April 26th 2013, by Gavin
This article was posted today on Livex, the fine wine exchange.
I’ve tasted over 500 Bordeaux wines from the 2012 vintage in April.
Key points about Bordeaux 2012
1. 2012 is a good to very good vintage, but not a great one.
2. It’s certainly a vintage for drinking, not investment. Many wines will be good to drink in the short to medium term.
3. 2012 was a late harvest which tended to favour the earlier ripening Merlot over the Cabernets, partly because drizzle, humidity and finally heavy rain set in from the second week of October onwards.
4. It’s an uneven vintage but hundreds of reds have lovely colour, supple fruit, crowd-pleasing texture and no hard edges.
5. Happily, very few wines show any green, unripe character. The fruit is ripe (thanks to ten weeks of sunshine from mid-July onwards) even if many wines lack real depth, complexity and length.
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 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.
September 22nd 2011, by Gavin
We’ve completed our harvest, which is a relief. More on the fun and games shortly: a judicious mixture of hand picking and machine harvesting.
We’re often asked how long we’ve been here, to which we usually reply ’10 years or so’. Hang on. This was, in fact, our 13th harvest.
“Well, to tell you the truth, in all this excitement, I’ve kinda lost track myself… You’ve got to ask yourself one question: do I feel lucky? Well, do ya punk?”
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.
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.
January 26th 2011, by Gavin
We’ve had an incredible response to our recent ’30-Second Survey’. As I mentioned in 10 Questions about Corks v Screwcaps, we’ve considered whether we should continue with corks for our white and rosé, and possibly for our reds. With the bottling of over 10,000 cases due to take place next month, we wanted to know what everyone thinks. The easiest thing to do would be not to change anything – after all, we get few complaints.
On 14 January, we emailed all our customers (or rather, all those who are on our email list), with a link to a simple survey, which closed a week later. The question was:
What closures should we use to bottle our wines?
There were three choices – cork, screwcap or don’t mind – for each category of white, rosé and red. Over 1100 responded within a week, leaving their full name and email address (which wasn’t obligatory). Around 700 left a comment. This was the result (1148 entries):
January 14th 2011, by Gavin
The debate about corks versus screwcaps is hardly a new one, so why now?
Today, we’re emailing our customers with a 30-Second Survey to see whether they prefer corks or screwcaps on our whites, reds and rosé. We’re bottling next month, so we’d like to know what our customers prefer.
What closures do Château Bauduc use?
All our wines in our current line-up (pre-2010 vintage) are bottled with natural cork from Portugal. After some poor experiences with corks ten years ago, we did a trial using Stelvin – the leading brand of screwcaps – for our 2002 vintage Bordeaux Blanc. The 2002 bottles sealed with Stelvin are still drinking well today.
Why not carry on with Stelvin screwcaps back then?
Consumer reaction in 2003 was mixed and some restaurateurs were not in favour. The acceptance of screwcaps since has obviously changed in most countries, especially the UK, but not in France. More importantly, we changed cork suppliers – we now use two or three – and the quality of corks has improved dramatically. It’s a small point but we were also quite attached to the uncommon ‘antique’ green colour of our bottles, which until now have not been available here for screwcaps.
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.