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Heavy rains plague start of 2006 Bordeaux harvest

Bordeaux producers fear recent rains will dash hopes for the ‘great’ vintage that has looked almost possible during the growing season.

On the Left Bank this weekend, they donned the decorative robes of the Commanderie du Bontemps, to formally announce the start of the 2006 red wine harvest. But, clutching umbrellas under a grey sky, some couldn’t hide their disappointment as rain fell on their vines.

‘2006 will not be a great vintage,’ was the flat assessment of Yann Schÿler of Chateau Kirwan in Margaux. ‘Already this year we have had the inverse of what is normal: a hot and dry July and a muggy and cold August, instead of the other way around. But if the sun returns in the next two weeks, it could be a good vintage.’

‘We did not need this,’ Jean-Rene Matignon, winemaking director of Château Pichon Longueville in Pauillac told decanter.com. ‘In just the past few days, we’ve had 55mm of rain. We really need sun and wind now to dry the vines, and hope that the grapes do not get bloated.’

Jean-Michel Cazes of Château Lynch Bages put on a brave face before an elaborate lunch with live music under a large white tent: ‘Après la pluie, le bontemps,’ he announced (after the rain comes good weather). But meanwhile guests were moving their tables to avoid the rain dripping from the tent roof.

‘We need to start picking the Merlot this Wednesday,’ Matignon said. ‘It is just too bad. Before the rains, we had a natural average degree of 14 for the Merlot – brilliant, just like in 2005,’ he added.

Anthony Barton of Château Léoville Barton in St. Julien agreed: ‘I am very disappointed, because at the beginning of last week, all samples were absolutely fantastic, with high degrees, great ripeness, and excellent tannins. But then the rains came. We had 20mm alone the other night,’ he said.

He added, ‘Some properties I hear already have botrytis. It doesn’t look as if we will double prices in 2006.’

‘It all depends on the latter half of September,’ said Philippe Blanc, winemaking director at Château Beychevelle in St. Julien. ‘This will not be an easy vintage like 2005, more like a winemakers’ vintage, where the right decisions will be rewarded.’

More rain is expected in the next two weeks, according to recent weather forecasts for Bordeaux.

Written by Panos Kakaviatos in Bordeaux

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