Bordeaux 2009 - Over-ripeness - is it a problem in 2009?

James Lawther MW

The first thing to affirm is that 2009 is naturally a ripe, generous year.

The weather conditions – dry, sunny summer with just a little rain when needed (as in 1982) but virtually none during the harvest – guaranteed the result.

“In 50 years I’ve rarely seen sugar ripeness like this,” says Jean Cordeau, formerly in charge of the section “Vigne” at the Chambre d’Agricuture de la Gironde.

Nature provided the style so there’s no getting away from wines that are rich, ripe and have a high degree of alcohol.

Over-ripeness is a problem as it makes the wines unbalanced, emphasising the alcohol and giving dryness to the tannins.

It has occurred more on the Right Bank than the Left in 2009 but less than in the past and less than has been murmured given the conditions of the year. The reason given is that producers delayed the harvest too long which could well be the case.

However, beware the theories concerning the correct time to pick as much depends on terroir and the state of each individual vineyard.

In Pomerol, Lafleur was picked before the 19/20 September rain but Pétrus afterwards at the beginning of October.

Valandraud in St-Emilion, coming from a later ripening zone, was picked 15-20 October but is still balanced and harmonious with 14% and a pH of 3.5.

Steven Spurrier

If over-ripeness was a problem in 2009, it was reserved principally for the producers in Saint-Emilion and Pomerol and surrounding communes in the Libournais, who waited too long to pick, thus harvesting grapes that were very high in alcohol and low in acidity, or those who submitted their grapes to over-extraction, thus over-concentrating the fruit that was naturally concentrated to start with.

High alcohols were what nature provided and they were needed to cover the very high tannins and fortunately acidities were retained in the grapes to provide balance.

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