked off the 2014 harvest at Bauduc last week by picking some white grapes by hand. These were from young Sémillon vines that we planted exactly ten years ago.

The most effective way to harvest by hand is to cut and sort the bunches into small, stackable crates called cagettes. I say ’sort’ although what we really mean by this is to cut out any ugly, mouldy bits. This process is used by many of the leading Bordeaux chateaux nowadays for their reds, with many having switched to using cagettes in the last few years.

The advantage with stackable crates is that the bunches don’t get crushed, so the grapes stay intact and the juice doesn’t oxidise. You don’t want a soupy trailer full of grapes and juice warming up under a midday sun. And since the beginning of September it has been sunny and, mostly, pretty hot.

With the brilliant Nelly and Daniel 'Ramone'. 2014 is our 16th harvest together.

With the brilliant Nelly and Daniel ‘Ramone’. 2014 is our 16th harvest together.

We have a small team of around 16 pickers and four porters, in addition to Daniel, Nelly and me. For the mornings only mind, as the afternoons are too hot to harvest – not for the team, but for the grapes. Freshness is the key.

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September news – Eve of the harvest

September 9th 2014, by

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Eve of the harvest

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Photos of the 2014 harvest

September 9th 2014, by

You can see our pictures of the 2014 harvest at Bauduc and across Bordeaux by following me, Gavin Quinney, on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. We also have a Chateau Bauduc Facebook page and I’ll be posting weekly updates on this blog. (Yes, there’s still time to bring in 60 acres of grapes, albeit with help from the redoubtable Daniel, Nelly and team.)

Meanwhile, here are some pictures of our three dogs and the cat in the vineyard.

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The eve of the harvest

September 9th 2014, by

The white harvest kicks off this week at Bauduc with the hand picking of grapes for a new wine. For some reason, we thought we’d have a crack at making a sparkling wine, which around here means a Crémant de Bordeaux. Then it’s the turn of our Sauvignon Blanc and, touch wood, the best crop we’ve had. The vines are fairly bulging with delicious bunches.

More on the Crémant and the hand picking shortly. Meanwhile, we’ve got to hurry and clean the cagettes (the small plastic crates). The plan is to hand pick the young Sémillon, which is destined for the sparkling wine, and then wait for the Sauvignon Blanc until the week beginning 15 September – all being well.

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Bordeaux 2014 – hoping for September sun

September 9th 2014, by

I wrote about the prospects for the 2014 Bordeaux vintage, below, for Jancis Robinson‘s popular website and for the Livex blog at the start of September. Since then, we’ve had one of the best weeks of the year, with stunning blue skies and bright sunshine. The grapes have come on in leaps and bounds at this crucial time of the season, and the forecast is good. It’s all to play for.

 

Après la pluie, le beau temps. The French equivalent of ’every cloud has a silver lining’ might just prove to be the case, taken literally, for Bordeaux 2014. After a mixed and wet July and a cool, damp August, the sun is shining brightly for the start of September and the forecast is encouraging for a good harvest – if the weather holds.

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Cabernet Sauvignon in St-Julien, looking towards the two Pichons in Pauillac, 4 September 2014

So far, it’s been a growing season of ups and downs. We had an early bud-burst and an initial growth spurt in April, before a chilly May slowed things down (as reported in Bordeaux 2014 – the start of the flowering). Then sunshine at the end of May and throughout the middle of June produced a largely successful flowering – crucial for decent yields after a feeble crop in 2013 and a lower than normal production in 2012. But what of quality?

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A year on from the hail

September 8th 2014, by

You might have read that we’re a bit anxious about hail after the devastation last August. Followers on Twitter and friends on Facebook will have noticed my, ahem, occasional mention of looming storms. Mercifully, there’s been no repeat of the hail, although the constant forecasts of ’Risque de Grêle’ has brought on several sleepless nights.

Below is a collection of tweets with references to umpteen hail warnings from the French Met Office, notably in May, June and June. We now think they put ’risk of hail’ alongside most storm warnings just to cover themselves. But you never know.

(To see all the tweets, scroll through from inside the window, and ‘laid more’ if you can bear to.)

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Waiting for the storm

June 9th 2014, by

We’ve had our fair share of hail over the years. And tonight, the forecast is for a huge storm running from the South West of France, heading north.

 

The G-word – Grêle – is the one we fear most. It’s rare to see mention of giant grêlons in advance.

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Bordeaux 2014 – the start of the flowering

June 3rd 2014, by

Evangile 1 June 2014 - 44This report also appears on JancisRobinson.com and Liv-ex.

The flowering has started in Bordeaux and, with any luck, the weather might just be with us for this critical stage of the growing season.

What a difference a year makes. In Bordeaux 2013 – running late, I wrote “There hasn’t been a poor vintage in Bordeaux for twenty years but the cold, damp weather, as we approach the critical month of June, is a gentle reminder that anything can happen.”

Bordeaux 2014 has been up and down so far and, of course, there’s a long way to go. Somehow though, as I tried to cheer up some fellow growers during a cold spell recently, it feels like it’s going to be a good year.

We had an early budbreak and, while it is certainly not a huge crop, the number of potential bunches is about right – for quality. (Nothing like a decade ago when so much green harvesting took place in the summer of 2004, following on from two years of low yields.)

We’ve had intermittent rain and sun, and a huge variation in Spring temperatures from one spell to the next; everyone has had to work hard to combat the threat of mildew as you’d expect in such conditions. But it’s looking good.

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