April 26th 2013, by Gavin
Here are my scores (out of 100) and estimated maturity dates on the top 150 red wines from the seven main appellations – Pomerol and St-Emilion on the Right Bank, Pessac-Leognan to the south of Bordeaux on the Left Bank, and Margaux, St-Julien, Pauillac and St-Estephe in the Medoc, also Left Bank.
These scores will be on Livex and in an article on the primeurs for Harpers Wine and Spirit magazine. The price is my estimate for a case of 12, in Bond (ex-VAT), as offered by specialist UK wine merchants.
April 26th 2013, by Gavin
This article was posted today on Livex, the fine wine exchange.
I’ve tasted over 500 Bordeaux wines from the 2012 vintage in April.
Key points about Bordeaux 2012
1. 2012 is a good to very good vintage, but not a great one.
2. It’s certainly a vintage for drinking, not investment. Many wines will be good to drink in the short to medium term.
3. 2012 was a late harvest which tended to favour the earlier ripening Merlot over the Cabernets, partly because drizzle, humidity and finally heavy rain set in from the second week of October onwards.
4. It’s an uneven vintage but hundreds of reds have lovely colour, supple fruit, crowd-pleasing texture and no hard edges.
5. Happily, very few wines show any green, unripe character. The fruit is ripe (thanks to ten weeks of sunshine from mid-July onwards) even if many wines lack real depth, complexity and length.
April 22nd 2013, by Gavin
The Bordeaux 2012 en primeur or ‘futures’ campaign has kicked off. Over the last month, wine merchants and press from around the world have been in Bordeaux for the annual tastings of young barrel samples, and opening prices for some of the leading wines have started to trickle out.
Here is my Bordeaux 2012 weather report, which provides an important background to the character of the vintage. The following is a slightly updated version of the one that was published a fortnight ago by Jancis Robinson and Livex. (Included here are daily tracking graphs for June, July and August which I’ve just compiled, and some photos.)
I’ll follow up with my thoughts on the wines.
I wrote three 2012 harvest reports for Jancis’s site entitled ’Scorching summer but no rush’ last August, followed by ’The Late Show’ in October and lastly ’The end in sight at last’. Given these headlines, you’d be right in thinking that it was a late harvest. What was largely missing from those articles were some weather statistics, so here they are in a graphical format.
After the two outstanding vintages of 2009 and 2010, it’s only normal that onlookers will compare 2012 with 2011. Yet the weather conditions in 2011 and 2012 could hardly have been more different, even if we like to slot two years into the same bracket of ’good but not great’.
12 WEATHER HIGHLIGHTS IN 2012
1. A late bud-burst and a wet April meant a slow start – the opposite of 2011.
2. Mildew was a real threat and had to be kept in check.
3. Mixed weather in June resulted in the flowering being drawn out.
4. Bordeaux enjoyed an excellent summer from mid-July to late September.
5. August was dry and hot but veraison (when grapes change colour) was spread out.
6. The dry whites were picked in fine September weather.
7. The weather changed towards the end of September, and October was up and down.
8. Humid, drizzly weather from 6 October ’encouraged’ many to pick.
9. Expensive grape-sorting machines earned their keep.
10. Sauternes had a challenging year, after three great vintages.
11. Yields were low but not as bad as other parts of France.
12. Quality is uneven and there should be some very good wines.
THE WEATHER CHARTS
1. Late winter, late season
June 14th 2012, by Gavin
Bad news for Bordeaux? A decidedly lacklustre En Primeur campaign for the top 2011s (good wines but many were overpriced) and now the crucial flowering of the vines for 2012 looks to be late and uneven. This could, though, be a welcome break for people who actually buy the stuff to drink.
In complete contrast to last year, when the vines budded early and then a very warm, dry Spring helped to accelerate the growth, 2012 has got off to a slow start. The weather has been mixed to date, although with gorgeous weather in late May, things were looking up.
April 16th 2012, by Gavin
I wrote this article for the trade magazine, Harpers Wine and Spirit, for the April 2012 issue.
Gavin Quinney, a grower in Bordeaux and contributor to Harpers Wine and Spirit, has tasted the top wines en primeur since the 2000 vintage. @GavinQuinney on Twitter.
There are only two types of vintage in Bordeaux these days, it seems. “Best ever” (2009 and then, arguably, 2010) and “Better then expected” (2008 and now, 2011). Most of the wine trade and press who attended the annual primeur tastings in early April agreed that the 2011s showed better than everyone thought they would. And, of course, that prices would have to be lower for the wines to sell as futures.
How does 2011 rate?
2011 is not a great vintage for red Bordeaux but it is a good vintage – and a very good one for dry whites, and an excellent one for Sauternes. I don’t think it’s comparable to any other recent vintage but qualitatively, for the reds, I’d put it well below 2010, 2009, 2005 and 2000 but above 2007, 2004, 2002 and most 2003s (excluding the northern Médoc). It sits somewhere alongside the 2008s and 2001s, depending on the region and the Chateau, and has more charm than 2006.
