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Bordeaux vintage update - 'early - but not easy'

Published:  08 September, 2011

Gavin Quinney owner of Château Bauduc says "I think Charles Chevallier, director of Chateau Lafite-Rothschild, is dead right when he says 'It's an early harvest and not an easy one.'"

Right from the word go in late March, the vines have been ahead of the average and way ahead of last year, says Quinney.

"Many of the trade who came to Bordeaux for the primeurs in late March might have seen the early budding - and that's carried on through to the harvest."

The dry whites are almost all in and the reds have started in the first week of September, picking has started on both the Left Bank and the Right Bank.

Giving a football analogy, Quinney says it's a "game of two halves".

It was almost drought conditions in the first part of the growing season, from budbreak through to flowering, and to the brink of an early veraison in July when the grapes changed colour.

But by mid-July, the weather changed, he says. It was cooler than usual in July and wet in the second half. August was all over the place - from starting out wet  to warm and humid, then hot, then wet, says Quinney.

The start of September has been mixed, and very bad for some, he adds.

Quinney says the weather in September will be crucial with vineyards needing sunny weather  - with warm days and cool nights for the best results - until completion of the harvest.

Margaux saw some vines hit by hail in June. St-Estephe was very badly hit in places just days before the red harvest on September 1.

Famous names like Cos d'Estournel bore the brunt of the damage.

Quinney says " no other year is comparable - not for 'vintage of the century' quality, but for an early vintage and some bizarre ups and downs in the weather."

The oddest sight for Quinney was seeing Lafite begin its Cabernet Sauvignon harvest on September 3 - last year it was October 4.

Yields overall are good, he says and high in lesser appellations, but it's the quality that counts, "and for that we'll have to wait and see".