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Bordeaux 2005: high hopes

Published:  23 July, 2008

Producers in Bordeaux are talking up the 2005 vintage like no other since the turn of the Millennium. And despite a well-known predilection to calling all but the most disastrous of years excellent', it appears that this year it may well be just that.

Ideal', perfect' and unbelievable' are all words that have been used by prominent oenologists in recent weeks, and with the whites and Merlot already harvested in top condition on both sides of the river, it is now just a question of hoping heavy rain does not appear before the Cabernet can be pulled in. At the time of writing (3 October), forecasts are predicting plenty of sunshine for the next week.

Near-drought conditions characterised the growing season, with just enough rain falling, particularly at the end of August, to prevent the vines shutting down. And, unlike the sweltering 2003 vintage, the temperature has been moderate.

Harvest conditions, so far, have been almost ideal, with most of the Merlot picked under blue skies.

Fabien Teitgen, technical director at Pessac-Lognan estate Chteau Smith Haut Lafitte, said that, following a relatively wet April, four months of very dry weather set in, with only 68mm of rain, compared to 228mm in 2004 and 222mm in 2000. Drought and heat are often spoken of in the same breath. However, while 2005 has been a very dry year, it is not an especially hot one.'

He added that he was extremely pleased with the Merlot crop this year, which showed great ripeness and almost no rot', and that the Cabernet was, so far, looking excellent'.

Writing on Jancis Robinson's website, Bill Blatch of Vintex said the 2005 vintage is beginning to look like what the 1995 would have been if it hadn't rained [at harvest]'.

According to Delphine Pierre, assistant to consultant Stphane Derenoncourt and responsible for seven chteaux across Bordeaux, the only problem this year was deciding exactly when to pick. It's going to be a very nice vintage, I am sure, but I've seen some chteaux pick too early. Sugar developed very early this year, but it has taken some time for phenolic maturity to catch up.'

Patrick Meyrignac, technical director at Pomerol's Chteau Taillefer and St-Emilion's Tauzinat L'Hermitage, said that there were some differences between the grapes harvested in Pomerol and St-Emilion. We had some storms in late August that fell in Pomerol but not in St-Emilion,' he explained. So the latter had very small berries with lots of concentration, while in Pomerol berry size is more normal but showing great equilibrium.'

In Sauternes, the harvest also appears to be coming along well, although, as always, the weather over the next few weeks will be crucial. According to Anne Farges at cru class estate Chteau Romer, we have as much botrytis as usual but without any grey rot or acid rot. We've done the first sweep already, and the musts look very good.'