June 19th 2013, by Gavin
It’s a scary time for vine growers. We need half-decent weather at the right moment or the size and quality of crop could be at risk. 2013 is the latest flowering we’ve witnessed and, what with sunshine one day and unseasonably heavy downpours the next, it’s the stuff of nightmares.
Visitors to Vinexpo, the huge trade fair that’s taking place in Bordeaux this week, can see the flowering for the first time ever during the show – if they have the chance or the inclination to get out into the vines. Normally, between 16 and 20 June, you’d have missed the floraison and the annual Fête de la Fleur, held this year at Chateau Lagrange in St-Julien on the 20th, is supposed to celebrate the end of the flowering, not the middle of it.
June 15th 2013, by Gavin
The campaign to sell the top 150+ Bordeaux wines from 2012 en primeur, i.e. while still in barrel, is coming to an end: there are many attractive wines but there’s little price incentive to buy early. Here’s a business round-up, a vintage summary, my top 150 wines from the vintage and en primeur report for Harpers, the trade mag.
Here are the links:
Review of the 2012 En Primeur campaign
The wines are still on offer from leading wine merchants with only a handful of wines showing as sold out. By all accounts, it’s been a fairly disastrous sales campaign. Given the gloomy prospects for the 2013 vintage, however, time will tell if some of the top Chateaux were wise not to drop their pants on prices.
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.
March 19th 2013, by Gavin
Chris Evans, host of BBC Radio 2’s Breakfast Show, came to Bordeaux earlier this month with his lovely wife Natasha for an extensive wine tour. We were honoured to be asked to show them around, via a friend of a friend, and here’s what we got up to, along with some holiday snaps. (To enlarge any picture, click on it.)
“I beg you, if you like wine, take a plane, hire a car and go to Bordeaux,” Chris wrote in his weekly column for The Mail on Sunday, tapped into his Blackberry at his hotel in St-Emilion after just a couple of days here. “It’s a dream trip.”
On their ’kids-free wine tour’, we visited Chateau Clinet and Le Pin in Pomerol, Chateau Haut-Brion in Pessac, Chateau Pichon Longueville Baron in Pauillac and Cos d’Estournel in St-Estephe. We also tried a few wines from around the region over dinner here at Chateau Bauduc, at restaurant La Tupina in Bordeaux and in the two restaurants at Les Sources de Caudalie, the hotel set amongst vines to the south of the city.
“Twas fanbloodytastic” he texted when he got home, before appearing on Friday evening’s The One Show on the beeb. He looked fine. I was bloody exhausted.
Then, on Monday, the reality check. “Just been to gym. Nearly died. Holidays not worth the relapse,” he announced on Twitter. (Apparently, he’d put on half a stone.) The trouble with an excursion to this corner of France is that the wine and food can be a little too tempting.
October 19th 2012, by Gavin
This is another post I wrote for Liv-ex, the fine wine market blog. I’ve backdated it to the date of publication on the Liv-ex site.
The red-wine harvest is coming to an end in Bordeaux as the last of the Cabernet Sauvignon is being picked by the top estates of the Left Bank this week. On the Right Bank, what’s left of the Merlot will be brought in shortly and then, lastly, the remaining Cabernet Franc.
2012 came close to being a terrific vintage. As it is, it’s a promising vintage at the top level, thanks mainly to a fine August and most of September, although yields are fairly low. “What we have is good but there’s just not much of it”, remarked Christian Seely, MD of Chateau Pichon-Longueville-Baron. (I did warn him that this might raise an eyebrow.)
“It’s a very good vintage, if not a great one”, claimed Paul Pontallier at Chateau Margaux on Monday, as the final cagettes of Cabernet Sauvignon were ferried into the huge reception area. “A lovely summer and September with rain just before harvest, which is completely normal.”
October 1st 2012, by Gavin
2012 has been an extraordinary year for sport but will it be a vintage to remember?