One plus point about 2011 is that most of the leading Chateaux produced 2011s that typify their terroir, their style, and the vintage. It may not have been a normal growing season in Bordeaux but the wines, for the most part, are faithful to their origin.
’It’s good to return to an Atlantic vintage, after two Pacific ones,’ said Denis Durantou of L’Eglise Clinet in Pomerol. ’With less alcohol.’
March 20th 2012, by Gavin
I was asked by Gemma, the News Editor at Harpers Wine and Spirit, for my thoughts on the 2011 vintage before the trade and press tastings here in the first week of April. Here was my reply.
Even though I live and breath each vintage in Bordeaux, it’s foolish to try and predict how each Château’s wines are going to show from barrel, especially with such an up-and-down year as 2011.
No-one is going to claim that 2011 is a better vintage than, say, 2009. Apart from me, that is – I lost 80% of my crop to hail in May 2009. (So did hundreds of others, for that matter.) But for the great wines, 2011 sits in the shadows of 2009 and 2010, despite the dry and sweet whites from last year showing real promise.
There are some key factors about 2011.
We had a very early budbreak and then a summer-like spring, so the vines flowered about three weeks early in May. By the beginning of July, after a bone dry period of four months, the development of many vines had become blocked through lack of rain. July and August were then up-and-down – at times hot and humid, at other times cool and rainy.
The year will go down as a very dry year, with just 270mm of rain from March to September, compared to the 30 year-average in Bordeaux of 430mm. But in July and August we had around 150mm of rain compared to a norm of 100mm, so a glance at a weather chart will show that it was an upside-down season – dry from March to June and again in September but wetter in the summer. Weird.
January 5th 2012, by Gavin
Happy New Year. It may surprise you to know that with Christmas Day 2011 and New Year’s Day 2012 both falling on a Sunday, we didn’t have a Public Holiday in France on Boxing Day or on Monday 2nd January. The vineyard team worked all the way through, with no additional time off.
But France will more than make up for it in 2012, and the following dates may be useful to bear in mind if you’re planning to come to France or do business here.
Unlike the UK, where Bank or Public Holidays are on Mondays (except for Royal occasions), French public holidays are based on the actual date. This can be a double-edged sword.
The French often like to bridge, or faire le pont*, to make a long weekend of it if the official Public Holiday falls on a Tuesday or a Thursday. I’ve included these unofficial days in the table below.
September 30th 2011, by Gavin
After two great Bordeaux vintages, 2011 has been a year of living dangerously. “It’s complicated,” Christian Moueix explained when I asked what he thought of the millésime, as his team picked in St-Emilion. If one of the most respected winemakers thinks it’s hard to generalise, it might be foolish for the rest of us to rush into snap judgments.
Let me try and explain what’s been going on in the Bordeaux vineyard this year, and forgive me for the amount of detail. My fascinating weather charts will follow later (updated for 2011 here).
Here’s a summary:
1. Early start, warm spring, then drought.
2. An up-and-down summer.
3. Early harvest, September sunshine.
4. When to pick: balancing ripeness with the risk of rot.
5. These magnificent men (and women) and their sorting machines.
6. Volume 5% up overall but yields vary from one estate to another.
7. Finally, a Tweet showing how the growing season compares.
August 22nd 2011, by Gavin
I recently interviewed a fellow ‘Brit in Bordeaux’ for the subscriber section of JancisRobinson.com. There’s a great deal of free content on the site but for any wine enthusiast, the ‘Purple Pages’ are well worth £69 a year. Jancis has kindly allowed me to publish the article here:
This is the second in a series of articles looking back at the 2010 Bordeaux En Primeur campaign.
Englishman Christian Seely is the managing director of the AXA Millésimes group of estates, based at Château Pichon-Longueville in Pauillac. Besides this ‘Super Second’, Seely looks after Châteaux Pibran, also in Pauillac, Petit Village in Pomerol and Suduiraut in Sauternes, as well as estates in the Languedoc, Burgundy, Portugal and Hungary. He is also president of the Compagnie Médocaine, AXA’s Bordeaux négociant business.
Gavin Quinney, the owner of Château Bauduc (a recent Wine of the week), interviewed his compatriot about the 2010 campaign. Here is the transcript.
GQ: Why does the campaign have to take so-ooh long?
CS: Everybody agrees it should be quicker and start sooner – it is very annoying for customers. But each campaign has its own rhythm, and each property is waiting for the right moment. It shouldn’t be like that, of course. The timing though is key and it’s an incredibly important decision. There is an unofficial order, or hierarchy, and each property has their own idea of where they’re situated in that order. It’s their decision – and there are hundreds of individual decisions.
June 20th 2011, by Gavin
Harpers Wine and Spirit Trade Gazette published my article on 3rd June, with my photo of a picker at Château Troplong Mondot on the front cover: “Massive prices for the 2010 First Growths, Super Seconds and Flying Fifths won’t deter investors, and buyers from the Far East, but will the Bordeaux en primeur bandwagon run out of steam further down the line?”