Bordeaux on the cusp of an “exceptional” vintage

Bordeaux on the cusp of an “exceptional” vintage

This year’s Bordeaux harvest is being hailed as potentially an “exceptional” vintage providing the weather holds over the next few vital picking weeks for its reds wines.

But whilst some winemakers are cautiously positive there are those who fear the vintage could lack staying  power, particularly on the white wines.

While the year didn’t start well for winemakers in the region, it has certainly ended on a high. The early summer was plagued by cold and wet weather, but then went in to Bordeaux’s hottest August on record. Temperatures in Bordeaux were into the mid 30 degree celsius for up to 15 days in August and didn’t start dropping until well into last month, which by then had winemakers crossing their fingers for rain as vines simply shut down as they could not cope with the heat.

But their prayers were answered with a big downpour on September 13, which saw up to 30mm of rain drop in some areas of Bordeaux with all regions enjoying a welcome rest bite from the heat and sun. The lower temperatures have helped significantly with the vintage and have since been followed by 10 days or so of sun, helping grapes to mature at just the right time.

“It’s been much easier to harvest than to grow,” said Frédéric Bonnaffous, estates manager at Château Angélus’s talking to Wine-Searcher. “It’s nice to be able to choose when to pick.”

The Merlot in Saint-Émilion, he says, is surprisingly good. “It’s a nice colour, the acidity is normal, the grapes are a good size, there is a good skin-to-juice ratio.”   At Château Angélus they went so far as suggest the vintage “is bound to be great and surprising”.

“The older vines, notably on clay and/or limestone soil, resisted [the drought] magnificently well. Limestone and clay work like a sponge, which captures water in wet periods and releases water during dry periods.”

Jean-Christophe Mau of Chateau Brown

Jean-Christophe Mau of Chateau Brown

Meanwhile, chief winemaker at Chateau Brown, Jean Christophe Mau told The Buyer that he thought that Bordeaux could potentially be “on the cusp of an exceptional harvest.”   For that to materialise, will depend on the weather over the next two weeks or so.   Whilst it would normally start picking its white grapes, Sauvignon and Semillon, at the beginning of September, that had to be pushed back to help the vines recover from the searing heat, said Mau.

However, all of this has helped to produce a crop that is 20% larger than last year’s harvest, with grapes showing “good acidity, with nice floral notes and that are well balanced”.

“I have not seen these kind of volumes since I started at Château Brown in 2005,” he added.

Meanwhile, over in Entre-deux Mers, Gavin Quinney, owner of Château Bauduc, is more than happy with the quantity of his whites though he admitted he’s “a bit concerned” about the acidity levels.

“It’s not a great year for whites,” he added.

Like Bonnaffous, he has high hopes for his merlot, especially in Saint-Émilion where the quality is good, and volumes are very high

Quinney added that as long as vignerons are patient and wait for full ripeness before harvesting, the vintage could be “spectacular”.

In Pessac-Léognan, Olivier Bernard at Domaine de Chevalier was even more upbeat. “It’s difficult to imagine anything better than what we have,” he told Wine-Searcher. “We have a quantity that we haven’t seen since 2004, and the quality of the Merlot is exceptional.”

Wioth the vintage being at least a week away, its difficult to predict the quality of the cabernet sauvignons. However, Mau at Chateau Brown reported that the reds are well placed and he predicts volumes will be up by 10-15% on last year, and is confident it is going to be a “good vintage for Merlot” in particular.

“If we get 10 more days of good weather then it could also be good for Cabernet Sauvignon,” he added. “It is a good year for maturity and we have got nice thick skins.

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