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.
3. We’ve harvested grapes from our vines and our vines alone. This may sound odd but with all the replanting that’s taken place since 2000, we’ve had to supplement our young, non-productive vines with a lease or two on neighbouring vineyards. With the frost and hail damage in the last two years, we’ve had to take out further leases. This year – tempting fate perhaps – we terminated all the leases now that all our vines are in production.
4. The yield, for the first time in ages, has been close to normal. We’re not up at the permitted yields for white just yet with our young vines (we’ve made less than 50hl/ha compared to the limit of 65hl/ha) but we’re close to the limit for red and rosé (around 50hl/ha). In real terms, that means that with 6666 vines per hectare for our Trois Hectares red, now planted in 1.5 metre-wide rows and 1 metre between the vines, we’ve made a bottle per vine: 5000 litres divided by the number of 0.75 litre bottles = 6666 bottles from 6666 vines. (When you consider that each vine is passed by hand at least seven times and by tractor around 20 times, it makes you realise the work that goes into each bottle, long before the juice is turned into alcohol.) With cheap Bordeaux, by the way, you’d be looking for at least two bottles per vine, because there are fewer vines per hectare in ‘lesser’ vineyards and higher yields per vine.
5. More important than the yield, the quality is excellent, with the grapes being harvested in perfect shape. With just the right amount of rain at the right intervals in September and early October (but you don’t know that when it’s raining), we were able to wait until the red grapes were fully ripe. It sounds obvious that a grower should pick ripe grapes but all too often around here, grapes are picked before the tannins in the pips and skins are ripe. It’s a bit like spread-betting – do you bank your winnings and maybe cash in too early, or go for broke?
6. The real remarkable thing about Bauduc – and Bordeaux – in 2010 is that, despite it being extraordinarily dry, the vines have produced delicious grapes. Now we’re busy trying to to them into delicious wine. More anon.