This month has seen our twentieth harvest at Bauduc. We took over the grapes that were on the vines when we arrived at the start of September 1999, so we haven’t quite clocked up 20 years, but the 2018 vintage is still a (frightening) milestone. Daniel was already here, and he still has no grey hairs, while Nelly joined us as a trainee. Pictured below, they’ve both put up with us ever since. Meanwhile, Michel, above, and better known as known as Papi, had already retired back then yet he’s volunteered to help in each and every harvest, and at 85 is still going strong. There’s hope for us all yet.
Every stage of the grapes’ development is fascinating to some of us but August is the month when most of the bunches change colour (véraison) in Bordeaux, so you really get a visual perspective on how the different varieties perform.
As well as the Bordeaux varieties, we have some non-Bordeaux grapes too, planted around ten years ago as an experiment. Most visitors have little idea that we’re restricted to growing only certain types of grapes, but that’s the same for all protected ‘appellations’ in France: should we wish to make wine with non-Bordeaux grapes, like Syrah or Chardonnay, this would have to be under the basic Vin de France label. (Only a tiny fraction of wine from the Gironde is Vin de France, the rest ‘Bordeaux’ or one of its 60-odd appellations.)
This is a long post below with several photos of each variety, and you certainly don’t need to know all about this stuff to enjoy a glass or two of wine. However, to give you a picture of how different grapes ripen at different times, here are several reds in the same block, taken on the same mid-August day:
Another dry and unusually hot month, and the white harvest has already kicked off in the more precocious Bordeaux vineyards, namely to the south of the city in Pessac-Léognan. Most white vines, like ours, are sensibly holding back just long enough until the managers, oenologists and staff return from their holidays.
The INAO, the body that controls viticulture and wine production in the protected Appellations of France, have given approval for the use of anti-hail nets following some extensive tests in Burgundy. Until now, growers in Appellation Contrôlée vineyards have not been allowed to install nets against hail because the effect on the grapes and on the vines hasn’t been properly understood and they can alter the nature of the terroir. Or something like that.
In the big picture of things, this may not seem to be especially significant news but it’s an interesting development for us and for any wine growers who have to live through the fairly regular stress of hail storm alerts. And, from time to time, the real losses from hail damage.
The successful Burgundy tests have taken three years and this coincides with the experimental nets that we installed at Bauduc in June 2015 (above). Our trials were not so much to see if they work against hail (we think they would, though mercifully they’ve not been put to the test) but to assess how long they might last, and what impact there is on the vines, the labour, and the grapes. Now that we’ve been given the feu vert, in effect, we will spend more time and effort really understanding how the grapes behind the nets perform and how they taste during this harvest, compared to the neighbouring rows. Keep reading
This post also appears on JancisRobinson.com and on Liv-ex, the fine wine market website.
I’ll keep the football analogies to a minimum but the end of the month in which France won the World Cup seems an appropriate moment to reflect on the pluses and minuses of the season so far. For wine growers, or viticulteurs, the business end of the season will soon be upon us.
Following on from a wet winter and a thoroughly damp spring, the start of the summer has been dry and hot. In fact, of the last 44 days, 22 have seen temperatures over 30°C around Bordeaux, with another 14 days over 28°C. July itself has been the hottest in France since 1947, still behind 2006 and 1983 but knocking 2015 into fourth spot. Keep reading