Bordeaux 2013 – running late

Guest blog from Gavin Quinney

With
the dust now settling on the 2012 campaign, thoughts are gradually turning to
the 2013 vintage. Liv-ex has opened up the blog to Bordeaux grower, local
winemaker and writer Gavin Quinney (@GavinQuinney).
His insider’s view on the growing conditions – and prospects – for this year's
vintage are below. All photos in this article are copyright Gavin
Quinney. 

 

There
hasn't been a poor vintage in Bordeaux for twenty years but the cold, damp
weather, as we approach the critical month of June, is a gentle reminder that
anything can happen.

The
2013 harvest will be my fifteenth (a rookie still) and the development of the
vines across Bordeaux this year is the most backward I've seen. Our vineyard
manager, Daniel, will tell you the same thing, and he's been here since the
80s.

Cabernet Sauvignon in Pauillac, 26 May

Cabernet Sauvignon

It's
certainly going to be another late harvest, like 2012, and we all know that 'late and great' rarely go hand in hand when it comes to Bordeaux vintages. 'Comeback of the century' is the best we can hope for and I, for one, would
settle for that. (If you're visiting Bordeaux at harvest time, the reds won't
be picked until October.)

At
the start of June, the vines should be flowering or about to flower. May,
however, has been so wet and cold (my unofficial stats show a chilling monthly
average to date of 12.5°C, compared to a thirty year average in May of 16.5°C)
that we're still a little way off the floraison and, worse, the vines have a
lot of catching up to do beforehand. It's all rather worrying, although the
forecast for early June looks more promising.

Flowering vines, May 2003

Flowering vines

If you're
not familiar with this important but unspectacular event, the floraison
determines the size of the crop, has a significant impact on quality and gives
a good indication as to when the harvest will take place. The annual Fete de la
Fleur, a prestigious Bordeaux bash in mid-June, is even named in its honour.

The
soil temperatures have remained cold, as these graphs from one of my suppliers
(Ets Touzan) show: unlike recent years, it has remained chilly in the last week
of the May, so there’ll be minimal upward curve. 

Temperatures

Temperatures_Pomerol

Warmer
temperatures are needed in the sub-soils, along with sunshine for the leaves,
so that the vines can get a move on. After that, we need extended good weather
so that flowering can at least be moderately successful. 

Despite
a reasonable number of potential bunches, there’s a likelihood of ’coulure’,
when some of the grapes don’t form. Rapid vine growth and flowering at the same
time isn’t a good mix – the vine’s energies are split between the two – and
merlot, the most widely planted variety in Bordeaux, is especially vulnerable
to coulure. Poor fruit set means lower yields, without the compromise of better
quality in this case. Of course, I hope to be proved wrong.

To
show how late things are, here’s our vineyard on 23 May 2011 compared to
23 May 2013. 2011 was an early harvest.

Bauduc, 23 May 2011

Baudac_May 2011

Bauduc, 23 May 2013


Baudac_May 2013

 

And here
we are in a run-of-the-mill vintage like 2007, again on the same day.

Bauduc, 23 May 2007


Baudac_May 2007

 

Here’s
to blue skies in June, and a sunny Vinexpo.

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