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Bordeaux university brutally honest over poor 2013 vintage

Published:  01 April, 2014

Bordeaux's 2013 vintage fails to meet any of the requirements for a fine red wine vintage, said Bordeaux University's Vine and Wine Science Institute in a brutally honest press release.

The document was released prior to a press conference by the Oenology Faculty, due Tuesday afternoon.  

The uneven quality of the 2013 reds is well known to the thousands of buyers and journalists currently in Bordeaux to taste the new vintage "en primeur" - or from the barrel. However, it is rare for Bordeaux to spell out its problems quite so clearly. The region is better known for describing off-vintages as "classic" or "traditional", while good ones rapidly become "vintages of the century" - well before the close of said century.

But the 2013 weather conditions leave little room for the normal spin. "What else can we say, it's not a great vintage, you really have to be honest about it," said the owner of St Emilion's Château Villemaurine, Justin Onclin, looking at the Institute's report.

The report lists five prerequisites for a great red Bordeaux vintage. These include a quick, early flowering with good fertilisation, satisfactory yields and even ripening, the onset of water stress during fruiting to limit the swelling of young berries and mild weather during the harvest to allow for late picking without risk of rot or dilution. None of these, the report says, were fulfilled in 2013. 

A separate release from the Union des Grands Crus de Bordeaux, organisers of the annual en primeur tastings, is also clear about the difficulties of 2013, yet something of the old Bordeaux élan shines through when it talks abut the "considerable means" used "to overcome [climatic] adversity and produce beautiful wines". The end of the document sums it up: "Advised by knowledgeable professionals," it reads, "consumers will thus be able to take maximum advantage of a vintage that features a rich diversity."

Share your views on Bordeaux 2013 by commenting below, emailingGemma McKenna or tweeting @harperswine.