Bordeaux 2009: Everybody's Talkin'

Bordeaux 2009: Everybody's Talkin'

Thursday 24th September 2009
by Tom Jenkins

That there is a great deal of excitement about the potential quality of the 2009 harvest in Bordeaux is in no doubt. Such is the fervour that even the Weekend FT felt it necessary to carry the story on their front page.

We have been speaking to certain prominent winemakers in Bordeaux and the view is unified. Barring any major weather fronts in the coming two weeks 2009 has great potential.

Ben Kennedy, who now works for Luc Thienpoint at Clos des Quatre Vents in Margaux, told us that "quality is excellent. Ripening is even and there is no kind of advance or delay in one grape or another so the harvesting can be done in a nice neat order". He also noted that their 2008's are looking "excellent" in barrel with "stylish, moreish fruit that is even more pronounced than five months ago"

The rain at the weekend patently came at the perfect moment. According to David Launay at Gruaud Larose the "vines suffered quite a bit before (the weekend) due to the drought. Thanks to the rain (about 15mm during the weekend), the vines are back to work, accumulating more polyphénols in the berries with a better extractability". He harvested his "babies", the young vines, yesterday in "ideal" conditions.

It's fortunate they did get some rain as prior to that the vintage seemed to be teetering between the greatness of 2005 and the heat stress of 2003. Luc Thienpoint's grapes had skins that had begun to "slacken and dimple", not necessarily a quality issue, but perhaps a concern for yields. Harvesting 48 hours after the rain allowed the moisture to penetrate the soil, travel up the vine and fill out the berries. Their early merlots are in and they are delighted with them.

Across the river in Pomerol where things always happen a little earlier much has already been harvested. Jean-Michel Laporte of La Conseillante summed up the situation thus:

“2009 shows a lot of similarities with 2005 in terms of growing season: very nice and warm summer, with a few days of rain permitting the vines to continue to ripen in very good conditions, without any water stress. But it will certainly be a bit more complicated to achieve the winemaking. The potential is truly exceptional, but the high sugar level (i.e. future alcohol) requires us to be very careful with the extractions. On the other hand, the cool nights from the summer preserved the acidity of the berries, so we can expect a good balance in the wines we are going to make.

We finished picking the Merlot grapes yesterday at La Conseillante, and a small plot of Cabernet Franc. We are very early here on the Pomerol plateau, compared with our neighbors of Saint Émilion, and of course with the Médoc estates. Our clay and gravels soils always mature faster, and our climate is a bit warmer than on the left bank as we are farther from the ocean. First part of the job is done, we now need to transform the trie… It’s really exciting as the first tastings of juices, or even the first fermenting tanks, are already full of color and fruit forward. In terms of winemaking, I prefer to ferment the wines at lower temperatures than usual, to preserve the fresh notes and to regulate the yeast activity. Extraction, by pumping-over only, will essentially take place during the first part of the vatting, to avoid to get dry tannins from the seeds.

Next step will be next week, when we’ll harvest the remaining Cab Franc. But I already can tell that 2009 is definitely a very promising vintage.”

Follow all the action during the coming crucial two weeks right here on the buyer's blog.