Same vines in late May, different years

Ten days after a hailstorm at Ch Bauduc on 23 May 2009.

Every year on the 23rd May, I take a photo of the Merlot vines outside the château and each picture tells a story. From the hailstorm in May in 2009, to the early harvest in 2011 and 2017, the grotty start to the growing season in 2013 and the normal, good years like 2016. Here are some of those photos.

The earliest growing season – a burst out of the blocks, 23 May 2011.

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Bordeaux 2017 – an overview of the vintage

No two years are the same in Bordeaux but this one, with any luck, was unique. 2017 will no doubt be remembered as the year of the frost but it’s also a vintage in which many of the top châteaux produced some very good wines. It was, for sure, a year when location really mattered.

As well as that, and beyond the spring frost, 2017 was an atypical, early growing season, with an early and successful flowering in late May, sunshine in June then heavy rain at the of the month, followed by a dry and cool summer, some late August heat, and then rather too many damp days just before the red harvest in September. It’s rare for the red harvest to be wrapped up for many estates by the end of September, especially for the later ripening Cabernet Sauvignon – as at Château Montrose in St-Estèphe above.

Bizarrely, an unusual year all round has conjured up some classically proportioned red Bordeaux – and some excellent whites too, both dry and sweet.

Here are my previous articles on the vintage:

The ghastly frost damage in Bordeaux, 5 May 2017

The frost map of Bordeaux, 30 May 2017

The smallest harvest in France since 1945, 31 August 2017

Bordeaux 2017 – harvest and weather report, 2 Nov 2017

Bordeaux 2017 production figures by Appellation – the haves and have nots, 28 Feb 2018

Frost map of Bordeaux 2017 updated, 30 April 2018

Update: Bordeaux 2017 en primeur buying guide, May 2018

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April review and Bordeaux 2017 scores

Normally we’d be a bit miserable with these seasonal showers (above) yet we are delighted to report that there has been no repeat of the late spring frost that half-trashed our vines at the end of April last year. Once the risk of ‘les Saints des Glaces’ have passed by around the middle of May, we’ll only have to stress about the weather for a further five months.

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Frost map of Bordeaux 2017 updated

Many readers will be familiar with the original frost map of Bordeaux that I put together after driving around the region a year ago, shouting ‘oh my God’ as I travelled from one valley of vineyards to the next. Since the data was gathered in a somewhat haphazard fashion, here is a new version with some real facts and figures. There’s quite a bit of detail so I recommend downloading the map as a pdf.

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Note the contrast in fortunes between the famous appellations at the northern end of the Médoc – Saint-Julien, Pauillac and Saint-Estèphe – and those on the ‘Right Bank’ of the Gironde estuary, such as Saint-Emilion and its satellites.

March review, and Happy Easter

March has been a bit mad. Our spirits have been tested in this last, thoroughly sodden week, but no doubt the Easter bunny will bring us all good cheer as spring approaches. Funnily enough, Good Friday is not a public holiday in France.

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