November 26th 2013, by Gavin
Many thanks to everyone who chipped in for the Bauduc hail sale. The offer on our 2010 and 2011 whites went down really well and prices are still at a knockdown rate, so do stock up before the Christmas rush; if it’s been on your to-do list, please take a minute to order.
It was great to see the ‘hail sale’ in the Telegraph wine column at the weekend. In her article on buying online, Victoria Moore perfectly summed up what we’re all about, after mentioning Tesco, Morrisons, Asda, Laithwaites and The Wine Society.
‘But for me the real thrill of online wine shopping is the chance to escape the giants. It’s all about stories, immediacy, connection, a chance to root around making new discoveries or, more to the point, getting in touch with people who’ve made them for you, buying the wine you want when you want and having it delivered all with sublime ease.*
One online micro-trend gathering momentum is for producers to sell direct to customers. Think of the likes of Gavin Quinney, whom I wrote about over the summer when swathes of his crop were smashed by bad weather, and who is now having a “hail sale” (Bauduc) to try to get back on his feet.’
Back in August, we emailed everyone with a link to Victoria’s article ’Hailstorms: when ice and wine don’t mix’. A dramatic piece about our little catastrophe was probably not the ideal press coverage but it was a welcome silver lining:
November 8th 2013, by Gavin
A handsome package arrived this week, and inside was a razor-sharp trophy. It was a ‘Special Recognition Award’ from the Harpers French Wine Awards and I’m extremely chuffed to be able to stick it on the mantelpiece next to our grumpy bronze boar.
I was gutted, in fact, not to have been able to collect the prize in person at the awards ceremony in London – you don’t get many rounds of applause in a vineyard – but it was the night before Angela’s birthday and I’d promised to bring her tea in the morning.
The funny thing is, the prize isn’t for our wine at all. It’s for writing and tweeting. Richard Siddle, the editor of the UK-based trade magazine and known as ‘chief’ in the wine business, wrote the flattering explanation below on the Harpers website. Forgive me for modestly including the title of the article but it really shows that the little people – in wine, at least – can make the headlines above the ‘Supermarket of the Year’ and the like.
All the winners and finalists are listed below, with links to their Twitter pages (hey, Twitter’s all about sharing).
“Gavin Quinney, the English winemaker who owns and produces wine at Chateau Bauduc in Bordeaux, has won the Special Recognition Award at the first Harpers French Wine Awards.
Quinney received the honour for the work he has done in giving the wine trade as a whole a fascinating insight into the day-to-day highs and lows of being a winemaker and running a Bordeaux winery.
Quinney has become a one-man publicity machine not only for his own business but for helping promote French wine overall, Bordeaux wine in particular, and for airing some of the more lively and controversial issues facing French wine in such engaging and entertaining way.
He has built up such a following online through social media that he has more Twitter followers than prestigious Bordeaux houses and many of the generic French wine bodies.
September 27th 2013, by Gavin
As the Bordeaux harvest begins, here is a detailed report on the weather so far this year and its impact on the vines.
It’s fair to say that my earlier updates on the 2013 growing season in Bordeaux have been less than enthusiastic. Running late in May, The flowering and Soggy Vinexpo, sodden vines in June, Lafite’s weeping willows in July and then, in August, the Hail in Bordeaux series of posts hardly paint a rosy picture.
Yet even at this stage at the end of September, this roller coaster vintage is still too early to call. The weather in October for the red harvest (Bordeaux is 88% red) will be crucial. Even before then, storms are forecast for this weekend, after a week of sunshine.
To follow my harvest updates on Twitter, type the following in the Twitter search box: from:gavinquinney #bdx13
TEN THINGS WE DO KNOW
1. 2013 is an exceptionally late harvest. (Or should be.)
2. 2013 will be a small crop in Bordeaux overall.
3. A cold first half of the year held up growth in the vineyard.
4. An unusually cold, wet May and downpours in June led to late, uneven flowering.
5. July was hot and dry, August sunny, September up and down. October is key.
6. An August hailstorm hit more than 10,000 hectares – about 10% of the Bordeaux vineyard – but none of the top châteaux.
7. Quality and yields will be extremely variable – the contrast is evident in the vineyards.
8. The dry white harvest has started well, while prospects for sweet whites are ‘promising’.
9. The red harvest is likely to be a race against time (and rot) as the autumn weather draws in.
10. The advantage lies with those who have the resources and equipment to be highly selective.
August 9th 2013, by Gavin
We were hit by hail on 2 August. 5000 hectares of vines in the area have been stripped of this year’s grapes and another 5000 hectares, like us, have seen damage to vines to a greater or lesser extent. Here are a few questions and answers, mainly as far as Bauduc is concerned.
1. Are you insured against hail?
No. You can buy special hail insurance but the premiums are outrageously expensive. Those sharp-suited insurance folk are no fools.
The authorities believe that only 15%-20% of the vineyards that were hit were insured against hail. Henri Feret of Ch Feret-Lambert, for example, makes excellent Bordeaux Supérieur and he’s not insured, which makes us feel slightly less dozy.
It would be surprising if the leading Chateaux of Bordeaux are not insured, but some appellations like Pauillac and St-Julien have not been hit for a long time, so premiums should be affordable compared to the price they get for the wine.
