As they say, the wines that are really in demand you can’t get hold of, and the wines that are available no one wants to buy. However, there are some delicious wines that are affordable – and available – which are certainly worth a punt. Steven Spurrier, the hugely respected writer and critic for Decanter who retired from judging the primeurs earlier this year, told me that he didn’t buy wines that cost more than £500 a case en primeur/in bond (ie excluding duty and VAT) because he didn’t have any friends who’d appreciate them.
The Bordeaux 2016 ’en primeur’ machine marches relentlessly on. (Lordy, I’ve been to nine Chelsea matches since the official week of tastings began in Bordeaux at the start of April, and there’s still no end in sight.) Here’s a link to a copy of my Bordeaux 2016 report for Harpers, the UK trade magazine, including my favourite 100 red wines. You can find many of my scores tabled alongside other critics on Liv-ex, the London International Vintners exchange, here.
I can’t repeat the whole article here but here are some highlights.
The wine trade and press descend on Bordeaux next week for the official En Primeur tastings of the latest vintage. There’s little doubt, to my mind, that they’ll find a great many exciting wines, both in the Royal Circle and in the more affordable stalls. At the top end, the wines will not be cheap when prices emerge later on but there’ll be scores of others that offer terrific bang for your buck – or even for your pound. Here, as a precursor to these tastings of young wines from barrel, is a graphical look at how the weather made the vintage.
Here’s how the vintage panned out. I’ll start with a few graphs and tables, and then show a few photos to give you an idea of what was happening in the vineyard. Keep reading
2016 was the biggest Bordeaux harvest in over a decade, according to official figures. The production of 577.2 million litres – the equivalent of a staggering 770 million bottles – was the largest since 2006, when there was 10% more vineyard area. Strong harvest figures for Bordeaux are, of course, in stark contrast to many less fortunate regions across France in 2016.
(If this piece looks familiar, it was also published on JancisRobinson.com and Liv-ex.)
At an average of 52 hectolitres per hectare (hl/ha), 2016 saw the highest yield per hectare since the largest crop of the century to date in 2004, which came in at 54 hl/ha. “The yield on the Merlot,” I wrote in Bordeaux 2016 – quality and quantity last October, “is the biggest I’ve seen since 2004 and the quality is far superior to that attractive but uneven vintage. As Bordeaux is 89% red and Merlot accounts for two thirds of that 89%, it’ll be a big crop out in the sticks.” Keep reading
An extraordinary growing season and a terrific harvest. Fortune has smiled on us this year and we’re all the more grateful considering the difficulties facing many growers elsewhere in France. The tanks above shows the lottery of growing grapes. Normally, we make roughly the equivalent of three of our 20,000 litre blending tanks of white wine. In 2013, after a 10-minute August hailstorm, we made just one. This year, touch wood, we’ll fill almost five. As our biggest selling white – our straight Sauvignon Blanc – sold out within a few months, that’s welcome news. Keep reading
This post was also published on jancisRobinson.com and Liv-ex, the fine wine exchange.
Nature has been kind to Bordeaux this year. A bumper crop for many, and a fine harvest – so far. It may be over for some growers in this vast region but there are plenty of bunches still out there, as numerous chateaux hold on for the later-ripening Cabernets and the last Merlots from cooler soils.
There has been no rush, no panic, to bring in the grapes. After the bone-dry summer, the vines enjoyed some overdue refreshment thanks to heavy rain on the night of 13 September. It cleared up soon afterwards and, since then, we’ve had dry and sunny weather for the build-up to the harvest – and for the picking itself – with just one more night of rain on Friday 30 September during a crucial four week period. Keep reading
This week has been dry and sunny, so we’ve decided to hold off harvesting the reds at Bauduc for the moment. We had a heavy dollop of rain last Friday night – straight after we’d sent out an upbeat monthly review – so an excellent September came to an abrupt end. Thankfully though, the rain was just a one-off and since then we’ve had fresh mornings and glorious days. We therefore thought we’d leave that downpour to freshen things up in the vineyard, and hang on for what they call optimum ripeness.
We also have a useful early warning system nearby, thanks to the earlier maturing vineyards of Pomerol some 25 minutes up the road near Libourne, where Tom goes to school. Our Merlot usually ripens 8-10 days later than at the top chateaux on the plateau of Pomerol so, after dropping Tom at school, it makes good sense – in the name of research, of course – to study the harvest taking place on one of the finest patches of dirt in the world. Keep reading
This Bordeaux 2016 vintage update was published on JancisRobinson.com and on Livex, the fine wine exchange.
It’s five weeks since my mid-August report on Bordeaux 2016’s glorious Summer, so here’s an update on how things are shaping up for the harvest. The white harvest is already well under way as we await the Merlots and Cabernets.
Merlot vines in Saint-Emilion, 7 September 2016
The ’glorious summer’ continued, in fact, for four more weeks until the night of 13 September. It had proved to be exceptionally dry. For the 12 weeks from 23 June (that infamous date seems a long time ago now), many areas of Bordeaux saw only a tenth of the 30-year average rainfall: St-Emilion, Sauternes, Margaux and parts of the Entre Deux Mers had around just 14mm compared to the average of 140mm. Even Blaye, which registered more rain than most, had only 30mm in those 12 weeks – less than a quarter of the norm. It was also hot for long stretches, but as you can see from the chart below, the night-time temperatures were not unbearably high, and the switch between cooler nights and daytime heat was beneficial for the vines. Keep reading
We’ve had an extraordinary Summer. It’s been sunny and hot at times, especially in mid-July and the second half of August – it’s 30°C as we write this and took the photo this morning – but it has been incredibly dry.
I put together this Bordeaux 2016 vintage update for JancisRobinson.com and for Livex, the fine wine exchange.
It’s been exceptionally dry during the holidays, with plenty of sunshine around Bordeaux. Most tourists have been on the beach, relaxing by the pool, strolling around markets or spending time in the city of Bordeaux itself. Those with an interest in wine might have visited the new Cité du Vin, which opened in June, or taken a trip out to Saint-Emilion.
Margaux, Palmer and Pavie in the shade of the Merlot at Chateau Bauduc, 16 August 2016
Those who have ventured out into the vineyards – beyond the refreshingly cool barrel cellars – might have seen how dry the ground looks. The parched grass verges contrast starkly with the lush green rows of vines, which are, for the most part, in remarkably rude health. As you’d imagine, young vines with shallow roots on dry soils suffer when there’s no rain but, overall, the vines are coping well, especially given the heat over the French holiday this last weekend with temperatures consistently reaching 33°C or more.