After two great Bordeaux vintages, 2011 has been a year of living dangerously. “It’s complicated,” Christian Moueix explained when I asked what he thought of the millésime, as his team picked in St-Emilion. If one of the most respected winemakers thinks it’s hard to generalise, it might be foolish for the rest of us to rush into snap judgments.
Let me try and explain what’s been going on in the Bordeaux vineyard this year, and forgive me for the amount of detail. My fascinating weather charts will follow later (updated for 2011 here).
Here’s a summary:
1. Early start, warm spring, then drought.
2. An up-and-down summer.
3. Early harvest, September sunshine.
4. When to pick: balancing ripeness with the risk of rot.
5. These magnificent men (and women) and their sorting machines.
6. Volume 5% up overall but yields vary from one estate to another.
7. Finally, a Tweet showing how the growing season compares.
I recently interviewed a fellow ‘Brit in Bordeaux’ for the subscriber section of JancisRobinson.com. There’s a great deal of free content on the site but for any wine enthusiast, the ‘Purple Pages’ are well worth £69 a year. Jancis has kindly allowed me to publish the article here:
This is the second in a series of articles looking back at the 2010 Bordeaux En Primeur campaign.
Englishman Christian Seely is the managing director of the AXA Millésimes group of estates, based at Château Pichon-Longueville in Pauillac. Besides this ‘Super Second’, Seely looks after Châteaux Pibran, also in Pauillac, Petit Village in Pomerol and Suduiraut in Sauternes, as well as estates in the Languedoc, Burgundy, Portugal and Hungary. He is also president of the Compagnie Médocaine, AXA’s Bordeaux négociant business.
Gavin Quinney, the owner of Château Bauduc (a recent Wine of the week), interviewed his compatriot about the 2010 campaign. Here is the transcript.
GQ: Why does the campaign have to take so-ooh long?
CS: Everybody agrees it should be quicker and start sooner – it is very annoying for customers. But each campaign has its own rhythm, and each property is waiting for the right moment. It shouldn’t be like that, of course. The timing though is key and it’s an incredibly important decision. There is an unofficial order, or hierarchy, and each property has their own idea of where they’re situated in that order. It’s their decision – and there are hundreds of individual decisions. Keep reading
One Bordeaux story that flew around the internet this month was a Bordeaux negociant’s public refusal to buy a top Chateau’s 2010 because the price was ‘ludicrous’. At that price the wine ‘deserved to tank in the market’, I tweeted. So guess who I sat next to at a black-tie dinner, given by the leading Châteaux, two days later?
Let me explain.
Harpers Wine and Spirit Trade Gazette published my article on 3rd June, with my photo of a picker at Château Troplong Mondot on the front cover: “Massive prices for the 2010 First Growths, Super Seconds and Flying Fifths won’t deter investors, and buyers from the Far East, but will the Bordeaux en primeur bandwagon run out of steam further down the line?”
It’s been a long haul, and we’re still not there. I’ll report back fully as the campaign draws to a close in the next fortnight. Here are my opening paragraphs from the article.
I wrote this piece for Livex, “the insiders’ guide to the global fine wine market”, and was published on 3rd May.
Having previously reported on the wines and weather of Bordeaux 2010, my latest contribution covers this year’s en primeur tastings.
There was something different in the air this year, and it wasn’t just the constant tweeting of what the stuff tasted like.
En primeur attendances were higher than ever at the top estates, according to Paul Pontallier of Château Margaux (right). Much in evidence there, and at all the Firsts, were the Chinese translations of the brochures, to add to the long-standing piles of English and French versions. Based on visits to the leading properties the week after the UGCs, these were still being snapped up by Bordeaux’s new best friends.
Perhaps that’s what’s changed. Opinions about many of the great wines no longer matter. For the top Châteaux, even huge Parker points or double asterisks won’t be required to sell the iconic brands and for most of us, some of the tastings were academic.