There is no doubt about it – we came away from a week’s wine tasting in Bordeaux having found many more wines of exciting quality than we expected after the indifferent weather of much of the summer. Maybe, in retrospect, we have overplayed the poor quality of the summer, because there was never a glorious stretch of holiday weather in the high summer months.
But in fact July was drier than usual, sunnier than usual, but just not especially warm. August was indeed a touch cooler and grayer than normal and a little wetter, but warm, dry weather in September and October truly saved the day. For most, the harvest started and ended later than ever before with many properties picking as late as 18th October.
The lateness of the vintage meant the grapes were allowed to ripen slowly yet surely. This unusual length of the ripening season, or long ‘hang time’ as our Californian cousins would refer to it, resulted in grapes with relatively high sugar levels, red or black fruit with no trace of green, and a silkiness to the tannins which were abundant but not intrusive;
Success is not universal. Some minor players have made lean and dilute wines; some top names left us underwhelmed. Merlot flourished on the Right Bank, but was less convincing in the Médoc where Cabernet Sauvignon and Petit Verdot excelled, but Cabernet Franc was weak.
Clearly the most important features were vineyard husbandry and especially yield. Nobody should have made big volumes after difficult weather conditions at the flowering, preceded in some spots by frost in April and hail in May, but those who ended up with yields north of 55 hl/ha were unlikely to succeed. On the other hand, why was modest Ch. d’Angludet so outstanding? Because the Sichel team had thinned the crop not once but twice, fearing a potential inability to ripen the crop in such a late season, so that in the end they brought in only 30 hl/ha, but of superb quality.