Tag Archives: St-Emilion

UK Wine duty frozen

’Frozen’ is a more dramatic way of saying that there was no further increase on wine duty in the Chancellor’s final Budget before the Election. There was a little drop for spirits, cider and beer. It’s the first time in many years that there’s been no rise, so we should be grateful for small mercies.

The chart also tracks the exchange rate between Sterling and the weakening Euro. So, with wine duty as it was and the pound strengthening, some good news for UK wine buyers.



Bordeaux 2014 – guarded optimism as harvest ends

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

There’s a sense of cautious optimism as the last of the red grapes are harvested in Bordeaux. While 2014 isn’t a great year, it could prove to be a really good one for many chateaux. An excellent flowering in June, a mixed summer, then a gorgeous September and first few days of October all give the impression of a ’bookend’ season that started and ended well.

On the face of it, the timing of the harvest and the size of the crop is almost a return to normal, if there is such a thing. The dry whites were picked in September and the reds in late September and first half of October, producing a decent yield of healthy grapes.

La Conseillante in Pomerol, Merlot, 2 October 2014

La Conseillante in Pomerol, Merlot, 2 October 2014

Yet it hasn’t simply been a case of harvesting ’à la carte’, as some Bordelais like to boast in great years like 2005, 2009 and 2010. I’ve been lucky enough to drop in to see the harvest being handled at scores of leading chateaux over the last few weeks and here are some observations.

Five glorious weeks

I caught up with Christian Moueix in St-Emilion at the beginning of October, before they picked at Ch Belair Monange. “It’s a good vintage – very good in fact” he said, speaking mainly of his Pomerols. “And a miracle compared to what we thought at the end of August.”

After a fairly lacklustre summer, we’ve had the best September and start to October that I can recall in 16 harvests here. Keep reading

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.’

Palmer 24 Sept 2014 - 081

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.


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