Bordeaux 2013: ‘Not the most difficult vintage’

The trials of the 2013 vintage were not as great as years such as 1987 or 1991 according to Mouton’s managing director Philippe Dhalluin as he revealed the “likely” composition of the 2013 blend.

2011-2003 mouton vertical copyDhalluin was speaking at a tasting organised by the Institute of Masters of Wine to look at the constituent parts of the 2013 vintage as well as a vertical of Mouton from 2011 to 2003.

“I have read a lot that it was a ‘difficult’ year,” he said, “But since 1982 others were more difficult such as the 1987 and 1991.”

He went on to describe the climatic conditions of the year, noting the “huge hydric reserves” left by the winter rains and how the late sunshine in July and August was not enough to completely dry out the soil, leading to less hydric stress for the Cabernet Sauvignons and Francs than they generally need.

Nonetheless, he said it was clear that Cabernet Sauvignon was the “winner” of the year.

The potential composition of 2013 Mouton is 89% Cabernet Sauvignon, 7% Merlot and 4% Cabernet Franc – which Dhalluin said had a “salty, mineral” character.

Petit Mouton meanwhile will roughly be 93% Cabernet Sauvignon and 7% Merlot.

Although the percentages of Cabernet are high they are not as elevated as the 2011 (90%) or the 2010 (94%), which had the highest ever amount of Cabernet in a Mouton blend.

He also said, stressing that the calculations had not yet been fully made, that Mouton’s grand vin would likely account for 40% of production, which is lower than the 1991 vintage and, he said, “more like a ‘60s vintage size”.

Production of Petit Mouton would go up from around 25% of production to 30% or even 35%.

The 2013 assemblage brought along for the tasting showed no hint of greenness, something remarked upon by the tasters and Dhalluin reported that even he and the winemaking teams at the Rothschild properties had been “surprised” that that was the case.

Apparently only one plot of Cabernet owned by Armailhac, which he described as being very “vigorous”, had shown any green aromas.

Revealingly though, he said that to succeed in 2013 estates needed two things, “the means” and top facilities.

By the means he explained that once the rains caused rot and forced the harvest to begin a couple of days earlier than planned on 30 September, it was vital to pick quickly but not necessarily everything all at once.

Rigorous sorting was also required and on one day in October Mouton was able to field a team of 695 people.

They harvested 25 hectares a day by hand meaning Clerc Milon was harvested in one and a half days.

Mouton’s new winery also allows it to vinify plots separately and control every stage of the ferment.

‘We try to extract the genius of each plot,” said Dhalluin, “it’s like Aladdin with is lamp.

How other wineries without these “means” fare is another question, consultant Stéphane Derenoncourt has already claimed it will be a vintage “of the rich”, suggesting only wealthy châteaux will be able to produce wines of any note.

Briefly touching on the subject of the 2013 en primeurs which have caused some debate and concern this year, Dhalluin confirmed that Mouton intended to support the campaign and was not going to pull out any time soon unlike its fellow first Latour.

“There is no other event in the world where the trade come and focus in Bordeaux for a week,” he said. “We’re not leaving, we will still be in the en primeur system.”

The topic of global warming and rising alcohol levels was raised as well but Dhalluin said that they were, “not an issue.” He said that the Médoc was not feeling the effect of global warming as much as places like Alsace or even the Right Bank.

The Médoc’s climate remained very temperate although humidity levels have risen. He put part of the cause for the generally low alcohol content of Mouton’s wines (2010 at 13.4% is the highest) down to the lack of clay in the soil, pointing out that Clerc Milon’s vineyards are on soil with more clay and are slightly more alcoholic.

On the following page is a rundown of Dhalluin’s brief notes on the Mouton vintages 2011-2004.

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