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Bordeaux harvest three weeks late

Published:  08 October, 2012

Bordeaux's harvest is getting under way, although many properties are reporting delays of up to three weeks.

Bordeaux's harvest is getting under way, although many properties are reporting delays of up to three weeks.

Cold and damp weather earlier in the growing season delayed flowering, while a lack of rain in August and September compounded problems. But the arrival of an Indian summer, complete with light winds, has meant grapes are now ripening well and not suffering too much from disease pressure.

At Château Preulliac in Haut Médoc, consultant Fréderic Massie told Harpers the harvest would be two weeks late, but added that the biggest difficulty was in ensuring quality. He said younger vines had suffered with stress during the dry period as their shallower roots could not reach the water. "The latest harvest was in 2008," he said, adding, "maybe it will be as late as 2008."

Over at Château Sociando-Mallet, also in the Haut-Médoc, harvest started one week ago, with 100 extra workers contracted to pick and sort the grapes. Winemaker Vincent Fauré said its harvest, which began last week, "started the day we finished last year - three weeks later than usual".

Fauré added that he was "pleasantly surprised" with the Merlot yields, as early on in the season he expected them to be lower and of mixed quality. Instead, quantity has been higher and quality more consistent. But he said Cabernet Sauvignon yields would be a bit lower, although it was too early to definitively say.

At Château Phélan-Ségur in St Estèphe, winemaker Fabrice Bacquey said that volumes would be lower than he had hoped, but of beautiful quality. He expected to begin harvesting today (Monday). "As recently as three weeks ago you could see grapes of different colours within the bunches, but somehow they've caught up and become more even," said Bacquey.

Didier Marcelis, owner of Château Serilhan and German-Marbuzet, said the harvest would be three weeks later than last year - with Merlot kicking off this week and Cabernet Sauvignon two weeks later. He said this year's difficult weather meant the vineyard's needed more maintenance, which pushed up costs.

At Château Boyd-Cantenac, Lucien Guillemet said this year's harvest would be nearly one month later than last year. Last year it started on September 13, this year it would get under way on October 8. But overall, he said the trend for the past 30 years was October 1. He said the yield would be roughly like last year, around 40 ha/hl.

Philippe Bardet, owner of Vignobles Bardet, said this year's harvest would be three weeks late, although it is already under way. He said quality was good but quantity was down.

Meanwhile, Pierre Taïx at Château Guadet-Plaisance said he would begin picking on October 20, three weeks later than usual. "The danger now is not botrytis but frost and we're not sure about the weather forecast two weeks from now - there could be frost."
He said he was hopeful quality would be similar to 2001 and 2004.