May 31st 2013, by Gavin
There hasn’t been a poor vintage in Bordeaux for twenty years but the cold, damp weather, as we approach the critical month of June, is a gentle reminder that anything can happen.
The harvest this Autumn will be my fifteenth (a rookie still) and the development of the vines across Bordeaux in 2013 is the most backward I’ve seen. Our vineyard manager, Daniel, will tell you the same thing, and he’s been working here since the 80s.
It’s certainly going to be another late harvest, like 2012, and we all know that ’late and great’ rarely go hand in hand when it comes to Bordeaux vintages. ’Comeback of the century’ is the best we can hope for and I, for one, would settle for that. (If you’re visiting Bordeaux at harvest time, the reds won’t be picked until October.)
At the start of June, the vines should be flowering or about to flower. May, however, has been so wet and cold (my unofficial stats show a chilling monthly average to date of 12.5°C, compared to a thirty year average in May of 16.5°C) that we’re still a little way off the floraison and, worse, the vines have a lot of catching up to do beforehand. It’s all rather worrying, although the forecast for early June looks more promising.
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 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 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.
August 24th 2012, by Gavin
“You don’t have to be a wine lover to enjoy a holiday in a vineyard in Europe (but it helps), says Annabelle Thorpe” in The Times (Saturday, 11 August 2012).
We were delighted to have our farmhouse at Château Bauduc included – see #6 below. Of course, we can’t repeat the whole article but for those of you who don’t subscribe to The Times, here’s the list with (1) how many each place can sleep, (2) the starting price and (3) contact and booking details. All the vineyards offer wine tasting, not surprisingly, and if you’re planning on staying in a sunny European wine region between May and September, go for a spot with a private pool. Essential after a hard day’s work tasting wines.
We’ve taken the liberty of keeping the description of the farmhouse at Bauduc (pictured) in our shortened version below. The Times website doesn’t link direct to the other websites unfortunately, so you’ll have to do a bit of copying and pasting of domain names for more info.
One final note. Only 5 out of the 20 can be booked direct, despite the time and care that goes into making each destination special. In this day and age, isn’t that a pity?
June 14th 2012, by Gavin
Bad news for Bordeaux? A decidedly lacklustre En Primeur campaign for the top 2011s (good wines but many were overpriced) and now the crucial flowering of the vines for 2012 looks to be late and uneven. This could, though, be a welcome break for people who actually buy the stuff to drink.
In complete contrast to last year, when the vines budded early and then a very warm, dry Spring helped to accelerate the growth, 2012 has got off to a slow start. The weather has been mixed to date, although with gorgeous weather in late May, things were looking up.
April 2nd 2012, by Gavin
At the end of September 2011, I wrote about the unusual 2011 harvest in Bordeaux. Some people out there like to see the nerdy stuff, so I put together my weather charts for Livex, the Fine Wine Exchange. Here’s my article that appeared on their site in March. (For my other fascinating articles on the Livex blog, search ‘Quinney’).
As the trade and press prepare to descend on Bordeaux for the annual en primeur tastings in late March and early April, here are my weather charts for the 2011 season compared to recent vintages.
A summary of what happened in the vineyard:
1. Early budbreak, very warm spring, drought until July.
2. An up-and-down summer.
3. Low threat of mildew early on but risk of rot later.
4. An early harvest under September sun.
5. Picking dates a gamble between ripeness and rot.
6. Sorting and selection were key.
7. Quality and yield vary from one estate to another.
March 20th 2012, by Gavin
I was asked by Gemma, the News Editor at Harpers Wine and Spirit, for my thoughts on the 2011 vintage before the trade and press tastings here in the first week of April. Here was my reply.
Even though I live and breath each vintage in Bordeaux, it’s foolish to try and predict how each Château’s wines are going to show from barrel, especially with such an up-and-down year as 2011.
No-one is going to claim that 2011 is a better vintage than, say, 2009. Apart from me, that is – I lost 80% of my crop to hail in May 2009. (So did hundreds of others, for that matter.) But for the great wines, 2011 sits in the shadows of 2009 and 2010, despite the dry and sweet whites from last year showing real promise.
There are some key factors about 2011.
We had a very early budbreak and then a summer-like spring, so the vines flowered about three weeks early in May. By the beginning of July, after a bone dry period of four months, the development of many vines had become blocked through lack of rain. July and August were then up-and-down – at times hot and humid, at other times cool and rainy.
The year will go down as a very dry year, with just 270mm of rain from March to September, compared to the 30 year-average in Bordeaux of 430mm. But in July and August we had around 150mm of rain compared to a norm of 100mm, so a glance at a weather chart will show that it was an upside-down season – dry from March to June and again in September but wetter in the summer. Weird.
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.