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Bordeaux 2012: White harvest finishes 20% down

The majority of white grapes in the 2012 Bordeaux harvest have been brought safely in to the cellars under warm and sunny conditions, but the forecast for the week ahead is rain, complicating decisions over when to bring in the red grapes.

First estimates of yields for the white wines, according to CIVB president George Haushalter, are around 20% down on last year, with reds expected to be between 10-20% down.

Jean-Christophe Mau at Chateau Brown in Pessac Léognan said the whites have good concentration, and ‘the first juices look promising and extremely fine.’

Mau does not expect to pick his first Merlot until October. ‘We seem to be on the verge of a lovely vintage with the reds, so fingers crossed and let’s hope the next five weeks are sunny. If they are, it will be a success.’

Last night between 5mm and 10mm of rain fell across the region, with a further 30mm predicted on Wednesday and Thursday of this week.

Haushalter was adamant that, due to the drought conditions since early August, a little rain would be welcome. ‘Ideally no more than 20-30mm, and then a few more weeks of sunshine to bring everything to full ripeness.’

Total rainfall in August was 63.3% below average, reaching 185mm, and over the whole growing season, precipitation to date has nudged slightly past that of 2000. But few winemakers deny that heavy rainfall at this stage would be unwelcome in what has already been a challenging vintage.

In Margaux, Christophe Capdeville, technical director of Chateau Brane Cantenac, told Decanter.com, ‘We are a good 10 days behind where we were last year, and things have been challenging in the organic parts of the vineyard, but globally rainfall this year has been below average of the last 15 vintages, and the grapes are in a healthy state, with sugar levels rising. We will need further sorting in the cellars, but should the good weather continue, we feel very confident.’

Consultant Stéphane Toutoundji, who works with estates on both the Left and Right Bank, said the 2012 vintage is one that requires, ‘Patience… the grapes have taken their time, and now we need to take ours with both harvest and sorting.’

Written by Jane Anson in Bordeaux

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