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 manually cut and sort the grapes 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.


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 - 44The 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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Bordeaux 2013 en primeur off and running

March 28th 2014, by

Pontet Canet 2011 - 144When Jancis Robinson asked me on Tuesday to write a piece setting the scene for the annual en primeur tastings next week, I don’t think anyone was expecting the first release of the campaign so soon.

Alfred Tesseron of Chateau Pontet Canet surprised more than a few people by releasing the price of his 2013 to the Bordeaux trade on Wednesday. It’s the first time a leading Chateau has put its wine on sale before the world’s wine merchants – and most critics – have had a chance to taste it.

Given that Pontet Canet (above right) has been on a hot streak of late, all the Bordeaux negociants I spoke to will be taking up the offer rather than risk losing future allocations. Most importers – who buy in turn from the negociants – are (quite rightly) saying that they’ll wait to try the wine first before committing themselves.

Palmer, 6 Oct 2010 - 47’It caught everyone by surprise’ said Charlie Sichel of Maison Sichel, who part-own Chateau Palmer (left). ’In view of the strength of the brand, and assuming the quality of the wine is approved by our customers when they come to taste next week, it might be quite clever. It’s a move that the entire Bordeaux trade will focus on; but there are very, very few Chateaux with such strong brand equity as Pontet Canet and any message to proprietors to release a small amount of wine at the same price is dangerous.’

Pontet Canet’s 2013 yields were ’lilliputien’ according to winemaker Jean-Michel Comme, about half the norm at 15hl/ha and a fraction of the 40hl/ha or so of the outstanding 2010 vintage. Allocations of the 2013 to negociants are therefore 50% down on last year.

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Mis en bouteille au Château

March 28th 2014, by

Lafite in May iPhone - 27We’re bottling our 2013 dry white and rosé this week. A massive mobile machine is temporarily installed next to the winery, and a team of ten are labelling and packing the bottles into cartons of six, our preferred pack size from now on. The same outfit – from Thierry Bergeon – can also been seen at Chateau Lafite (right), so we’re in good if somewhat expensive company.

In order to have the words ‘bottled at the Chateau’ on the label, the wine can’t be shipped off in bulk and bottled elsewhere. Although we have our own bottling machine, we’ve been using these guys for a few years now and using outside contractors is common practice, even at many of the top estates.

This company is also far better equipped to deal with both Stelvin screwcaps and corks – for this bottling, we’re using just Stelvin+ for white and rosé. They have the skilled manpower to pack everything up quickly and efficiently, not least because we have separate labels for Rick Stein, Gordon Ramsay and Hotel du Vin, as well as the regular Bauduc label.

Below is a gallery of photos.

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