In common with Champagne, Bordeaux and Burgundy are preparing for the earliest harvest ever as record sunlight hours and temperatures have advanced the vegetative cycle.
Most wine regions have traditionally counted on full ripeness coming 100 days after flowering. With modern viticultural techniques this often comes down to around 90 days.
Flowering is generally at the end of May but this year, with the driest May since records began in 1920, has been different.
Bordeaux journalist and former negociant John Salvi said, ‘flowering was well advanced by 8 May – and people I trust have told me they saw the first flowers on 1 May.’
He added, ‘The cool nights this year, with temperatures going from 30 down to 8 or 9 degrees, will have slowed things down a bit.’
In Bordeaux, as an average, the dry white wine harvest begins at the beginning of September and the red wine harvest, allowing for differences in ripening time for Merlot and Cabernet, in the last two weeks of September.
In Pomerol, Jean-Claude Berrouet, veteran winemaker at Petrus and other properties, expects the earliest harvest he has ever seen. ‘We have to go back to some anecdotal vintage, the year of the comet, to make a comparison,’ he said.
‘The vines are doing well, but August will be the determining factor,’ he said.
To understand what it could mean for the wine, he compared 1989 and 1990: ‘Both vintages were marked by the sun. They had about the same rainfall, sunlight, and time of harvest, but in 1989 a hot May advanced the vegetative cycle.’
Philippe Dhalluin of Chateau Mouton Rothschild expects to begin picking at the very beginning of September. If it were to rain, the schedule would not change much, he added.
Delphine Kolasa of Chateau Marquise d’Alesme Becker and Chateau Labegorce said she will start harvesting on 28-29 August.
An unprecedented early harvest is also expected in Burgundy, said Anne-Claude Leflaive of Domaine Leflaive.
She expects to start the harvest on 25 August: ‘We have not seen such an advance in the vineyard since 1893.’
Frederic Mugnier, of Domaine Jacques Frederic Mugnier in Chambolle Musigny also expects pickings to start in late August.
Mugnier said the risk with such a precocious vintage is that ripeness could come too quickly, and result in wines that would not be aromatically complex
Winemakers made clear they were referring only to the date of picking and that it was far too early to make any comment on the possible quality of the vintage.
Written by Panos Kakaviatos, and Adam Lechmere