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 firstname.lastname@example.org 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.
October 9th 2009, by Gavin
As we come to the end of our harvest at Bauduc, we have hardly had a chance to reflect on an extraordinary vintage of triumphs and disasters. Everything looked great until the hailstorms in May. Then we lost a huge slice of the crop. Since the hail, the weather has been fantastic – so we were on the verge of a Perfect Storm: watching other vineyards enjoy a beautiful summer and early autumn, after ours had been badly hit. Salt on the wounds.
So how come we have made more white, more rosé and more red than last year?
Here’s how. It’s not a short or simple story, but this is France.
September 23rd 2009, by Gavin
Given that we’d lost most of our 2009 crop (and a fair chunk of 2010) to hail in May, we could either have thrown in the towel, or gone in search of more vineyards to buy, or take under lease. We were tempted by option A, but umpteen, welcome messages of support from customers – some on this site – persuaded us to get off our butts.
If we’d been in, say, New Zealand, we’d simply have gone out and found some grapes to make up the 80% loss. It would have been up to us – not the State – to ensure that the quality is good enough to go into our ‘brand’: about 70% of the grapes that go into Villa Maria’s consistently good wines, for example, come from contract growers.
September 21st 2009, by Gavin
A 5 minute video update on the state of our vineyards at harvest time, 4 months on from the devastating hailstorms in May.
June 3rd 2009, by Gavin
Never mind the recession, the strong euro, the weak pound, increased duty costs and global over-supply of cheap, industrial wine. It’s back to nature, and sometimes nature can be cruel.
Thanks for watching, and excuse the French. Feel free to leave a comment below, or a question.
May 13th 2009, by Gavin
In the middle of the night, at 3.30 in the morning on 13th May, we were battered by a hailstorm. And when violent winds accompany the sound of hail, we know it’s very bad news. Parts of Bordeaux were hit the night before, on Monday 11th, and we’d had a smattering of peanut-sized hail too. Our vineyard manager Daniel joked yesterday that if we’d been included in that storm, with hailstones the size of new potatoes, we should change our métiers, or jobs. I don’t think he was expecting lightning to literally strike twice.
On close inspection first thing this morning, this is by far the worst we’ve seen here. We lost 50% of the crop on 24 June 2003, and last year we had frost in April that wiped out much of our sauvignon blanc.
August 12th 2008, by Gavin
July was a great month for sunshine in Bordeaux and very little rain – much less than in 2007 and 2006. In fact, we’ve enjoyed lovely weather since mid-June, right up until yesterday at the start of what looks to be a rainy week. But in this corner of south west France, whenever there has been a build-up of heat over a prolonged period, a storm might follow; we’ve witnessed exciting bouts of thunder and lightning during the hottest periods in previous years. Usually, there’s no harm done, but if there’s a mix of strong winds and the much-dreaded hail, the results can be catastrophic. We were badly hit in June 2003 and it wasn’t pretty.
This time it was the turn of several unfortunate growers and Chateaux in Lussac Saint-Emilion, one of the satellite appellations to the north of the famous, medieval wine town. Hundreds of acres were hit, and some estates have lost all their crop for this year.