October 17th 2012, by Gavin
This is the third of my 2012 Bordeaux harvest updates for Jancis Robinson, the first one being here on this site and the second here. (I’ve backdated the publication date above to match the date it appeared on Jancis’s site.)
As the red-wine harvest draws to a close, there’s a sense of relief and quiet satisfaction in Bordeaux, if not the euphoria of a great vintage.
It has been a long season and nerves have been frayed right to the end: we’ve had what seemed like three seasons in the space of two weeks. What should be picked and when? ‘The weather doesn’t know what it’s doing’ said Lilian Barton at Langoa. ‘I wonder if weather forecaster is the only job where you can keep making mistakes and still never get fired’, tweeted Frédéric Engerer of Chateau Latour.
Three weeks of October sunshine were too much to ask for in the end, and that’s the problem with comparatively late harvests. After a delayed start and a wet spring, Bordeaux had already had its fair share of luck, with two months of fabulous summer sunshine right up until the last week of September.
Since then it’s been a bit up and down. If any grower says they were able to pick ’a la carte’ (as and when they liked) then they must be talking about the dry whites, which were harvested under clear skies in until the last week of September.
That said, the Merlot and Cabernet grapes I’ve seen on the sorting tables at the leading estates, from Pauillac to Pomerol and from Margaux to St-Emilion, have been in remarkably good shape. They don’t have the joy, the concentration, or depth of flavour that you find in great vintages, yet they are healthy, thick-skinned and tasty. The question now is the quality of the tannins in those skins and in the pips – château by château, block by block. As for vinification, gently does it.
October 5th 2012, by Gavin
This is the second of my 2012 Bordeaux harvest updates for Jancis Robinson, the first one being here on this site or you can find it here on JancisRobinson.com. (I’ve backdated the publication date above to match the date it appeared on Jancis’s site.)
The red-wine harvest finally got under way in Bordeaux this week. Merlot is being brought into the increasingly high-tech sorting areas at a leisurely pace, as leading châteaux take advantage of the clear skies and wait for optimum maturity of their precious grapes.
Incredibly, it’s still too early to call. ’We have the potential for a very good vintage but the weather over the next two weeks will be crucial’ said Christian Seely, MD of Ch Pichon Longueville Baron in Pauillac, where Cabernet Sauvignon is king.
His winemaker, Jean-René Martignon, confirmed that they won’t start the later-ripening cabernet until the week of the 15th October. They, along with most of the top estates of the Left Bank, were picking merlot this week.
Hervé Berland, the new CEO at Ch Montrose in St-Estèphe, agreed. ’I’m asking for God’s help with the Cabernet Sauvignon as this is my first vintage’. He chalked up more than 30 years with Mouton Rothschild. ’I am hopeful because we had a lovely August and, as we say, August makes the must.
’We can move quickly if we need to. You know, and this is a lovely story, we have had pickers at Montrose from the same village in Spain for the last 50 years – can you believe that? – and we now put them up in our newly-restored cottages at the end of the drive by the Gironde.’ (Harvest workers’ cottages are not the only investments being made at Montrose, that’s for sure.)
October 5th 2011, by Gavin
With the growing season almost three weeks ahead of last year, the harvest of our white grapes at Château Bauduc kicked off at the end of August. It wasn’t the easiest vintage, as we had four months of near-drought from March to early July and a tad too much rain from mid-July to the beginning of September. The summer was cool overall but at times it was very humid, which caused problems. In the end, after getting hands-on in the vines to sort the grapes, we’re pretty pleased with the result.
Here’s the story of the white harvest in photos. Click on an image to enlarge it.
Update, Summer 2012: if you’re in the UK and would like to sample the fruits of our labour, you can order the wine here.
September 29th 2011, by Gavin
It has been a few years since the Barton family of Château Langoa-Barton bought a château. Not since the 1820s, in fact, when Hugh Barton, having first acquired Langoa in 1821, purchased part of the Léoville estate in 1826 that would later become Château Léoville-Barton. Both Langoa and Léoville were included in the famous 1855 classification and, along with Château Mouton-Rothschild, are the only Châteaux since 1855 to remain under the same family ownership. Anthony Barton and his daughter Lilian run the two Saint-Julien estates today.
So when Lilian told me last Friday, on the final day of their harvest, that they had just purchased a property called Château Mauvesin in Moulis, I was quite surprised.
May 24th 2011, by Gavin
It’s five years since Oz Clarke and James May came to Bauduc at the start of their Big Wine Adventure – the video of the day is on the home page of our main Bauduc website and on the blog here. Oz has been back a few times since, the most recent visit being in March.
Here are his thoughts following his visit, with his kind permission. A slightly shorter version appeared in our Gazette, the newsletter we printed and posted to UK customers in May. You can view La Gazette online here.
