There’s a long way to go before the autumn harvest and the grapes have yet to change colour, let alone ripen, but the end of July seems a reasonable moment to take stock of how the growing season is progressing. Most of the hands-on chores in the vines have been done, and vineyard managers can take their annual August holiday before the harvest preparations begin in earnest.
Speaking of stock, the flowering took place in June and the grapes and bunches evolved in the ensuing weeks, so we have a clue as to how the volumes might look, all being well. This month, in fact, the French Ministry of Agriculture released its estimates of the size of the 2019 crop across France based on conditions to date. AOP wine production (what most of us still know as Appellation Contrôlée) in 2019 is forecast to be between 0 and 8% below the five year average of 2,100 million litres. Bordeaux accounts for around a quarter of that figure and as the largest contributor, the numbers from here can have quite an impact.
Bordeaux 2019 latest
In short, a few days of rain and a brief chill in early June took the edge off the flowering, which had begun so well, while, in contrast, two days of heavy rain on 26-27 July proved a godsend after the prolonged dry and hot patch between mid-June and late July, with peaks close to 40˚C at the end of June and indeed exceeding 40˚C on 23 July. It’s all to play for, still. Marks so far? 7/10. Keep reading
“Phew – it’s a scorcher” we wrote at the end of June. And so it continued, right up until last Friday when, mercifully, the thirsty vines received some refreshing rain.
We’ve seen 40 degrees centigrade from time to time across a number of summers, yet it’s rare to hit such sweltering heights in consecutive months – and that’s before we’ve even made it to August.
Phew, it’s a scorcher. After yesterday, when it nudged 40˚C here, it’s calming down to the low to mid thirties today and throughout next week.
Exactly a week ago, it barely reached 20˚C and rained most of the day, and that’s been the pattern for June. Up, down and up again. Rather like our energy levels, as it’s also been a month of entertaining. Roll on the summer hols – oh, hang on…
The end of May, if you’ll forgive the cliché. Whatever next?
June, you say, and a fair amount of sport still. It’s also an important few weeks ahead in the vineyard as the vines have just started flowering, and this unspectacular yet critical period can potentially make or break a wine grower as it plays a huge part in determining the yield. A poor flowering and you won’t get decent bunches.
Ten years ago but it’s still in fresh in the memory. 2009 turned out to be one of the great Bordeaux vintages for reds (okay, so 2010 and 2016 and now, arguably, 2018 would sit alongside it) but for us it was close to disaster with not one but two hailstorms in May. The vines that didn’t get clobbered on the 13th May were whacked on the 25th.
Damaged vines from early May frost, Montagne Saint Emilion 17 May 2019.
Late spring frosts in May are extremely rare in Bordeaux but there were some icy mornings on the weekend of the 5th to 7th May. Some friends here lost the crop from a parcel or two of vines, and although the damage was bad in some spots it was not nearly as widespread as the devastating frost at the end of April 2017. We were spared, fortunately. Keep reading
If we had a pound for the number of times this will be mentioned by visitors this summer, we’ll be able to buy a bottle. Well, maybe a half. Here’s a quick recap of this cracking story that went around the world, and a brief look at how that bottle of Le Pin 2001 ended up being quite so expensive on the wine list in Manchester. Funnily enough, I was treated by some generous, wine-loving friends at a famous restaurant in northern Spain some ten years ago, and spotted the exact same wine on the list. “Wow!” I said. “They’ve got Le Pin ‘01 on the list for €600. The trade price, if you can find a bottle, is three times that.”
“Great” they said. “Order two.” Keep reading
We’ve been bottling again this week, bringing in the same contractor but using an even smarter machine than before. This one comes in at a couple of million euros on the back of a few trucks, with all the bits, according to Thierry Bergeon who wrote the cheque. He’s the bottling guy and the logistics partner for many of Bordeaux’s leading châteaux. And us. Keep reading
22 May 2019
We’ve taken a picture of the Merlot vines in front of the Château on the 23rd May each year. This one was taken on the 22nd because it was so grey and rainy the following day, but it shows how it compares to previous years. (23 May pic below.)
The odd thing is how some vintages are completely different to others. The early budding and growing season of 2011, compared to the late one of 2013, and the hail damaged crop of 2009. Touch wood, so far so good for 2019.
Ten days after a hailstorm at Ch Bauduc on 23 May 2009
The earliest growing season – a burst out of the blocks, 23 May 2011
It’s Bordeaux en primeur time and 2018 is actually a vintage to get quite enthusiastic about. There hasn’t been such a great year since, erm, 2016.
The fine wine world descended on the region earlier in April and, along with thousands from the global trade and scores of journalists and critics, Gavin tasted hundreds of barrel samples.