November has been a hectic month, though less so in the vineyard itself. We sometimes forget how beautiful it can be at this time of year, with the golden rows of vines set against the autumn backdrop of the woods.
This month’s exciting review covers the Bordeaux 2018 vintage and how the weather impacted on the harvest. Below is a cutdown version of a longer article that Gavin has just put together for Jancis Robinson’s website and for Liv-ex (the London International Vintners’ Exchange).
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.