Tag Archives: St-Emilion

Bordeaux 2014 – the red harvest begins

This report also appears on JancisRobinson.com and Liv-ex.

The red wine harvest has got under way in Bordeaux, shortly before the end of an exceptionally sunny September. Merlot, the most widely planted variety and the first of the reds to ripen, has started to come in from the more precocious terroirs and from younger vines on drier soils. Yet there’s no rush. The forecast is for more sun this weekend, and most chateaux and growers are holding off for ’optimum’ ripeness after the relatively cool and humid summer.

Even at this late stage, the vintage is still too early to call. The next two to three weeks will be crucial as most of the Merlots have yet to ripen fully and the Cabernets will soon follow.

Il faut être patient et flexible.’

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Many of the top estates in Pomerol and on the left bank (above) tentatively started picking their early Merlots this week under blue skies, although we’ll see a lot more activity from next week onwards. The dry whites, which are always the first to be harvested, were picked from the start of September in Pessac-Léognan and later in the Graves and the Entre Deux Mers; what’s left is being brought in now. The only possible downside was that the weather was almost a little too warm for these whites: the autumnal chilly mornings only kicked in from Tuesday 23 September. Keep reading

Bordeaux 2014 – hoping for September sun

I wrote about the prospects for the 2014 Bordeaux vintage, below, for Jancis Robinson‘s popular website and for the Livex blog at the start of September. Since then, we’ve had one of the best weeks of the year, with stunning blue skies and bright sunshine. The grapes have come on in leaps and bounds at this crucial time of the season, and the forecast is good. It’s all to play for.

 

Après la pluie, le beau temps. The French equivalent of ’every cloud has a silver lining’ might just prove to be the case, taken literally, for Bordeaux 2014. After a mixed and wet July and a cool, damp August, the sun is shining brightly for the start of September and the forecast is encouraging for a good harvest – if the weather holds.

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Cabernet Sauvignon in St-Julien, looking towards the two Pichons in Pauillac, 4 September 2014

So far, it’s been a growing season of ups and downs. We had an early bud-burst and an initial growth spurt in April, before a chilly May slowed things down (as reported in Bordeaux 2014 – the start of the flowering). Then sunshine at the end of May and throughout the middle of June produced a largely successful flowering – crucial for decent yields after a feeble crop in 2013 and a lower than normal production in 2012. But what of quality? Keep reading

Bordeaux 2013 – the end of the harvest

Also published on JancisRobinson.com and Livex.

The 2013 Bordeaux harvest is drawing to a close as the last of the Cabernets and final Sémillon selections for sweet whites are picked. Sighs of relief all round.

Fleur Cardinale - 02Few grapes are left on the vine now, although they only finished the Merlot at Chateau Fleur Cardinale in Saint-Emilion on Saturday. They hadn’t even started the Cabernet Franc (right).

’C’est pas mûr (ripe)’ said the cellar master as he gestured towards the unpicked vines; the bunches were admirably free of rot, thanks to the colder, later-ripening terroir.

I’ve tasted a lot of red grapes in the last few weeks around Bordeaux and he just about summed it up. Most reds have had to come in before they were ripe. This should have been a late October harvest, by rights, given the extremely late flowering in June and retarded colour change that dragged on into early September. (In between, we had a hot July and a pretty good August – but don’t mention the hail).

If there are any successes, and there will be some, they are triumphs over adversity. This has been the most difficult growing season for red Bordeaux that I’ve seen in fifteen harvests, capped by nerve-jangling conditions for the picking.

Cheval Blanc Oct 9 - 56The threat of rot at harvest time is also the most acute I’ve witnessed. Many chateaux have picked healthy-looking grapes in the nick of time, or sorted them as best they could. Seeing so many botrytis-affected bunches discarded beneath the vines has been a sad but necessary image.

It’s not that the 2013 harvest has been blighted by days on end of incessant rain. What we’ve had is a series of two-day stints of rain, starting with the last weekend of September (27-29), then 3-4 October (we had 75mm in two days here, 20 kms south east of Bordeaux) and more downpours over the weekend of 12 October.

In between we’ve seen the windows for harvesting and, simultaneously, dangerous periods of warmth and humidity which are ideal for the spread of botrytis. (Even now, in the third week of October, it’s a clammy 19°C this morning.) The picking schedules have largely been determined by the staying power of the grapes in any given parcel. 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

TEN THINGS WE DO KNOW

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

Soggy Vinexpo, sodden vines

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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