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Bordeaux 2012: Pickers on standby as late Sauternes harvest gets underway

Sauternes will not be a great vintage, one producer has said, as vignerons hope last week’s rains will finally kick start development of botrytis, or noble rot.

Yquem: ‘relatively confident’

Château d’Yquem
picked its first grapes on Monday 1 October, the latest start for almost 20 years.

Francis Mayeur, technical director at Yquem, told Decanter.com, ‘The last few vintages have been particularly early, so this is not especially dramatic. We have started the first pass through the vines, with both Sauvignon Blanc and Semillon, but not even one third of the crop is ready yet.’

Mayeur said 50mm of rain fell over six consecutive days last week, and that noble rot is now in ‘full bloom’ over around 50% of the remaining vines. ‘We just have to wait for the concentration of sugars to take place before picking at the end of this week.’

Yquem has over 150 pickers standing by, ready to go into the vines, and with temperatures due to head back up to 26 degrees and sunshine by the weekend, Mayeur says he is relatively confident.

Before the rains, Xavier Planty of Château Guiraud said that several grapes had begun ‘passerillage’ (shrivel without noble rot) due to the drought conditions since August.

Guillaume Fourcade of Château Saint Marc said, ‘We will not start the harvest before next week, which is an average time for the last 10 years for picking in the sweet wine region. The botrytis has been slow, but the rain helped. It is not a great vintage, even if quality will still be there. Volume is down 20 to 30%, in dry white, red, but also sweet.’

In neighbouring Barsac, Aline Baly of Château Coutet confirmed that they would start their harvest one week later than most estates in Sauternes. ‘The development of botrytis is currently very slow on our ripe fruit,’ she said.

‘This delay is mainly due to cold nights of 5C to 8C. At the moment, we predict that we will be starting our harvest with a first passage on Monday or Tuesday of next week.’

Written by Jane Anson in Bordeaux

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