Tag Archives: Left Bank

Bordeaux 2013 – the harvest so far

Cos Oct 2 2013 - 020 - Version 2

Also published on JancisRobinson.com and Livex.

A complicated year, a complicated harvest. After a fraught growing season in 2013 (see my pre-harvest report for a detailed overview), most Bordeaux chateaux and vignerons have had to bring in their Merlots rather sooner than planned, before the dreaded rot sets in. Some Cabernets are following in quick succession (as at Lafite-Rothschild in Pauillac, below) but now that the sun has come out, there’s a ray of hope for those that can hold on for a little while longer.

It’s all a far cry from the à la carte harvests of 2009 and 2010, when you could pick and choose at leisure. ’Une année compliquée’ is a polite way of describing 2013 and can be used by owners and managers without giving their public relations people a headache. It’s really code for a bit of a shocker.

Lafite 2 Oct 2013 - 024 - Version 2

The weather at the end of September and for the first days of October proved, unfortunately, to be ideal for the development of botrytis – otherwise known as rot. Sultry heat and too much rain over the weekend of 27-29 September was perfect for the champignons in the bunches to thrive and forced growers on both banks to be extra vigilant and, for most, to take swift action.

In many cases they’ve had to harvest red grapes long before they had had a chance to ripen, and only the tiniest estates in places like Pomerol can bring in everything at the same time. Out in the vineyards, it’s been all mud-clogged wellies, short sleeved shirts and waterproofs. Until this week that is, with the welcome boost of chilly, bright mornings and warm sun in the afternoon. Keep reading

Bordeaux 2013 – pre-harvest report

Harvest survey - 62This article also appears on JancisRobinson.com and Livex – the fine wine trading exchange.

As the Bordeaux harvest begins, here is a detailed report on the weather so far this year and its impact on the vines.

It’s fair to say that my earlier updates on the 2013 growing season in Bordeaux have been less than enthusiastic. Running late in May, The flowering and Soggy Vinexpo, sodden vines in June, Lafite’s weeping willows in July and then, in August, the Hail in Bordeaux series of posts hardly paint a rosy picture.

Yet even at this stage at the end of September, this roller coaster vintage is still too early to call. The weather in October for the red harvest (Bordeaux is 88% red) will be crucial. Even before then, storms are forecast for this weekend, after a week of sunshine.

To follow my harvest updates on Twitter, type the following in the Twitter search box:   from:gavinquinney #bdx13


1. 2013 is an exceptionally late harvest. (Or should be.)

2. 2013 will be a small crop in Bordeaux overall.

3. A cold first half of the year held up growth in the vineyard.

4. An unusually cold, wet May and downpours in June led to late, uneven flowering.

5. July was hot and dry, August sunny, September up and down. October is key.

6. An August hailstorm hit more than 10,000 hectares – about 10% of the Bordeaux vineyard – but none of the top châteaux.

7. Quality and yields will be extremely variable – the contrast is evident in the vineyards.

8. The dry white harvest has started well, while prospects for sweet whites are ‘promising’.

9. The red harvest is likely to be a race against time (and rot) as the autumn weather draws in.

10. The advantage lies with those who have the resources and equipment to be highly selective. Keep reading

Lafite’s weeping willows

DSC_0486We had a storm in Bordeaux late last Friday and in the early hours of Saturday. Summer thunderstorms here are not uncommon after protracted heat waves, but there was some significant, localised damage. Heavy rain caused flash floods in the city, strong winds brought down a few trees around the region, and vine growers prayed that any hail would pass them by.

The most photogenic damage was to the willow trees of Chateau Lafite Rothschild that sit between the lakes and gardens of this illustrious property and the D2 main road. Many were brought down in fierce winds between 11pm on Friday and 2am on Saturday.

Several estates in Pauillac, such as Pontet Canet, Lynch Bages and Fonbadet, suffered superficial damage – to trees, mostly – but it was in the valley below the buildings at Lafite that tourists stopped to take pictures. At least twenty trees were lost or broken and by Sunday evening there was still a great deal of clearing up to be done. Keep reading

Soggy Vinexpo, sodden vines


The week of the 16th June was a shocker in the vineyard.

When I was a lad, the week beginning the 16th was a special one. It was the start of the coarse fishing season in England and, as long as it wasn’t pouring with rain, a time to sneak off to catch carp, perch and other freshwater fish. (I still don’t think of these specimens as food, like the French do.)

This year in Bordeaux, the glorious 16th saw Chateau Mouton Rothschild unveil its spanking new cellars in a blaze of sunshine and glory by the banks of the Gironde. What a tremendous way for the privileged few – those of us that made the cut for dinner – to begin the week of Vinexpo, the trade fair. (We had soufflé de brochet, otherwise known as pike soufflé, to start; it was delicious.)

Unfortunately, Sunday was the last we saw of the sun. From Monday onwards, it was pretty grim for vines and visitors to Bordeaux alike. As I’ve said recently in The Flowering, this is a critical period for vine growers. (That post was also published on Livex and jancisrobinson.com – Jancis wittily called it ‘Bordeaux’s blooming gloom’.)

Hail apart – and they’ve had some of that up the road in the Loire valley – the weather could hardly have been worse. Not only is the flowering really late but it has poured during the crucial time, with potentially disastrous results for the crop. The tiny flowers are vulnerable to cold, damp weather and poor fruit set is likely, affecting quantity and quality. Keep reading

Vinexpo: New cellars at Mouton Rothschild

Mouton Nikon - 15One thing about Bordeaux. They know how to put on a show.

Chateau Mouton Rothschild hosted the dinner laid on by the Grands Crus Classés of 1855, held on the opening Sunday of Vinexpo, and luckily it was a fabulously sunny day. The occasion was made even smarter by the unveiling of their brand new cuverie, chai and cellars. Oh, how the other half live. Keep reading