Bordeaux 2013: teetering on the brink

27th September, 2013 by Rupert Millar

The Bordeaux harvest is late, the growing season was difficult and there are rains on the way – but there is more positive news for the whites.

Lafite-harvest-season HighWinemakers in Bordeaux are looking heavenward, according to Gavin Quinney, owner of Château Bauduc and Olivier Bernard, president of the Union des Grands Crus de Bordeaux.

Speaking to the drinks business Quinney said that although the harvest for whites has begun, “the reds are some way off. Personally I think we might just make rosé – depending on the weather.”

This, he stressed, was just the view from his own property but he added that if the tannins weren’t right and the weather turned then many estates would, “have to pick earlier than they’d like” but also that if the weather holds then there was more hope.

“It’s still all to play for,” he said adding that the harvest was now, “a gamble between time, ripeness and rot.”

With hail having hit Entre Deux Mers particularly badly this year and a cold spring affecting the Merlot (Bernard said it was like 1984 for the variety), harvest figures will be significantly down but Quinney said that one could walk from one vineyard to the next and see a huge difference in fruit quality.

“It’s definitely small but it is variable,” he reported. “The Semillon and Cabernet Franc around Bordeaux look great.”

For Bernard, the essential change will be next week’s new Moon which will, he hoped, herald a cold but dry October – if the forecasts were correct.

Echoing Quinney he told db: “If the weather changes next week we’ll win. We’ll make it.”

He added that he expected Cabernet to be the “grape variety of the vintage” but said that harvesting was unlikely to begin until 20 October – another reason for the weather needing to hold.

He too said that the whites looked extremely good and that, “Sauternes could make a great vintage,” as the weather at the moment was good for botrytis – today it was 18° centigrade and it will rise to 32°C this afternoon but the nights are warm too.

On the other hand this was having an adverse effect on the Merlot where some producers were being forced to pick to prevent the rot spreading. The late harvest is sounds extreme but it is nothing new. Three times in the last 10 years, including 2008 and 2010 the harvest has had to wait for 20 October.

“We have harvested this late before, we know how to do it,” said Bernard.

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