As the 2016 harvest in Bordeaux draws to a close, I wanted to share some of my photos taken over the last month or so of touring around the vineyards. As a wine educator I’m lucky enough to accompany professionals, journalists, wine educators, sommeliers and other enthusiastic drinkers on winetours tours through the vineyards at this exciting time. And it is exciting; 2016 was another year that showed the unpredictability of Bordeaux weather – we really do never know quite what Mother Nature will throw at us.
This is supposed to be a photo essay so I won’t go on too much, use the #bdx16 on line and you’ll see much more comment and many more photos. I rarely remember to use hash tags when sharing my photos, so I thought I’d regroup a few here to make up for it! The comments using #bdx16 will continue until (and past) the presentation of the wines in their infant state to the press and trade at the primeur tastings in April next year.
It was a year that started wet and cold, with the organic vine growers in particular sighing with exhaustion, as they were obliged to get back on their tractors again and again. The more natural alternatives to the systemic treatments used to combat the attacks of Mildew, so frequent in this damp maritime climate, need reapplying every time it rains.
More established organic producers claim that they see a greater resistance against these diseases as the years under organics go by. Nicola Allison, an organic producer at Chateau du Seuil in the Graves and a MD, compares it to not giving excess antibiotics to children, allowing them to build up a natural immunity.
After a damp, cool start the sun came out and didn’t stop shining all summer, with no rain at all from mid June to until mid September. That early build up of water in the sub soils came in handy, especially for vines with deep roots to access the subterranean reserves.
The flowering is another crucial period and with all the rain there was cause for concern but the sun shone, giving a drier and warmer period early June – perfect timing just when it was needed, to allow a lovely flowering – lots of potential yield in store making up for some of the losses due to mildew earlier on.
Summer hydric stress is all well and good, it concentrates the vines attention on the grapes allowing sugars and polyphenols to be transferred from leaves to berries but enough is enough. Too much means vines stop functioning and shut down and younger vines, without well-established root systems, really start to suffer. Just when worried wine makers were starting to stress as much as the vines, they were saved by the rain. High rainfall fell on 13th September and then again a little rain on the 30th. Phew! This gave enough moisture to save the vintage, allowing the final maturation.
Then followed a sharp cool snap in early October, allowing growers to wait for optimum ripeness in the skins without the fear of reduced acidity or mould attacks.
The moisture was also perfectly timed for the sweet white wines of Bordeaux; the triggering the botrytis attack on grapes that were perfectly ripe – avoiding any problems of grey rot that can sometime occur when Botrytis arrives too early on under-ripe grapes.
So all in all there are smiles on the faces of wine makers. Many of the berries are small but that will give a lovely concentration although yields will not be enormous but thanks to an even flowering there should be plenty to go around.
It’s early days, all the dry whites have been safely in for a few weeks, the Merlots too and I think the last of the Cabernets were picked at the end of this week, leaving properties to prepare the Gerbaude or harvest celebrations for exhausted but elated pickers.
The sweet wines have a long way to go yet, they are still keeping an eye on the sky for forecasted rain that seems to be no more than a threat for the moment.
Enjoy the photos.