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Bordeaux 2022: resilient vineyards amid last year’s heat mark out a ‘great vintage’

The extremely hot, dry and sunny weather last summer has produced a great Bordeaux vintage, the official vintage report by the CIVB has said, partly as a result of vignerons building greater resilience into the vineyard, but it warned that yet again, volumes will be lower than average.

For the third year in a row, the volume of the Bordeaux harvest is below the ten-year average, mostly due to the drought that had a major effect on the overall yield in the 2022 vintage.

The “extreme climate events” that also hit the vineyards also lead to some “significant losses in some cases”, it pointed out, including several nights of frost across the region in early April, and extreme hail storms on the night of 20-21 June affecting more than 10,000 hectares, albeit in a very uneven manner. As a result, yields of AOC wine produced is roughly 11% below the ten year averages, at 4.1 million hectolitres.

However, despite this shortfall, the quality remains high and winegrowers were able to limit their losses.

Extreme weather

Rainfall across the year fell well short of the 30-year average, the data from Meteo-France Direction Interriogionale Sud-Ouest de Bordeaux said, with June reaching more than the 30-year average (100mm versus 70 in a average year), while July saw only 3mm compared to 49mm, and August was also under half the average amount.

Sunlight hours in the spring compared with the 30 year average, however May and July in particular were incredibly hot and sunny (recording an extra 67 hours in May and 93 hours in August. Rain showers in mid-August “breathed new life into the vines”, the CIVB said, slightly increasing the volume of the berries while  the alternation of hot days and cool nights meant grapes reached “optimum ripeness”.

This resulted in one of the earliest recorded harvests, which took place 15 to 20 days earlier than normal. However, the berries were said to have been perfectly ripe, and “in a particularly good state of health at the time of harvest”, and the mild weather was “ideal for picking without haste and at
perfect ripeness”, with picking continuing until the end of October.

Grapes for the Crémants and dry white wines on the earliest-ripening terroirs started on 16 August, followed by varieties for rosé wines ten days later. Picking for red grape varieties started with the Merlot from the warmest terroirs around 1 September and the weather conditions allowed for four to five  successive passes through the vineyard up to the end of October.

“Ideal conditions at the end of September favoured the development of botrytis (noble rot) on the grapes intended for dessert wines,” the CIVB said.

Great resilience

As part of the vintage report, the CIVB highlighted the choice made in the vineyard that “proved to be crucial to withstanding the new climate records set in 2022” .

It pointed to delayed pruning to limit the risk in case of late frost, customised leaf removal and trellising to protect bunches from the sun, grass cover to let the vine conserve freshness in the soil, and the use of agroforestry, especially on the edge of plots where trees can act as sun screens, .

“All these practices, combined with detailed knowledge of their terroirs, have allowed winegrowers to produce high-quality grapes despite the difficult climatic conditions,” it said, while “the deep roots of Bordeaux vines and their natural resistance to water stress have also contributed to the ability of the region’s grape varieties to ripen properly.”

The reds, it noted were “exceptional, with perfectly ripe tannins and yet without excessive alcohol levels”, with a “unique fruitiness, silky and concentrated without being heavy”. It also noted that the ageing potential of wines not designed to be drunk young was “particularly promising”.

In his annual vintage report, wine expert and winemaker Gavin Quinney noted that the vines “held up incredibly well despite the ongoing drought and protracted summer heatwaves”.

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