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Bordeaux 2012: Region braces itself for ‘winemaker’s vintage’

The Bordeaux 2012 harvest will be several weeks later than in recent years – and France's overall harvest will be the smallest since 1991, according to the agriculture minister.

Bordeaux 2012 likely to be ‘winemaker’s vintage’

Difficult climatic conditions during the growing season, from a rainy spring and early summer to a searingly hot August, have meant that 2012 looks to be another ‘winemaker’s vintage’ – as difficult vintages are usually dubbed.

Rain during April, May and June put heavy pressure on the vineyards, and the cold temperatures meant flowering was inconsistent.

Most winemakers report that the warm end of July, and hot August, salvaged what was looking to be a disastrous year.

But with temperatures reaching 40 degrees over several days in August – the 9th, 10th, 25th, and 27th were particularly hot – meant that some grapes shut down entirely, and others were scorched by the sun.

Meanwhile the damp spring and early summer meant widespread mildew has also caused problems, with many winemakers reporting treating their vines up with protective sprays (usually sulphur-based) up to ten times over the growing season.

Jonathan Ducourt, of Vignobles Ducourt, which owns 13 chateaux and 440ha across AOC Entre deux Mers and AOC Bordeaux, told Decanter.com ripening has been ‘inconsistent’.

‘This period was very stressful, although we were able to keep the vineyards in good shape.

Ducourt expects to start the young vines of Sauvignon Blanc on 11 September, followed by the older Sauvignon vines from 14 September. Semillon should follow the week after, then Merlot by the end of September.

By contrast, the first grapes of the 2011 vintage were harvested during the week of 15 August.

‘It is too early to have an idea about the Cabernet Sauvignon, as it is still not ripe,’ Ducourt said. ‘We will wait as long as weather allows, then we will have to harvest block by block.’

After that,‘depending on what comes in’, there will be a lot of ‘different processes’ to do in the winery.

‘It’s another winemaker’s vintage,’ Ducourt said.

Across France, similarly challenging conditions means winemakers are expecting the smallest harvest since 1991, according to agricultural minister Stéphane Le Foll.

Written by Jane Anson in Bordeaux

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