Tag Archives: Right Bank

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

Bordeaux 2013 – running late

This report was first published on Livex and Jancis Robinson‘s site.

There hasn’t been a poor vintage in Bordeaux for twenty years but the cold, damp weather, as we approach the critical month of June, is a gentle reminder that anything can happen.

Cabernet Sauvignon in Pauillac, end May 2013

Cabernet Sauvignon in Pauillac, 26 May 2013

The harvest this Autumn will be my fifteenth (a rookie still) and the development of the vines across Bordeaux in 2013 is the most backward I’ve seen. Our vineyard manager, Daniel, will tell you the same thing, and he’s been working here since the 80s.

It’s certainly going to be another late harvest, like 2012, and we all know that ’late and great’ rarely go hand in hand when it comes to Bordeaux vintages. ’Comeback of the century’ is the best we can hope for and I, for one, would settle for that. (If you’re visiting Bordeaux at harvest time, the reds won’t be picked until October.)

At the start of June, the vines should be flowering or about to flower. May, however, has been so wet and cold (my unofficial stats show a chilling monthly average to date of 12.5°C, compared to a thirty year average in May of 16.5°C) that we’re still a little way off the floraison and, worse, the vines have a lot of catching up to do beforehand. It’s all rather worrying, although the forecast for early June looks more promising. Keep reading

Bordeaux 2012 – vintage summary & my top 40

This article was posted today on Livex, the fine wine exchange.

I’ve tasted over 500 Bordeaux wines from the 2012 vintage in April.

Key points about Bordeaux 2012

1. 2012 is a good to very good vintage, but not a great one.

2. It’s certainly a vintage for drinking, not investment. Many wines will be good to drink in the short to medium term.

3. 2012 was a late harvest which tended to favour the earlier ripening Merlot over the Cabernets, partly because drizzle, humidity and finally heavy rain set in from the second week of October onwards.

4. It’s an uneven vintage but hundreds of reds have lovely colour, supple fruit, crowd-pleasing texture and no hard edges.

5. Happily, very few wines show any green, unripe character. The fruit is ripe (thanks to ten weeks of sunshine from mid-July onwards) even if many wines lack real depth, complexity and length. Keep reading

Bordeaux 2012 – weather report

The Bordeaux 2012 en primeur or ‘futures’ campaign has kicked off.  Over the last month, wine merchants and press from around the world have been in Bordeaux for the annual tastings of young barrel samples, and opening prices for some of the leading wines have started to trickle out.

Here is my Bordeaux 2012 weather report, which provides an important background to the character of the vintage. The following is a slightly updated version of the one that was published a fortnight ago by Jancis Robinson and Livex. (Included here are daily tracking graphs for June, July and August which I’ve just compiled, and some photos.)

I’ll follow up with my thoughts on the wines.

I wrote three 2012 harvest reports for Jancis’s site entitled ’Scorching summer but no rush’ last August, followed by ’The Late Show’ in October and lastly ’The end in sight at last’. Given these headlines, you’d be right in thinking that it was a late harvest. What was largely missing from those articles were some weather statistics, so here they are in a graphical format.

After the two outstanding vintages of 2009 and 2010, it’s only normal that onlookers will compare 2012 with 2011. Yet the weather conditions in 2011 and 2012 could hardly have been more different, even if we like to slot two years into the same bracket of ’good but not great’.


1. A late bud-burst and a wet April meant a slow start – the opposite of 2011.

2. Mildew was a real threat and had to be kept in check.

3. Mixed weather in June resulted in the flowering being drawn out.

4. Bordeaux enjoyed an excellent summer from mid-July to late September.

5. August was dry and hot but veraison (when grapes change colour) was spread out.

6. The dry whites were picked in fine September weather.

7. The weather changed towards the end of September, and October was up and down.

8. Humid, drizzly weather from 6 October ’encouraged’ many to pick.

9. Expensive grape-sorting machines earned their keep.

10. Sauternes had a challenging year, after three great vintages.

11. Yields were low but not as bad as other parts of France.

12. Quality is uneven and there should be some very good wines.



1. Late winter, late season Keep reading

Chris Evans in Bordeaux, Part One

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‘Ah, my favourite Bordeaux Sauvignon Blanc.’
At La Tupina in Bordeaux

Chris Evans, host of BBC Radio 2’s Breakfast Show, came to Bordeaux earlier this month with his lovely wife Natasha for an extensive wine tour. We were honoured to be asked to show them around, via a friend of a friend, and here’s what we got up to, along with some holiday snaps. (To enlarge any picture, click on it.)

“I beg you, if you like wine, take a plane, hire a car and go to Bordeaux,” Chris wrote in his weekly column for The Mail on Sunday, tapped into his Blackberry at his hotel in St-Emilion after just a couple of days here. “It’s a dream trip.”

On their ’kids-free wine tour’, we visited Chateau Clinet and Le Pin in Pomerol, Chateau Haut-Brion in Pessac, Chateau Pichon Longueville Baron in Pauillac and Cos d’Estournel in St-Estephe. We also tried a few wines from around the region over dinner here at Chateau Bauduc, at restaurant La Tupina in Bordeaux and in the two restaurants at Les Sources de Caudalie, the hotel set amongst vines to the south of the city.

“Twas fanbloodytastic” he texted when he got home, before appearing on Friday evening’s The One Show on the beeb. He looked fine. I was bloody exhausted.

Then, on Monday, the reality check. “Just been to gym. Nearly died. Holidays not worth the relapse,” he announced on Twitter. (Apparently, he’d put on half a stone.) The trouble with an excursion to this corner of France is that the wine and food can be a little too tempting. Keep reading