This was published on JancisRobinson.com (click on the Bordeaux 2015 for related posts on the site) and on Livex, the fine wine exchange.
It’s a risky business, predicting a wonderful vintage before hardly a red grape has been picked, so, for the moment, here’s an interim update on how things are going in Bordeaux at the start of the harvest. There’s still a way to go.
A month is a long time in viticulture and many growers were concerned as recently as the first week of August about the extremely dry conditions we’d experienced since mid-June. (See Bordeaux 2015 – dry and sunny, still.) Then the rain came in August, refreshing the vines as the bunches changed colour.
Merlot at Château Troplong Mondot, Saint-Emilion
Summer seemed to slip into autumn with the arrival of September, with cooler nights and fresh, sunny days right from the start of the month. That’s good news for the white wine harvest, which is now well under way in the Graves and the Entre Deux Mers, having started earlier, as always, in the warmer vineyards of Pessac-Léognan.
It should be fine this week but there could be rain this weekend, 12-13 September, after which the red harvest will begin in more precocious areas. Some Merlots from recent plantations have already been picked, such as at Château Cheval Blanc in Saint Emilion last week, but these really are exceptions. Keep reading
Forget the rain dance. Our review at the end of July, following six weeks of drought, was called ’Time to borrow some rain’ and it did the trick: Mother Nature acted on the collective response of ’you’re bloody welcome to it’ with some heavy showers in August. In fact, we had more rain at Bauduc in August than in the three previous months put together. Conveniently, the last instalment of rain was on 31 August, which is just as well.
Here are some pics and, yes, a weather graph or two.
At Bauduc, we had half the normal rainfall in May, June and July combined, then twice the normal rain (or the average over 30 years) in August. No rain since the (UK) Bank Holiday Monday, with none forecast for the first ten days of September.
Véraison, when the grapes change colour, is in full flow in Bordeaux. The dry and sunny weather has continued into the first week of August, with a welcome blip of rain in the early hours of Tuesday this week. With most of France taking a holiday, there’s a lull in the work in the vineyard between the hard labour of handling the vines from Spring to Summer, and the build up to the late September harvest. (The whites will start earlier.)
There’s always some tidying up that can be done now, like the éclaircissage seen here at Chateau Margaux this week – the removal of excess bunches to prevent overcrowding; we’ll see more green harvesting as the veraison draws to a close, when it becomes easier to spot the bunches that are lagging behind. Meanwhile the trimming of leaves with a Japanese sword, as at Chateau Léoville Poyferré (below), isn’t something I’d practice at home. Keep reading
This post is also published on JancisRobinson.com and Liv-ex.
’Come at the end of June’, I said to my mother when we arranged for her to stay, a while back. ’The weather should be nice then.’ It has indeed been hot and sunny but we certainly weren’t predicting that the temperature could reach 40°C this afternoon. We – and the vines – are bracing ourselves for a heatwave over the next week, with the odd storm mixed in for good measure.
You can identify Bordeaux because it’s the one marked 40˚C. In June…
The prospects for the vintage, heatwave notwithstanding, are bright. Bordeaux had close to ideal conditions for the rapid flowering in late May and early June, which was crucial for the size and evenness of the crop; then rain after the 9 June was helpful for the thirsty vines. Keep reading
The vines are coming into flower. I’ve taken a picture of the vineyard in front of the chateau on the 23rd May each year – it started that way – and the photos show just how different the uneven years have been. 2009 just after the hail, 2011 way ahead of other years, 2013 limp and lagging well behind, and now with 2015 looking strangely normal for the time of year.
23 May 2009, Chateau Bauduc, after hail 10 days before.
23 May 2011, Chateau Bauduc. An early vintage that got off to a flyer.
23 May 2013, Chateau Bauduc. Way behind – and in August, we’d be hit by hail.
23 May 2015, Chateau Bauduc. Verging on normal.