September 28th 2010, by Gavin
The Sauvignon Blanc and Sémillon for the dry whites are mostly in – we finished our Sémillon yesterday – and some estates on the Right Bank, in Pomerol and St-Emilion, have picked Merlot from young vines in the last week (such as Château Canon in St-Emilion, below right). The Merlot harvest started in earnest this week in the Médoc. Hardly a grape had been picked there until now, and they’ll start attacking the Cabernet Sauvignon from next week onwards. If you have the chance to see the harvest in action, on both Banks, sometime over the next fortnight or so is the time to come, although there’s much less to see on the outside at weekends.
The weather leading up to the key picking dates could make the difference between, well, seriously good and great. In case you weren’t aware, we had half as much rain in Bordeaux in the six months to the end of August compared to 2009, which was, of course, a dry year.
The weather in September has been fine, with a dash of refreshing rain in the second week and last week on Friday, 24th. As luck would have it, a drying northwesterly breeze blew off any humidity in the vines on Saturday, averting the risk of rot. The forecast is fine, just for the moment. We don’t really want to pick for the reds until next week, although we have harvested some Merlot plots early to make some rosé. This year, just as last, it’s best to bring in Merlot earlier – more so with these chilly mornings – and press quickly to make rosé, as we need acidity and not fully or over-ripe grapes.
August 27th 2010, by Gavin
The weather’s been warm, sunny and very dry, giving rise to reports – there’s a summary of them here – of another magnificent vintage on the cards (don’t yawn). Anything can happen before the Merlot harvest begins towards the end of September, and in October for the Cabernets, but let me explain why 2010 is not like 2009.
It is, of course, too early to say how 2010 is going to turn out as September is such a critical month, but some things are so evident – and significant – in the vineyard, I thought I should point them out.
10 key points so far
August 25th 2010, by Gavin
Here are the six red grape varieties which we are allowed to grow in Bordeaux under Appellation Contrôlée laws. The photos were taken at Château Bauduc at the very start of August and again three weeks later, before and after they changed colour – a stage called véraison. A rule of thumb is that the grapes will be ready to pick some 45 days after mid-véraison. The third shot in each series shows the leaves of each variety, which for me is the easiest way to tell them apart (remembering what you’ve planted and where also helps).
Most of the 117,500 hectares of Bordeaux vineyards are red – 89% in fact. Merlot is the most widely grown variety, with 64% of red, and is the dominant grape on the Right Bank – St.Emilion, Pomerol, Fronsac and the Côtes - where it is often blended with Cabernet Franc (11%). Merlot is also responsible for the tanker loads of straight Bordeaux AC and less prestigious Appellations across the whole of Bordeaux. In other words, there’s Merlot… and then there’s Merlot.
June 28th 2010, by Gavin
All over now bar the shouting.
Here, in my humble opinion, are the Best Buys – at the opening prices – of Bordeaux 2009, broken down as follows:
10 Expensive wines – but sound investments.
£400 to £1000 – 17 Fabulous quality, blue chip names.
£200 – £300 – This is where the values of 2009 lie: 20 cracking wines.
Under £200 - 12 lovely wines from the Left Bank.
June 28th 2010, by Gavin
For those who like lists: with the massive ‘en primeur’ price increases from 30 of the famous Bordeaux Châteaux last week – 196% up on average on 2008 – I thought it would be useful to compare points and prices of the top 2009s with both the 2008s and the last great vintage, 2005.
The table below shows my scores (GQ) and Robert Parker’s (RP) for the 2009s and 2008s from barrel, and the price in British pounds En Primeur (EP) from UK merchants. On the right hand side, I tasted all the top 2005s in bottle for Wine & Spirit magazine for the Dec 2007 issue, five months before Robert Parker released his final scores. Buyers are dipping back into the market for the 2005s and 2008s against the more expensive 2009s: there’s a lot of sense in that.
2008 was a very good vintage, even if, in many people’s view, Robert Parker was a little generous with some of his scores. It makes for some bizarre comparisons: Ducru Beaucaillou 2008 was rated 96-98 and the 2009 96-98+, yet the the latter is three times the price of the ’08. I’ll be re-tasting the 2008s from bottle in the autumn – follow me on Twitter http://twitter.com/GavinQuinney for updates.
Meanwhile, the better deals on 2009s were to be found on wines released earlier in the campaign, so it’s worth searching them out as many are still available. See also my separate post to follow for my ‘Best Buys of Bordeaux 2009′ and my summary of tweets throughout the campaign.
