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Bordeaux: Pessac harvest halved

Wine producers in the Pessac-Leognan area of Bordeaux say they may have lost up to half of their crop this year, due to the April frost.

The Left-Bank region, which in last year’s difficult conditions produced some of Bordeaux’s best white wines, was severely hit by frost earlier this year and insiders expect a 40% to 50% reduction in production.

‘The frost on 5 April basically wiped out 60%–70% of the whites,’ said James Ryland, sales director for Andre Lurton wines, a major producer in the area.

Ryland, however, described the quality of the remaining grapes as ‘exceptional’. He added that a difficult pricing decision would have to be made to balance the expected higher production costs, land lower yields.

With weather conditions from March to June were mainly wet – May was the second wettest on record since 1946 – wine growers all over Bordeaux have been battling mildew outbreaks.

‘I’ve had to do 11 treatments [spraying the vineyards with chemicals to stop the development of mildew and other diseases], the same as last year, when the norm is seven to eight,’ said Florent Dubard, owner of 15ha in the Cote de Francs, north east of St-Emilion.

Hail in June was also a problem, particularly for vineyards in Lussac St-Emilion. One vineyard, at Chateau Barbe Blanche, was wiped out.

Although July and August have been sunnier so far, the poor Spring weather means that expectations for the 2008 vintage are for lower yields and a later harvest, due to begin at the end of September or in early October.

At first-growth Chateau Latour, harvesting may to be up to 10 days late, said vine quality manager Penelope Godefroy, although much depends on the September weather.

Results from organic and biodynamic vineyards have been surprisingly positive, compared to last year. At Latour, Godefroy said its experimental organic plots will expand next year, with biodynamic ones to be introduced. Alfred Tesseron, at fifth growth Chateau Pontet-Canet, said results from biodynamic anti-mildew treatments of copper, willow and nettles have worked well.

Written by Sophie Kevany

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