I have been travelling and tasting at many different Chateaux in Bordeaux over the last few weeks. The red grapes have all been harvested and are either fermenting or being transfered to oak barrels. The dry whites were picked quite early in order to maintain the freshness, whilst the sweet wines from Sauternes and Barsac have had a difficult time.
I was at Chateau d'Yquem on Friday and met one of the technical team Sandrine Garbay. The rain that arrived in Bordeaux in October has effected the grapes in Sauternes badly. The normal 'tri' harvest when the pickers go through the vineyards several times has been stop/start. Much of the fruit currently on the vine (today) will be dropped on the floor.
I also saw the team from Chateau Guiraud on Friday. Xavier Planty the charismatic joint owner of Guiraud was keeping a positive frame of mind. But Guiraud had problems during the growing season with mildew (they are now fully organic, so treatments against mildew are difficult). Guiraud have picked the grapes for their excellent dry white wine 'G de Guiraud' and they have picked some botrytis grapes but not any good quantity of top quality grapes for their top wine.
Bordeaux is a difficult place to grow grapes with the Autumn rains normally at harvest time, but this 2012 vintage is looking even more precarious. It is too early to give definitive views; and ultimatley the best judgement is when we actually taste the wines in early April, but the situation in Sauternes is so bad that the top estates might not actually make any wine. Chateau d'Yquem do not produce a second wine (they make a different style of dry white called 'Y'). So the Chateau has no system of downgrading grapes to a lower tier. The decision at Yquem will be either to make wine or not. The Chateau did not release any wine in 1910,1915,1930,1951,1952,1964,1972, 1974 and 1992. Let's hope that the seemingly 20 year cycle of duff vintages has not continued into 2012!
I'll be tasting at Chateau Mouton Rothschild, Pontet Canet, Grand Puy Lacoste and more in Pauillac tomorrow so I'll get more feel for what is happening and update shortly.
Initial views are that the red crop is a significant drop in volume from 2011 and the quality in some vats is very very good. The dry whites are looking good too.