Monday, 29 October 2012

Bordeaux Harvest 2012 updates

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.

Thursday, 11 October 2012

Bordeaux Harvest 2012

Ripe grapes ready to be picked at Chateau Grand Puy Lacoste
The 120 pickers gather at Chateau Margaux for their instructions.
Horses being used to transfer empty crates at Chateau Pontet Canet
First sorting table (whole bunches) at Pontet Canet

Second sorting table at Pontet Canet (individual berry selection)

The 2012 grape harvest has started in Bordeaux. The growing season has been slightly topsy turvy! There was extreme cold during the winter of 2011/12, which is normally absolutely no problem when the vine is dormant. But in Pomerol it reached -16 degrees celsius for a few days and the vines suffered.

Spring was wet and gave the vines enough water to keep alive.
 The crucial flowering time at the end of May/beginning of June was very protracted due to uneven weather. The merlot vines seemed to have suffered more from coulure, which is a result of uneven flowering. The resulting bunches have become uneven and straggly.

The usual problem of mildew seemed to arrive with avengeance in 2012, due to the humidity of the Bordeaux area. Therefore Copper Sulphate was sprayed on non organic vines to prevent further outbreaks.  Some yields will be significantly lower due to problems of mildew.

Then the summer weather was full of peaks and troughs! There were spikes of extreme heat (as much as 40 degrees) as well as some rain and humid weather.
The end of August and beginning of September have been hot and dry.
Now as the grapes are ready to be harvested we have had some rain, so sorting and selection will be crucial for the berries.
I have been visiting the vineyards throughout the year and especially over July, August and September, when the grapes are changing colour and ripening.
Everything is looking OK now. Many Chateaux started to pick last week and surprisingly the Medoc (left bank = more Cabernet) is being harvested in some cases before the right bank (mainly merlot).

I'll be back in the vines next week, when I shall report back further.
Delicious aromatic grape juice during a pump over at Chateau Beychevelle. (I wish you could smell this!)

I had lunch with Philippe Blanc (MD of Chateau Beychevelle). He had started picking young merlot vines early last week, and then he had he will restart this week.

The crucial time will be post fermentation when we can taste the wine!

The magnificent Chateau Beychevelle. in Saint Julien.

The gardens are always colourful at Beychevelle.