Here in Bordeaux, it’s too early to say, even at this late stage. It’s going to go right to the wire.
“If 2011 was exceptionally early, 2012 is exceptionally late”, said Lilian Barton of Château Léoville Barton as they prepared to bring in the new vintage in St-Julien, 25 miles north of Bordeaux. The red-wine harvest, which has started quietly in the early ripening vineyards of Pomerol, begins this week in earnest and will last well into October.
As for quality, Gabriel Vialard, the technical director of Château Haut-Bailly – near Léognan, south of the city – was cautiously optimistic after two fine months.
“It could be like 2000 but not if it rains too much. We won’t know until it’s all in.” Thankfully the forecast is fine for the moment.
Summer sun until last week of September
The sunshine we’ve enjoyed in Bordeaux from mid-July onwards, through a warmer than average August, lasted right up until the penultimate weekend of September. We’d had just 30mm of rain here from mid-July until 23rd September, and half of that fell on the 5th August. It’s been extremely dry, with plenty of sunshine.
Then on Sunday, 23rd September, there came one evening and three days of rain, on and off: around 40-60mm in total on the Right Bank and 50-90mm on the Left. That’s fine – and it was much needed in some parcels – so long as it stops there. No more, thanks.
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.
May 5th 2011, by Gavin
I wrote this piece for Livex, “the insiders’ guide to the global fine wine market”, and was published on 3rd May.
There was something different in the air this year, and it wasn’t just the constant tweeting of what the stuff tasted like.
En primeur attendances were higher than ever at the top estates, according to Paul Pontallier of Château Margaux (right). Much in evidence there, and at all the Firsts, were the Chinese translations of the brochures, to add to the long-standing piles of English and French versions. Based on visits to the leading properties the week after the UGCs, these were still being snapped up by Bordeaux’s new best friends.
Perhaps that’s what’s changed. Opinions about many of the great wines no longer matter. For the top Châteaux, even huge Parker points or double asterisks won’t be required to sell the iconic brands and for most of us, some of the tastings were academic.
March 23rd 2011, by Gavin
I wrote this post for Livex – “The insiders’ guide to the Global Fine Wine Market.”
Robert Parker and other critics are in Bordeaux this week, getting to grips with the new vintage from barrel.
The rest of us – trade and press alike – will have to wait until the first week of April, traditionally the week hosted by the Union des Grands Crus or ‘UGCs’. Scores of other groups have sprung up over the years, while at least 30 of the most sought-after wines can only be sampled at the Chateaux themselves.
So here’s a list of the most popular tastings and those exclusive Chateaux, with the dates and the number of wines in brackets. At the end, I’ve jotted down my ten top tips.
February 18th 2011, by Gavin
There’s an embarrassment of riches in the best barrel cellars of Bordeaux right now. The relatively inexpensive 2008s are being shipped out (the first tranche offer of 100€ ex-cellars for First Growths in April 2009 seems a long time ago), leaving row upon row of French oak barriques bearing the precious, pre-paid 2009 vintage. And, currently being assembled in the ‘first year’ cellars, there’s another great vintage waiting in line.
Time will tell if Lilian Barton Sartorius was right when she said at the start of the harvest, “However well the 2010s turn out, they are going to be cheaper than the 2009s.” At the time I nodded sagely in agreement but now, following an outstanding harvest and with more names being touted as the next big thing in China, I’m not so sure. Meanwhile, a few wise old heads are keeping shtum about 2010 as they want their wines to do the talking in the spring. Nobody wants to hear about another vintage of the century. At least, not just yet.
Robert Parker, after concerns that he would be unable to travel following knee surgery, has indicated that he will be coming to taste the new vintage next month. Significantly, his friend Michel Rolland, the renowned consultant oenologist, believes that most estates that he works with have made, er, better wines in 2010 than in 2009, and for those who prefer wines at the other end of the structure spectrum, Denis Dubourdieu quietly agrees – at least, for reds and dry whites.