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Bordeaux 2014: Cautious optimism as whites harvest begins

The first producers of Bordeaux dry white wines have begun this year's harvest in optimistic mood, despite concerns over slow ripening in August.

Chateau Carbonnieux, the classified Pessac Leognan estate that is traditionally among the earliest to harvest in Bordeaux, deployed 70 pickers to bring in its first Sauvignon Blanc grapes on Wednesday (3 September).

Further south, Chateau d’Yquem in Sauternes also began harvesting Sauvignon Blanc for its dry white wine ‘Y d’Yquem’ this week.

Bordeaux’s dry whites were some of the best wines to emerge from the weather-maligned 2013 harvest, but all producers – red and white – were forced to sacrifice significant quantities of grapes.

Chateaux across Bordeaux have crossed their fingers for a bigger harvest in 2014 with decent quality. French government officials expect Bordeaux’s 2014 vintage to be around 50% bigger than 2013.

However, grape maturation has been relatively slow after August rainfall of 79.5mm, against an average for the month of 70mm, according to Meteo France figures.

‘The summer was fresh and maturity is advancing slowly, but we have an excellent sunny week coming up, and are very happy with the progression,’ Christine Perrin, sister of Carbonnieux co-owners Eric and Philibert Perrin, told Decanter.com.

‘We carried out severe green harvesting and de-leafing to ensure proper aeration even with the threat of rot following the rain, and we are happy with the results. The potential alcohol on the Sauvignon that we are harvesting tomorrow is at 13%, and the health of the grapes is excellent for [both] the reds and whites.’

Perrin said she expected the Semillon and the first Merlot to come into the cellars towards the end of next week.

Some dry whites producers will wait longer. At Chateau Coutet in Barsac, Aline Baly said, ‘We estimate that we will begin the harvest for Opalie de Chateau Coutet near 20 September to obtain the best level of maturity.’

Of the potential for Coutet’s Barsac in 2014, Baly added that the fruit is healthy. ‘The rains of August have caused some delay but the timing is very reasonable to obtain the concentration for high quality near the end of September and the beginning of October.’

Bordeaux 2014

Written by Jane Anson in Bordeaux

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