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Baking hot September boosts prospects for Bordeaux 2014 harvest

Published:  17 September, 2014

September's "baking hot" weather in Bordeaux has "greatly improved" the prospects for this year's harvest, with chateau owners comparing it to 2008.

September's "baking hot" weather in Bordeaux has "greatly improved" the prospects for this year's harvest, with chateau owners comparing it to 2008.

The region had a relatively cool and damp summer in July and August, but September's temperatures of over 30 degrees have dramatically boosted quality and yields.

Sunny Bordeaux weather has greatly improved harvest prospectsBordeaux's harvest much improved by sunny September weatherSource: LaithwaitesChateau owners across the region are already comparing the quality to 2008, saying 2014 will make 'really good drinking wines'.

Gavin Quinney of Chateau Bauduc in Créon, Bordeaux, said: "September has been absolutely baking. It makes a massive difference. It hasn't 'saved the vintage' - like in 2002 and 2007 - but we're at the business end of the season and it makes a huge difference."

Quinney said from mid-July through August, humid weather had posed a threat of mildew, which meant people had to be very vigilant in treating affected vines. Given the damper and slightly cooler summer, Quinney said the Merlot grapes are looking "slightly more bloated" than  you would ideally want. But he said 2014 would certainly make "really good drinking wines".

"Bordeaux as a whole will be a decent-sized crop, with no comparison to last year whatsoever."

He said it would bear more resemblance to the "very good vintages" of 2001, 2004 and 2008.

Jean-Christophe Mau, owner of Chateau Brown in Pessac-Léognan, Bordeaux, told it started picking the white grapes on September 9, and was just finishing with Semillon. "Yields are better than in recent vintages at 43hl/ha and, considering the sunny weather, acidity levels are pleasingly high", he added.

Sunny conditions have meant red grapes have been ripening well, and Brown is on track to pick its younger Merlot parcels at the beginning of next week. "Ripeness levels for the Merlot are excellent, but the Cabernet is far from being ripe and we do not anticipate picking it until around October 15.  Yields for Merlot look good, but less promising for Cabernet Sauvignon," he said.

Mau said that following the poor weather in July and August "there is no doubt that September has improved the prospects for this year's harvest enormously."

He said if the current good weather continues into October, "we hope to reach similar quality levels to 2008".

Patrick Jestin, chief executive of Dourthe, which owns nine estates in Bordeaux including Château la Garde in Pessac-Léognan, said the past fortnight's weather had been "wonderful". "Constant sunshine, just enough wind from the north and north-east to moderate summer temperatures. Nights remain cool.  These favourable factors have created perfect harvesting conditions for our white grapes, while ensuring the reds continue to ripen."

The company started its white harvest with Sauvignon Blanc on September 5, which finished yesterday, and will complete picking of its Semillons today.

Frederic Bonnaffous, head winemaker at Vignobles Dourthe, said the "juice is very aromatic, perhaps more than in 2013". He said the Sauvignon Blanc has a "wonderful freshness". "Red grapes are very healthy", according to Bonnaffous, with sugar levels rapidly becoming more concentrated. He is planning to start picking Merlots around September 22 to 27.

"Let's hope these favourable conditions continue so we can bring in the red harvest  as smoothly as the whites," Jestin added.