There has been much groaning and wringing of hands about the Bordeaux 2007 harvest from the wine industry and press which is rather suspicious in my view. Yes, there has been rain at the wrong time of year, resulting in mildew rearing its ugly head amongst the vines but there is an old saying in Bordeaux: “Wait until the last grapes are in before making a judgement.” And sure enough – the ripening sunny days have come just at the right moment making all those who jumped the gun look rather foolish in their tales of gloom and doom – Decanter being one them.
Why am I picking on Decanter? Well they ran an news item entitled Chaptalisation expected for Bordeaux 2007 just over a week ago that said – and I quote:
“The poor summer weather in Bordeaux this is likely to see winemakers forced to add sugar to their wine during fermentation
Although the process, known as chaptalisation, is not illegal, it is rarely used in Bordeaux. The region is allowed to add sugar when grapes have not reached full ripeness.
In 2007, low temperatures, lack of sun, and rain during maturation have all threatened the ripeness, and quality, of the grapes. The Bordeaux wine trade body (CIVB) has announced that Sauvignon Blanc, the first varietal to be harvested, can be chaptalised.”
And yet when I came to research this blog – I couldn’t find this article anywhere in Decanter’s website. All the news feeds, blogs and articles that gave a link to it where redirected to an article entitled US Autumn Wine Auctions Return Against Backdrop of Uncertainty. Odd isn’t it? I eventually tracked it down on a German wine site who had spotted it and used it for discussion. This could be a computer error rather than Decanter axing the story – but either way it does highlight the way in which hype can sometimes fall over its own two left feet.
The weather conditions will leave Bordeaux with a smaller harvest than usual but the quality of the grapes and the wine has not been harmed. You don’t believe me? A wine grower knows whether his grapes are good and whether his wines are worth the price he is asking for them – if he was unscrupulous then years of hard work would go down the drain (literally) as his reputation and his livelihood depend upon his honesty. Pierre, one of my chaps on the ground in Bordeaux has this to say on the matter:
“After a superb spring which augured well for ideal conditions for the future harvest the summer, and more especially the end of August, robbed producers of their hopes. The summer holiday period (from June to August), with alternating periods of rain and low temperatures, slowed up the ripening of the grape and encouraged attacks of mildew and Botrytis. Worth noting, moreover, is that Wednesday 30th August named “Black Wednesday” by the famous oenologist Denis Dubourdieu, was the most humid day of the whole period. 60 millimetres of rain fell in Pauillac in a space of two hours.
Since the end of August however optimism has returned. Magnificent weather, with a light wind from the north, is now in place. Daily temperatures hover around 25 to 27°C with those of night time between 14 to 18°C. The wind is very healthy for the grapes and the heat concentrates and ripens the berries. This is a situation reminiscent of the autumnal climatic conditions of 1996. Good vintage, small harvest.
The harvesting of the white grapes, which began a week ago, will have excellent results and small yields. The aromas are superb and will make very good wines. The harvesting of the black grapes will only begin towards the end of September for Merlot. The Cabernets will have to wait until they reach optimal maturity. Up to now, the concentration of anthocyanins promises fine colours.”
What’s more Pierre raised the fact that the 2006 harvest has been wrongly undervalued, and needs to be re-evaluated. If you remember there was much groaning and wringing of hands over the 2006 vintage. I buy wine for investment through interestinwine, our sister company. I reckoned that 2006 was a far better vintage that everyone was making it out to be and I believe I will be proved right. You will find that wine merchants try to talk down a vintage in an attempt to control the Châteaux and fix pricing. Why should wine merchants tell wine makers what to do and what not to do? Wine makers DO know their wines, don’t they?
I am a wine merchant – albeit small fry compared to some of the big boys out there – and I wouldn’t dream of telling a wine maker that his wine is doomed before its made because of conditions not being perfect (there are many remedies that vintners use to battle the weather and manage their grapes – and I don’t mean using chemicals). I just buy wines that I fall in love with. It’s you, the wine lover, who makes the final verdict – and like most things in life you have to cut through the hype to get to the truth of the matter.
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