June 14th 2010, by Gavin
Along with Grand-Puy-Lacoste, Château Calon Ségur is the first ‘top’ Left Bank 2009 claret to be released En Primeur today. UK merchants are offering the wine at around £600 a case, in bond (ex-duty and Vat), two years before delivery.
Here is the announcement on the website of the UK’s biggest Bordeaux merchant, Farr Vintners, whose owner has just bought Crystal Palace FC:
“Also released this morning was the superb Calon Segur. At the moment (even by calling in favours in Bordeaux) it looks like we will only have enough wine to satisfy about half of the pre-orders and certainly not enough for this great St Estephe to ever make it to general sale.”
Blimey. I thought the 2009 was a fabulous wine when I tasted it in April, and rated it 92-95, while Robert Parker gave it an almost identical 92-94+. Jancis Robinson awarded it a very high, for her, 18/20. But ‘sold out’ at £600 seems crazy in the context of earlier vintages.
Calon Ségur, owned by the formidable Madame Capbern Gasqueton, right, is a traditionalist’s favourite and patience will be required – drink 2023-2040+. In 2009 there is a whopping 90% Cabernet Sauvignon in the blend, compared to 82% for the 2008, and by my calculations, they made about 15,000 cases of the first wine: with 46 hectares in production in ’09 from 55 ha overall, and yields of 53hl/ha, 58% went into the Grand Vin, 25% into the second wine and the rest a third wine.
May 27th 2010, by Gavin
Updated 8th June. Here are my (GQ) scores for my Top 200 Bordeaux 2009 alongside those of US guru Robert Parker (RP), using the 100 point system, plus Jancis Robinson’s scores out of 20. I tasted all the top wines, except Château Ausone and a few garage/boutique wines from St-Emilion, and Le Gay and Le Bon Pasteur from Pomerol.
BUY: as prices are released in June 2010, I have noted down the left hand side the wines I would BUY (or BUY* for best buys). Follow me on Twitter for daily Deal or No Deal tips as wines are released.
R: Recommended but the prices are as yet unknown. Many will have to be pre-ordered. Prices in £ are for the UK buyer In Bond (ex-duty and Vat).
V: Value, for affordable drinking. L is for Left Bank, R is for Right.
May 26th 2010, by Gavin
It’s all quiet this week during Vinexpo Asia, where the Bordelais are wooing new customers. Here’s a round-up of the Best Buys of Bordeaux 2009 En Primeur so far, in order of my preference.
Of course, the top Pomerols are out of most people’s budgets but I bet the glorious La Fleur-Pétrus (right, yesterday) will set you back a lot more in five years. Meanwhile, Gazin, Providence and Certan de May were all ‘perhaps’ for me at £540, £700 and £700 respectively. Then they sold out.
May 25th 2010, by Gavin
Such is the demand for top Bordeaux from great years that the best wines from the two previous outstanding vintages, 2000 and 2005, have gone up substantially in value, despite the economic downturn. Here are my answers to 20 questions about the much-hyped 2009s.
1. Is Bordeaux 2009 ‘the vintage of a lifetime’?
I hope so, because we lost 80% of our crop in two hailstorms in May 2009. Apart from this minor detail, the weather was brilliant, all the way through to the end of the harvest in mid-October. I suppose that makes me well qualified to say, after watching the weather and tasting wines ‘En Primeur’ for ten years here, I have never witnessed such superb conditions for the harvest in Bordeaux and sampled so many outstanding young wines the following Spring. Many leading Châteaux have made their greatest ever wines, especially on the Left Bank.
That doesn’t mean to say you should buy the wines, if prices are too high. Fortunately, outside a relatively small circle of estates that could sell their 2009 production several times over regardless of price, there are many outstanding wines that are worth buying in 2009.
May 24th 2010, by Gavin
Updated 8th June. Look away now if you think wine and points don’t go. Here is a top down list of my (GQ) scores alongside those of US guru Robert Parker (RP) – both using the 100 point scale – and Jancis Robinson’s scores out of 20, plus my estimate of anticipated maturity. There are 130 90+ point wines in my book, with 90 meaning outstanding. I tasted all the top wines, except Château Ausone and a few garage/boutique wines from St-Emilion, and Le Gay and Le Bon Pasteur from Pomerol.
It’s fair to say that RP and I agree on many of the top dogs, only he’s given higher points, with a stash of potential 100s (in 2005, he awarded just two wines 100 pts). I think he’s slightly underrated the 2009s from Palmer and Pichon Baron but that’s splitting hairs.