‘Right, I thought – time to hit the 2010s. So I stopped off at my old mate Gavin’s place, Château Bauduc, and tasted at least 10 barrels of rather fine Merlot before we hit the real business of the evening which was to actually drink as much Bauduc as he could possibly afford without bankrupting him. Which we did – we bankrupted him. We drank the lot.
February 24th 2011, by Gavin
In my list of New Year’s Resolutions for 2011, there’s no mention of switching from corks to Stelvin screwcaps for white and rosé, and changing our whole bottling process. There’s just a brief squiggle in the margin of ‘New Year Goals’, saying ‘check with customers about closures.’
Perhaps we should ‘check with customers’ more often because a month after asking, we’d used different bottles, different closures, revised back labels and a different bottling machine for over 130,000 bottles. Later in this post I’ll cover the bottling but here’s a reminder of how our customers made the call to change.
Although I’m a big fan of Twitter, and have a rather feeble Facebook Page, we wanted some swift, one-to-one feedback, without too much interference from either lobby. So on 14 January, with the help of a nifty online survey program called Wufoo, we emailed our customers (we use Campaign Monitor) with the question ‘what closures should we use to bottle our wines?’
As a guide, I wrote an accompanying article called 10 Questions about Corks v Screwcaps and within a week, over 1150 kindly completed the online survey. More than 700 people added a comment, which was staggering, given that most of the UK wine trade and press think the subject a bit passé (me included, in all honesty, before I understood that customers have such strong views).
This was the result, which I’ve edited from the Survey Results post with my self-serving Pacman effect to highlight the conclusion we came to:
With almost two thirds voting for screwcap for white, plus 19% ‘Don’t Mind’, 84% is a persuasive majority. Only 12.4% expressed a preference for cork for our rosé, our top selling wine in the summer (i.e. we’d be sealing it with a closure that only 1 in 8 wanted).
It’s a different story for Bordeaux red with 77% voting for cork or ‘don’t mind’. 23% is still a sizeable vote for screwcap for this, the most traditional of wine regions, but it should be remembered that we’re from the cheap seats, not the royal circle.
October 28th 2010, by Gavin
We harvested our red grapes in perfect condition during October. Whether other Châteaux in Bordeaux are making wines as good as or even better than last year remains to be seen, but after frost here at Bauduc in April 2008 and hail in May 2009, it’s a welcome change for us to bring in such quality, and quantity.
2010 has been a remarkable year for us in so many ways.
1. No major natural disasters: no Spring frost to decimate the yield by nipping the shoots in the bud. No late Spring hail to destroy the young shoots and baby bunches. Even the drought conditions this Summer didn’t dry up our hopes for a splendid crop. Let’s pray that there’ll be no repeat of any damaging storms this Winter.
2. No man-made catestrophes: no tractors catching fire during the harvest (above right, in 2009), and no trailors full of grapes tipping over: our former employee, Sebastien, pictured right, was probably wishing he’d taken a sicky the day I took this shot in late September, 2005. I’ve not published this photo before as it wasn’t exactly our finest hour. We ended up selling the tank of wine that these grapes went into, in ‘bulk’ and at a loss.
October 4th 2010, by Gavin
Our red wine harvest at Château Bauduc kicked-off at 6 o’clock in the morning on Friday, 1st October. One 2 hectare (5 acre) block of 12,000 Merlot vines was harvested in tiptop condition, and we were done and dusted by 10.30 am.
A team of eight manned the sorting table to make sure that no unwanted bits went into the stainless steel fermentation tank. (I say manned but the team was made up of one strapping lad known as The Apprentice, plus seven ladies.) In addition, there was Daniel, Nelly, Ange, me – and Guy on his sexy harvesting machine.
With the dry conditions continuing up to the harvest, there was no rot on the bunches whatsoever, so we were able to pick by machine during the coolest, freshest part of the day.
October 3rd 2009, by Gavin
It’s another early start as we like to bring the grapes in quite cold, especially when the days are so warm. This way we can give the Merlot a ‘cold soak’ for a few days before fermentation, making for a tasty, juicy wine – hopefully. There is no rot whatsoever, so we’re just removing any leaves or green bits on the sorting table before the de-stemmer.
September 20th 2009, by Gavin
After some handpicking fun at the start of the harvest, it’s now down to business.
For the past five vintages we’ve harvested the white grapes – and the reds for rosé – by machine, in the small, wee hours of the morning. Early, chilly starts make for zippy, fresh grapes, even if we ourselves look a bit doggy at the end of the day. So you’ll be pleased to know that we don’t feature in this 5 minute clip, which might be of interest to wine lovers who have never seen harvesting machines at work.
This 4 hectare (10 acre) block of Sauvignon Blanc was the only white parcel at the château to produce any reasonable amount of grapes following the hail in May – and the grapes from here have always gone into our Bordeaux Blanc Sec. But the yield from this more protected part of the vineyard was still only 20 hectolitres (2000 litres) per hectare, way down on the maximum quota allowed in 2009 of 65 hl (6500 l)/ha.