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Europe’s 2015 wine harvest: On the verge of greatness?

If even half of the excitement around the 2015 wine harvest in some of Europe's best known regions, such as Bordeaux, Rioja and Burgundy, is reflected in the final wines, then the vintage could be one to savour.

Many winemakers in regions such as Bordeaux, Champagne, Burgundy, Rhone, Rioja and Tuscany must be close to running out of positive adjectives to bestow on the 2015 wine harvest.

Proclamations of greatness at this point are tentative, of course. It’s tough to generalise in a region let alone across swathes of a continent, and superlatives are always open to accusations of commercial realpolitik; ‘they would say it’s great, wouldn’t they?’

In Bordeaux, where they joke themselves of declaring each year a potential vintage of the century for the reds, it is believed that for Bordeaux 2015 four of professor Denis Dubourdieu’s five hurdles for a great vintage have been leaped in many cases.

The fifth – good weather during harvest – looks negotiable. Olivier Bernard, head of the classified chateaux union UGC, was offering writers at Decanter’s 40th anniversary lunch last week a glimpse of the weather forecast on his smartphone. It was all sunshine.

There’s been some rain, and more is forecast – which may make things trickier for later ripening Cabernet Sauvignon, if not bring a smile to Sauternes – but the mood in general is very upbeat.

In Champagne, Decanter contributor and author Michael Edwards believes it is a question of where the 2015 vintage sits on a spectrum ranging from good to great.

Burgundy, too, is excited in its own understated way. Decanter columnist Andrew Jefford wrote late last month that Burgundy 2015 has the potential to be great, even if a temperate August means it does not scale the heights of the very best.

In Rioja, ‘I would compare it to 2005’, said Rioja Alta winemaker Julio Saenz, in a nod to one the Spanish region’s best vintages. Saenz is half finished with the picking already, with many in Rioja starting harvest two or three weeks early.

In Italy, wine council UIV has reported minimal problems with grape disease in the vineyards across the country and there are upbeat tones in Tuscany and Piedmont.

If there is an issue, then it could be yields – which took a hit in some of the areas mentioned following an intense heatwave in July.

Sadly for producers, enthusiasm cannot be bottled, and so there is necessarily still much to play for.

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