What a difference a year makes – October news

October 23rd 2014, by

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Bauduc 2014 – what a difference a year makes

October 22nd 2014, by

We’ve been here a tad over 15 years and have just completed our 16th harvest. Crikey. (Sophie, below left, was two when we arrived and Amelia and Tom were both born here. Georgie, away studying at Bristol, was four.) Another question we’re frequently asked is about how many bottles we make. It can be a sore point, especially with 2013 in mind, as the answer is anywhere between 50,000 and 200,000.

We pick at weekends to keep staff costs down. Sophie, Amelia, Angela and Tom at Bauduc.

We pick at weekends to keep staff costs down. Sophie, Amelia, Angela and Tom at Bauduc.

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2013 ‘cuvée grêle’ back label

It is with some relief, with the crop safely in, that we can now move on from the cuvée grêle (right).

Actually, we’re quite stubbornly proud of our hail blend; despite the *ahem* challenges, the 2013 is the house white at Rick Stein’s and Gordon Ramsay’s eponymous three Michelin star restaurant in London. It’s a crisp, dry and refreshing Sauvignon Blanc. There just wasn’t much of it though and, worse still, we had to be draconian with the selection of the final blend before bottling.

So, what of 2014? Tasting all the fermentation tanks again last night, the whites are showing well. All ten parcels, which are vinified separately to help us understand the character of each block, are good enough to be included in any assemblage, I reckon. I rank them in order of quality and compatibility, and have already decided on the blend for five separate ’lots’ at this stage. These ten blocks are being added together to form the five interim blends as I write.

Whether we blend it all remains to be seen and it may be that we don’t put tous les oeufs dans le même panier. Our private and restaurant customers simply want the best wine we can produce for a reasonable price, and that remains our primary focus. We are naturally mindful that to bottle, label and box up the wines costs 80 centimes per bottle: our golden rule, which dawned on us after some time and several costly errors, is that we don’t bottle anything unless we’d drink it ourselves.

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Bordeaux 2014 – guarded optimism as harvest ends

October 15th 2014, by

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

There’s a sense of cautious optimism as the last of the red grapes are harvested in Bordeaux. While 2014 isn’t a great year, it could prove to be a really good one for many chateaux. An excellent flowering in June, a mixed summer, then a gorgeous September and first few days of October all give the impression of a ’bookend’ season that started and ended well.

On the face of it, the timing of the harvest and the size of the crop is almost a return to normal, if there is such a thing. The dry whites were picked in September and the reds in late September and first half of October, producing a decent yield of healthy grapes.

La Conseillante in Pomerol, Merlot, 2 October 2014

La Conseillante in Pomerol, Merlot, 2 October 2014

Yet it hasn’t simply been a case of harvesting ’à la carte’, as some Bordelais like to boast in great years like 2005, 2009 and 2010. I’ve been lucky enough to drop in to see the harvest being handled at scores of leading chateaux over the last few weeks and here are some observations.

Five glorious weeks

I caught up with Christian Moueix in St-Emilion at the beginning of October, before they picked at Ch Belair Monange. “It’s a good vintage – very good in fact” he said, speaking mainly of his Pomerols. “And a miracle compared to what we thought at the end of August.”

After a fairly lacklustre summer, we’ve had the best September and start to October that I can recall in 16 harvests here.

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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 white bunches by hand is to cut and sort them 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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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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September news – Eve of the harvest

September 9th 2014, by

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Eve of the harvest

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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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