February 11th 2011, by Gavin
This article was written for Liv-ex – ‘the insider’s guide to the global fine wine market’ – and published today.
As wine merchants and critics make travel arrangements for the En Primeur barrel tastings in late March and early April, many wise old heads in Bordeaux are keeping shtum about the 2010 vintage. (After the massive prices achieved last summer for the top 2009s, owners and managers would prefer their wines to do the talking in the Spring, as buyers don’t want to hear that it’s another vintage of a lifetime. At least, not just yet.)
As a grower in Bordeaux and dedicated vine-spotter, and being British, the weather is something I like to keep an eye on. I also visited scores of leading Chateaux during the growing season and throughout the harvest. Here are some conclusions, with the help of a few charts, about 2010.
1. 2010 was a very dry year.
2. 2010 was sunny…
3. … but not too hot.
4. Uneven flowering, lower yields?
5. Top terroirs shine, again.
6. Rain in the nick of time.
7. A later harvest (than 2009 and 2005).
8. Harvest ‘à la carte’.
1. 2010 was a very dry year.
I live 15 miles east of Bordeaux and 15 miles SW of St-Emilion between the Garonne and Dordogne rivers. Bordeaux is a vast wine region, and the weather can vary significantly from one end to the other. It’s fair to say though that 2010 was a dry year across all areas.
November 25th 2010, by Gavin
La Gazette was posted to UK customers on 24th November. Let us know if you’d like to be included on our mailing list – email gavin at bauduc.com. Here you can view a draft copy online – simply click on the image below to open a new window and flick through La Gazette using some cunning software called flipdocs. Sadly, it doesn’t work on an iPad. Your comments are very welcome:
October 4th 2010, by Gavin
I wish I’d thought of that. I don’t mean stealing someone’s else crop for filling up our fermentation tanks (as regulars know, this would have come in handy last year, after we lost 80% of our crop to hail in May). But we certainly missed a trick as potential victims of such a crime. We could have had the children crying in front of the cameras.
Now I’m quite sure that there is nothing false about vigneron Roland Cavaille’s claim that his Cabernet Sauvignon grapes were swiped at night last week, costing him some €15,000 in lost revenue and a year’s hard labour. The surprise is that the world’s media have got hold of the story with such fruity conspiracy theories. Google his name and you’ll find 50 news stories about the grape heist, including this film from the BBC.
Here’s a ‘Wine Mafia’ report from the London Evening Standard:
“Two harvesting machines were used to take about 35 tonnes of the ripened fruit from a field in the Languedoc-Roussillon region. “These are some of the best grapes in France, and we fear a wine mafia gang has stolen them,” said a detective. He believes the grapes were taken straight to a specialist to create a fine vintage.”
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.
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.
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.