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.
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.
May 18th 2010, by Gavin
As expected, the Bordeaux 2009 En Primeur campaign has got off to a sluggish start, with fine wine merchants trying to urge the Bordelais to get off their derrières and release prices. With the exception of last year’s futures campaign for the 2008s, ’twas ever thus over the last decade.
More worrying but, again, not exactly unexpected, is the direction that the prices are taking. Even some of the more modestly-priced wines are substantially more expensive than they were for the last outstanding vintage: 2005. The exchange rate plays a part of course, and buyers with sterling can expect to pay 25% more for the same wine four years on, even assuming no increase in price from the château.
April 27th 2010, by Gavin
Latour, Château Margaux and Pétrus are among my favourite wines from Bordeaux 2009. My interest in those wines is, regrettably, academic – yet if I could afford to stuff my cellar with the following wines from the next tier down, all for under a grand a box, or much less in some cases, I certainly would. (OK, the four top Pomerols here will be over a thousand a case so my rules have gone out the window.)
December 10th 2009, by Gavin
Here’s a sobering thought at this time of year, especially if you’ve been drinking your stock of old Lafite. A report in the Guardian, entitled ‘How alternative investments have fared since 2000′, showed that the top wines from Bordeaux have been the best investment since 2000, ‘earning returns that far outstripped equities, gold and property.’
In short, the ‘Big Eight’ – Lafite, Latour, Margaux, Mouton, and Haut-Brion (the five First Growths from the Left Bank) along with Pétrus from Pomerol, and Cheval Blanc and Ausone from St-Emilion (all Right Bank), have all proved to be solid performers.