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2009 grapes ‘best for 25 years’

Extravagant praise for the 2009 Bordeaux vintage is pouring in - while merchants gear up for their annual battle over prices.

According to figures from Meteo France, September’s 233.49 hours of sunshine was 50 more hours than the 30 year average.

The rainfall of 48.6mm was almost half the 30 year average of 90.3mm. This exceptionally hot and sunny weather continued into October, with most grapes in the wineries by mid-October, earlier than in 2008.

Last week a few chateaux were still bringing in their last grapes, including Chateau Belgrave in the Medoc and Troplong Mondot in Saint Emilion.

Olivier Bernard of Domaine du Chevalier in the Graves told decanter.com the grapes this year have been the best for 25 years.

‘2009 has been a textbook good year. Cold winter, damp spring, hot and dry summer and extended warm and sunny harvest. In my 25 years of winemaking, these are the best grapes I have brought in. Better than 2005, 2000, 1989 and 1982.’

Philippe Dhalluin of Chateau Mouton Rothschild agreed, ‘It is not possible that this vintage will not be exceptional.’

For many in Bordeaux the varied rainfall on September 19 and 20 (27 mm in at Pichon Comtesse in Pauillac, and up to 100mm in Pomerol) proved beneficial.

Gildas d’Ollone, general director of Pichon Comtesse de Lalande said they were saved by the rain.

‘Together with the fresh nights, particularly in later September, it helped maintain good acidity to balance high alcohol levels’. Cellar master Xavier Pallu added, ‘The rain helped Cabernet Sauvignon more than Merlot because the grapes had more time to concentrate after the rain.’

Even in Sauternes, where some picking will continue next week, vintners praised mid-September rain for the onset of botrytis, followed by ‘ideal fog in the morning and sun in the afternoon, which makes 2009 an exceptional vintage,’ said Jean-Pierre Meslier, of Chateau Raymond-Lafon.

‘We will have both quantity and quality, like 2005.’

At the same time, merchants are gearing up for their annual battle to reduce prices – more so than ever in an ‘exceptional’ year.

Nick Pegna, director of Berry Bros Hong Kong, said, ‘Is the world ready for another great Bordeaux vintage? The speculative money may have dried up in Europe, and it is likely that the UK and US will find it a tough sell.

‘But there will be an appetite for it in Asia. Perhaps the hardest thing will be convincing a sceptical public that the huge investment made just four years ago will have to be repeated for another ‘vintage of the century.’

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Written by Jane Anson in Bordeaux, and Panos Kakaviatos

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