Tag Archives: Right Bank

Hail in Bordeaux, part 2 – the path of destruction

Castelnau - 09 - Version 2Thousands of hectares of vines between the Garonne and Dordogne rivers in the Entre Deux Mers were decimated by the hailstorm that ripped through this corner of Bordeaux last Friday evening, 2 August.

I’ve seen hail damage to Bordeaux vineyards in 1999, 2003, 2008, 2009 and 2011 at varying stages of the season, from one end of Bordeaux to the other. In our 15 harvests, as I pointed out in yesterday’s report, we’ve had hail at Château Bauduc in 2003, 2009 and now in 2013. But I have never seen anything as bad as the vine damage sustained by some of our neighbours last Friday. Others, meanwhile, were untouched.

The week before, late on Friday 26 July, a hailstorm ruined part of the crop in the Entre Deux Mers around Génissac, near Libourne on the banks of the Dordogne. (Strong winds the same night also caused considerable damage to the famous willow trees at Château Lafite 50kms away near Pauillac but as there was no hail, there was no loss in the vines.)

Last Friday evening, at around 8.45pm on 2 August, this second, much more violent hailstorm destroyed this year’s harvest in many more vineyards in the Entre Deux Mers and over the Dordogne in part of the Côtes de Castillon. Official estimates vary, with figures being bandied about of between 5,000 and 10,000 hectares having been affected to a greater or lesser extent. That’s about 4% to 8% of the whole of the Bordeaux vineyard. (I’m a little sceptical of the 20,000 hectares/50,000 acres now being quoted as a result of state aid being mentioned by the press.) 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

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