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'Complicated' Bordeaux harvest update - Jean Christophe Mau

Published:  26 September, 2011

Jean-Christophe Mau reports on the harvest at his two estates, Chateaux Brown and Preuillac.

Mau decided to hand-pick the grapes in view of the complicated nature of this 2011 vintage.

The good sunshine and high daytime temperatures over the last weeks have led to total ripeness and great concentration. In both the wineries in Pessac-Leognan and the Médoc, he has already observed good extraction of colour and good alcohol content (13.5°).

"The vines are in good health, that's the main thing. We've started the harvesting step by step but it's pretty unhurried. Things will speed up a bit this week", said Mau.

Harvesting started at Château Brown on September 15, beginning with the old Merlots (the ripest), he picked 50% within a week. The other plots of Merlot then the Petit Verdot will be picked this week.

The Cabernet Sauvignons will have to wait a little longer for full ripeness.

Hand-picking into trays, and the double sorting operation (on the vine then at the winery, where a team of 10 people select them) is "exactly the right way to go about this vintage with its mixed quality of grapes, some of which are nice on the eye, less so in the vat," said Mau.

This week will see the proper start for Château Preuillac, where a team of 30 harvesters plus six people sorting will be hard at work (for the moment only the young vines and part of the merlot have been picked). The northern plateau has been targeted as the priority. The sorting tables are located directly in the vineyard. Mau reports that Nathalie Billard, the young cellar-master at this estate overlooking the estuary, is scrupulously tasting the grapes as each day passes, waiting for the best moment.