Reports of the 2009 vintage are flowing in from Bordeaux. Superb weather conditions throughout the growing season have resulted in a near perfect vintage. After a cold and wet winter Spring arrived early with rapid flowering. Warm conditions with intermittent rains during June and July were followed by hot dry weather over August. The weather cooled down over September with beneficial top up rainfall and cool nights.
The lead up to vintage in October was warm, dry and sunny. All varieties were picked at optimum ripeness. Many Bordelaise vignerons believe that 2009 will be the greatest red wine vintage since 1982 eclipsing the spectacular 2005 vintage and surpassing 2003, 2000, 1990, 1989 and 1986.
Reports suggest that 2009 will be a Left Bank and Right Bank year. With improved viticulture and vinification techniques over the last 25 years, the potential wine quality is phenomenal. These early observations will no doubt lead to unprecedented hyperbole from both producers and wine critics. Although exaggeration and enthusiasm will pervade over the forthcoming months, including inevitable comparisons to 1945 and 1961, 2009 is destined to be a classic. Where it fits in the pantheon of great vintages remains to be seen.
At Langtons we are very excited about the prospect of our 2010 Primeur campaign. It is expected that the Bordelaise will be pragmatic with pricing. If the Australian Dollar holds up at current levels and the wines turn out as predicted, this could be one of the best value of top vintages for a very long time. We shall keep you posted!!
The CIVB, the official Bordeaux wine organisation, has released its initial report on the 2009 growing season and harvest - blessed so far by a particularly warm, dry July, August and September.
Bordeaux 2009 A magnificent vintage
First observations as harvesting is in progress.
Weather conditions this year have been particularly favourable for the vine’s growth cycle and the grapes’ ripening process. The months of July and August saw high temperatures and a generous amount of sunshine. This fi ne weather continued into September, with an alternation between cool nights and warm daytime temperatures, which encouraged a concentration of aromas and an increase in anthocyanins (pigments).
The grapes ripened ideally and harvests dates are now being staggered. Crops being gathered are perfectly healthy. It is too early to make an estimate about harvest volume.
We should keep in mind that hailstorms during the month of March caused significant damage to 19 000 hectares of vines (15% of the total Bordeaux winegrowing region). The extent of this damage varied considerably from one plot to another in vineyards, but the result is a decrease in production.
Dry white wines
Harvests of white Sauvignon grapes began on 27th August in the earliest-ripening areas. In September harvesting of this variety became widespread and continued afterwards with the Sémillon variety. Harvests for dry whites are now fi nished.
Merlot grapes are currently being picked. Harvests of this variety began in mid-September for the earliestripening areas. The berries are intensely aromatic, full of fl avour, showing excellent concentration in sugar; the pips are crunchy and the skins appear to have marvellous colour potential (anthocyanan levels are high). Acidity levels are low; this is an indication of excellent ripeness. Harvests will continue with Cabernet Franc in the fi rst days of October, followed by Cabernet Sauvignon, depending on the earliness of certain terroirs and how ripeness has developed.
Sweet white wines
Gathered by successive stages of manual sorting on the vine, harvests of grapes for sweet white wines have barely begun. Weather conditions at present are ideal for these grapes that undergo the infl uence of an extremely specific micro-climate. Humidity, in the form of early-morning mists, encourages the work of the botrytis cinerea fungus (noble rot), a vital factor for producing these wines. Very warm daytime temperatures dry out the grapes and concentrate all their flavours. The grapes express remarkable aromatic potential.
March: a generous amount of sunshine, temperatures slightly above average and rainfall levels less than half the average of the past 30 years.
In the vineyards: budburst (when the buds open and small leaves appear) began at the end of the month.
April: a mild month, particularly rainy, with a lack of sunshine.
May: fine weather, with summery temperatures and an excellent amount of sunshine; there was, however, a slight lack of rainfall. Violent hailstorms occurred on 11th, 13th and 25th no winegrowing area of the Bordeaux region was spared (Médoc, Graves, Entre-deux-Mers, Saint-Emilion, Blaye, Bourg, Premières Côtes).
In the vineyards: at the end of May, flowering begins. Early and swift, it becomes widespread at the beginning of the month of June.
June: a dry, warm month, with a remarkable amount of sunshine (+ 69 hours) and temperatures 2 degrees higher than the average of the past 30 years.
In the vineyards: on 15th June flowering had finished in the earliest areas. This is the period of berry setting (fertilised flowers turn into tiny grape berries).