2. Didn’t you have hail before?
Yes. In May 2009 – twice, in fact, a fortnight apart – and in June 2003. So we’ve been hit in three out of fifteen harvests – or, more recently, two out of five. Our recent form isn’t good.
August 7th 2013, by Gavin
Thousands of hectares of vines between the Garonne and Dordogne rivers in the Entre Deux Mers were decimated by the hailstorm that ripped through this corner of Bordeaux last Friday evening, 2 August.
I’ve seen hail damage to Bordeaux vineyards in 1999, 2003, 2008, 2009 and 2011 at varying stages of the season, from one end of Bordeaux to the other. In our 15 harvests, as I pointed out in yesterday’s report, we’ve had hail at Château Bauduc in 2003, 2009 and now in 2013. But I have never seen anything as bad as the vine damage sustained by some of our neighbours last Friday. Others, meanwhile, were untouched.
The week before, late on Friday 26 July, a hailstorm ruined part of the crop in the Entre Deux Mers around Génissac, near Libourne on the banks of the Dordogne. (Strong winds the same night also caused considerable damage to the famous willow trees at Château Lafite 50kms away near Pauillac but as there was no hail, there was no loss in the vines.)
Last Friday evening, at around 8.45pm on 2 August, this second, much more violent hailstorm destroyed this year’s harvest in many more vineyards in the Entre Deux Mers and over the Dordogne in part of the Côtes de Castillon. Official estimates vary, with figures being bandied about of between 5,000 and 10,000 hectares having been affected to a greater or lesser extent. That’s about 4% to 8% of the whole of the Bordeaux vineyard. (I’m a little sceptical of the 20,000 hectares/50,000 acres now being quoted as a result of state aid being mentioned by the press.)
August 6th 2013, by Gavin
Last Friday was supposed to be just another lovely summer’s evening with old friends who were staying at our farmhouse. It’s what you imagine life to be like when you own a vineyard.
I’d been walking the dogs around the vines, half-inspecting the thousand, neatly presented rows at the end of the season’s labour. We’d completed the manual work just that morning, and now we needed a fine August and September to ripen the grapes.
The skies out west though – towards the Atlantic in the distance – didn’t look right. It was warm and sunny but there was a chill in the air, similar to the lull before the storm in September 2011, when hail narrowly missed us, and in May 2009, when it didn’t.
July 29th 2013, by Gavin
We had a storm in Bordeaux late last Friday and in the early hours of Saturday. Summer thunderstorms here are not uncommon after protracted heat waves, but there was some significant, localised damage. Heavy rain caused flash floods in the city, strong winds brought down a few trees around the region, and vine growers prayed that any hail would pass them by.
The most photogenic damage was to the willow trees of Chateau Lafite Rothschild that sit between the lakes and gardens of this illustrious property and the D2 main road. Many were brought down in fierce winds between 11pm on Friday and 2am on Saturday.
Several estates in Pauillac, such as Pontet Canet, Lynch Bages and Fonbadet, suffered superficial damage – to trees, mostly – but it was in the valley below the buildings at Lafite that tourists stopped to take pictures. At least twenty trees were lost or broken and by Sunday evening there was still a great deal of clearing up to be done.
May 31st 2013, by Gavin
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.
The harvest this Autumn will be my fifteenth (a rookie still) and the development of the vines across Bordeaux in 2013 is the most backward I’ve seen. Our vineyard manager, Daniel, will tell you the same thing, and he’s been working here since the 80s.
It’s certainly going to be another late harvest, like 2012, and we all know that ’late and great’ rarely go hand in hand when it comes to Bordeaux vintages. ’Comeback of the century’ is the best we can hope for and I, for one, would settle for that. (If you’re visiting Bordeaux at harvest time, the reds won’t be picked until October.)
At the start of June, the vines should be flowering or about to flower. May, however, has been so wet and cold (my unofficial stats show a chilling monthly average to date of 12.5°C, compared to a thirty year average in May of 16.5°C) that we’re still a little way off the floraison and, worse, the vines have a lot of catching up to do beforehand. It’s all rather worrying, although the forecast for early June looks more promising.
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.
June 26th 2011, by Gavin
Last week was a busy week, what with the biennial Vinexpo trade fair taking place in Bordeaux. After tastings and meetings, and five dinners on the trot (two small ones here, three flashier affairs at neighbouring châteaux), I was flagging a bit when a short email came through to email@example.com from Jancis Robinson MW OBE on Thursday morning: “Hope Vinexpo is treating you well. Much enjoyed your 2009 white, even if it is not based on the usual vines. What is the RS pse?”
Angela was about to reply ‘£8.95′ before checking with me at the show. ‘The Residual Sugar is 2.94 gms/litre’ was the answer Jancis was looking for. ‘Why?’ we asked. HRH replied “I’m planning to make it wine of the week on my website tmrw.”
Now that is good news at the end of a long week, and somehow all the effort we put in after the hail in May 2009 seems worth it. Here below is Jancis’s article on the wine, taken from the freebie part of her site. (Subscription costs £69 a year for ‘Purple Pages’ – essential reading for any wine nut.) Jancis then kindly tweeted the link to her 90,000 followers on Twitter. I did the same for my, er, 1,193.