The first red grapes for the 2010 harvest rolled in on Sunday as Saint Emilion held its annual Ban des Vendanges, with bullish vintners talking up a 'small but very good' vintage.
Across Bordeaux most chateaux are holding off until next week, but some younger vines and Merlots on early-ripening terroirs will be picked over the next few days.
In the Medoc, Paul Pontallier at Chateau Margaux expects to start picking this Friday (24 September).
Chateau Haut Bergey in Pessac Leognan started on its youngest Merlot vines yesterday.
Guy Meslin at Chateau Laroze, a classified growth in Saint Emilion, will begin the following Monday (28 September).
He seemed very positive: ‘The pips already have a lovely nutty taste, and I can honestly say the quality seems greater than last year. Might we be having two great vintages side by side, as with 1989 and 1990?’
Meslin told Decanter.com that there was 16.5mm of rain in July, compared to the usual 52mm. There was no doubt, he said, that the vintage ‘will have been marked by drought’.
‘We watered the young vines ourselves, by hand. By the end of July, we had a cumulative deficit of 140mm compared to a normal year – although 20mm of rain in early September has helped.
The effect of all this would be thick skins ‘rich in polyphenols, as in 2009’, a relatively low yield, with ‘small, concentrated grapes’, and higher acidity than last year because of the cool nights.
David Pernay, an oenologist for Sovivins who consults for several properties including Chateau Pape Clement and Haut Bergey in Pessac Leognan, and Clos l’Eglise in Pomerol, said the poor fruit set (or coulure) for the Merlot affected quantity but not the quality.
‘I have found that on both the Right and Left Bank, the Merlot has more flavour, and better acidity than last year. After 2009, it would have been commercially better for 2010 to have been simply a good vintage.
‘But Nature has decided otherwise, and an objective analysis suggests that 2010 will be among the great vintages of Bordeaux’.
Written by Jane Anson in Bordeaux