July: a warm month (temperatures slightly above average) and a generous amount of sunshine.
In the vineyards: beginning of the véraison period. The berries swell and grape skins begin to change colour.
August: extremely good weather, warm and sunny (+ 27 hours of sunshine). There was a slight lack of rainfall compared with the average of the past 30 years.
In the vineyards: ripening is encouraged by excellent weather conditions.
September: a second month of August! Temperatures are slightly above the average of the past 30 years. There is a lack of rainfall, but an extraordinary amount of sunshine (+ 50 hours).
In the vineyards: it’s time for the first harvests to begin.
Vins & Vignobles Dourthe
“Magnificent weather throughout September has offered us perfect conditions for harvesting. Our Sauvignon Blanc grapes (Dourthe No 1 and La Grande Cuvee) were in by 15 September. The beautiful summer weather has assisted the rapid development of aromas and sugars in red varieties but phenols were slow to mature due to lack of water. Rain from 18-20 September was welcomed and assisted their maturity. The excellent state of the vineyards and the arrival of cooler temperatures has enabled us to achieve grapes at optimum ripeness. The red harvest has just started with quiet confidence. We decided to wait longer to pick the reds than first predicted in order to maximise the potential of reaching rich, concentrated berries. Harvesting conditions are reminiscent of 2005, with the exception that we are now benefiting from the hard work we have invested in our vineyards over the years to maximise our achievement with an anticipated great vintage.”
Patrick Jestin, CEO Vins & Vignobles Dourthe
News from the Left Bank
Château La Garde, Pessac Léognan (Martillac)
“Fermentation of La Garde white is now complete and the wine is currently lying on its lees with regular batonnage. There is a lot of freshness in this vintage with more body than 2008 and excellent balance (ph around 3.25). Low yields due to hail. The 2009 red is certainly the reference vintage for me at Château La Garde. Not only are the conditions perfect, but the remarkable quality of the graves plateau in this vineyard is exceptional and becomes more evident each year particularly so this vintage. In 2009 we have to wait for the phenols to mature. Patience will be rewarded. Picking began on 1 October and will be in full action next week. I’m looking forward to grapes with lots of aroma and colour and the potential to make powerful wines.”
Frédéric Bonnaffous, Médoc
“Rain mid September was widely anticipated. The Medoc suffered severe water stress this summer. Clay soils assisted the maturation of phenols. Volumes are down with small, dense berries which are rich in anthocyanins, tannins and good ph. Chateau Reysson (clay/limestone) has started well. The first picking of the young Merlots began on 25 September. The must has deep colour and the fruit aromas are explosive. The harvest resumed on 1 October with ripe berries. Very good potential reported at Chateau Le Boscq (gravel on clay) for the first parcels which started on 29 September. The vineyard is perfectly healthy and harvesting is methodical. Chateau Belgrave began on 1 October. As in most of St Julien, a lot of potential but the grapes are still on the vine.”
News from the Right Bank
Château Grand Barrail Lamarzelle Figeac, Saint Emilion Grand Cru.
“The weather has been in our favour so we decided to wait to achieve good skin ripeness. The first grapes were picked on Monday 28 September. There is great potential in the berries which are homogenous, concentrated and in good condition. A great wine is the making but we have to wait until we taste it in vat”
Château Pey La Tour Bordeaux, Bordeaux Supérieur
“The mood is optimistic for the 2009 vintage although yields are reduced. The phenols have been developing quietly and we are waiting until Monday 5 October to begin the harvest in earnest starting with the Merlots. We have gained a lot of maturity over the past week. The skins are rich in aroma with lots of colour and tannins. Acidity is balanced with low levels of malic acid. The grapes look very good. The weather is good. We are confident".
"Winter was relatively dry. Budding occurred during the last two weeks of March in bright sunshine and above average temperatures, with promising setting. Spring was humid with some variation in temperature. There was localised hail storms from 11 to 13 May in the Entre-deux-Mers, Blaye, lower Médoc, Saint Emilion, Graves and Pessac Léognan. The weather improved until flowering, which started at the end of May, and continued until the third week of June. Flowering was even but a bit delayed in areas which were affected by hail. Excellent climatic conditions continued throughout the summer with a lot of sunshine, warm temperatures and some rainfall. Veraison occurred without problems and, to date, maturity has been satisfactory. Sunny days and cool nights assisted the favourable development of the grapes. Yields are average to good (except in areas which were affected by hail). The vineyards were in good shape at the start of the harvest".
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