Happy New Year. It may surprise you to know that with Christmas Day 2011 and New Year’s Day 2012 both falling on a Sunday, we didn’t have a Public Holiday in France on Boxing Day or on Monday 2nd January. The vineyard team worked all the way through, with no additional time off.
But France will more than make up for it in 2012, and the following dates may be useful to bear in mind if you’re planning to come to France or do business here.
Unlike the UK, where Bank or Public Holidays are on Mondays (except for Royal occasions), French public holidays are based on the actual date. This can be a double-edged sword.
The French often like to bridge, or faire le pont*, to make a long weekend of it if the official Public Holiday falls on a Tuesday or a Thursday. I’ve included these unofficial days in the table below.
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
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.
It’s five years since Oz Clarke and James May came to Bauduc at the start of their Big Wine Adventure – the video of the day is on the home page of our main Bauduc website and on the blog here. Oz has been back a few times since, the most recent visit being in March.
Here are his thoughts following his visit, with his kind permission. A slightly shorter version appeared in our Gazette, the newsletter we printed and posted to UK customers in May. You can view La Gazette online here.
‘Right, I thought – time to hit the 2010s. So I stopped off at my old mate Gavin’s place, Château Bauduc, and tasted at least 10 barrels of rather fine Merlot before we hit the real business of the evening which was to actually drink as much Bauduc as he could possibly afford without bankrupting him. Which we did – we bankrupted him. We drank the lot.