Bordeaux producers are basking in the September sun after their disastrous summer - and predicting a last-minute reprieve for the harvest.
With much of Europe inundated during the wettest summer for centuries, the press has been unrelentingly negative, with reports of uncontrollable mildew in the vineyards.
To combat that, several appellations are offering to have their grapes tasted, hoping to show how ripe and sweet they are.
Seven of the 218 organic growers in the region held a special tasting in Pomerol this week to counter claims that their crops were particularly affected by mildew.
A local oenologist, Anne Calderoni, sampled Merlot and Cabernet Franc grapes in Pomerol, and gave her verdict to the local paper. ‘They are not ripe yet, but are highly aromatic.’
In an email newsletter, celebrated Graves estate Domaine de Chevalier announced, ‘In living memory we’ve rarely had such perfect weather conditions to save the vintage.’
The Conseil du Vins d’Aquitaine has stepped in to the debate, claiming that only 5% of the 140,000 hectares of vines in the region have been affected by mildew. What everyone agrees is that keeping this problem contained has been an expensive process, with up to three times as much treatment being used as in an average year.
Jean Christophe Mau of Chateau Brown in Pessac Leognan and Chateau Preuillac in the Medoc told decanter.com, ‘Due to the earlier lack of sunshine, we don’t expect to begin picking our Merlots until the beginning of October, as long as the weather holds. We want to profit from the returning sunshine as much as possible. But the health of our red grapes is perfect.’
Mau’s Sauvignon Blanc is in mid-harvest, with sugar concentration suggesting a potential alcohol of between 12.8 and 13, and good but not excessive acidity levels of around 4g/l. The vintage is currently being compared to a 2002 – good fruit with medium alcohol.
In London, Stephen Browett at Farr Vintners said an average harvest would be a boon for trade. ‘We’ve had a great harvest in 05, and a classic one in 06. What we need now is a normal, forward, moderately-priced harvest.’
He added that prices might be a sticking point if the yield was as low as predicted, with chateau owners having to compensate.
Since the end of August and the first white grape pickings, sunshine has returned. From August 30 to September 10, there was 1.4 mm of rain, and the minimum and maximum temperatures were back to normal (12.5°C and 23.7°C respectively). There were 130 sunshine hours.
The average temperature in August was 24.9°C, below the 10 year average of 26.6°C.
Written by Jane Anson in Bordeaux, and Adam Lechmere