Bordeaux 2013 – the flowering

Guest blog from Gavin Quinney

Liv-ex has once again opened up the blog to Bordeaux grower, winemaker and writer Gavin Quinney (@GavinQuinney). Below, he provides an update on the growing conditions for the 2013 vintage. All photos and images in this article are copyright Gavin Quinney. 


a scary time for vine growers. We need half-decent weather at the right moment
or the size and quality of crop could be at risk. 2013 is the latest flowering
we’ve witnessed and, what with sunshine one day and unseasonably heavy
downpours the next, it’s the stuff of nightmares.

to Vinexpo, the huge trade fair that's taking place this week, can see the
flowering in Bordeaux for the first time during the show – if they have the
chance or the inclination to get out into the vines. Normally, between 16 and
20 June, you'd have missed the floraison and the annual Fête de la Fleur, held
this year at Chateau Lagrange in St-Julien on the 20th, is supposed to
celebrate the end of the flowering, not the middle of it.

floraison began between 2 to 3 weeks late around 10 June, starting in the
earlier-ripening vineyards of Pomerol and Pessac-Léognan. The ’later’ vineyards
of St-Emilion and the Médoc followed suit a week later. It's all extremely
retarded after a wet and absurdly chilly May, when the average temperature in
was 12.5°C – more than 3°C below the 30-year average for the month. We then had
a sunny first week of June, then heavy rains on Saturday 8 June and more rain
on the 13th. 

late for sure but it's the timing and amount of rain we're having that will
play havoc with the crop. Spirits were raised with a mini-heatwave for the
opening of Vinexpo on Sunday 16 June but dashed by heavy rains the following
night. Rain now, with so many vines in flower across the entire Bordeaux
region, is not good news. The photos below show the difference between 2013
and 2012 at a famous estate in Pomerol, taken on the same day – the first with
the vines in flower, the second with the grapes formed.

Pomerol_June 2013

Above: Pomerol, 12 June, 2013 

Pomerol_June 2012

Above: Pomerol, 13 June, 2012

flowering is hardly a spectacular event. You have to get quite close to see the
tiny caps in the process of falling off, revealing the (male) stamens opening
out around the (female) stigma. Pollination, when pollen grains land on the
fragile stigma, is less likely to happen when it's cold and wet. If the ovaries
aren't fertilized then the seeds of the berry won't be formed. Coulure and
millerandage – when the baby grapes don't take shape properly – is bad news all

Bordeaux weather

vary – I should point out that these figures come from my local weather
station, some 15 miles SE of the city. The rainfall on 8 June varied from 72mm
here, 104 in Pessac-Léognan, 56 in St-Emilion, 46 in Margaux, 61 in the middle
of the Haut-Médoc at Cussac and just 27mm in the north of the Médoc appellation
at Bégadan.

growth of the vines is much slower this year too, as the graph below
demonstrates. The height of the feuillage is important – the vine needs enough
leaves to create the sugars through photosynthesis. Bear in mind that, whereas
2011 was an early harvest, 2012 was considered a late vintage, with all the red
grapes being picked in October. 

Foliage height in Pomerol

the lateness of the flowering, the slow development of the vines and now the
amount of rain at this crucial stage, we’ll need a miracle or two for this
vintage to be a very good one.

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