On 18th June decanter.com reported that the Bordeaux 2015 vintage has got off to a good start in the Medoc, with near perfect conditions during the flowering period (read the full article here – http://www.decanter.com/wine-news/bordeaux-2015-medoc-chateaux-dare-to-dream-after-perfect-flowering-263703/ ). It’s great to hear that things are on track, but of course there is a long way to go. At what point can growers start to celebrate in the knowledge that everything has come together, to ensure that the vintage is memorable for the right reasons?
Staying on track
The short answer is, not until every grape has been picked right at the end of the harvest! If only our climate in the northern Hemisphere were reliable, but unfortunately there are many possible perils still to come. Bordeaux has a fairly mild maritime climate, which means that there are few problems with freezing winters but frosts in the springtime can wreak havoc. So producers will be hoping for a warm, damp spring this year to ensure they remain on track.
Ups and downs in 2014
Excessive rain is always a concern, particularly during the autumn. In 2014, August was a wet month, but fortunately what followed was an unseasonably hot September, which ensured that the grapes were able to reach full ripening. It is this ripening that is so crucial at the end of the season; Merlot and Cabernet, the two ‘star’ grapes of Bordeaux do not ripen simultaneously, so a good year for one grape does not necessarily mean the vintage will be a roaring success on both the left and right bank. Most wines are blended from several grapes with either Cabernet Sauvignon or Merlot dominating, but in order to avoid difficult flavours within the wine it is essential that the grapes are fully ripe.
Salvaging the vintage in the winery
Of course, a poor vintage in the vineyard can be clawed back somewhat in the winery, and it is at this point that the key decisions have to be made. In a poor year for example, it might be the case that the winemaker opts to use the bulk of his grapes not for their flagship wine, but for lesser wines that are less expensive for the consumer and designed to be drunk sooner rather than later. Innovative winemaking techniques together with the touch of an experienced winemaker will ensure that these wines are pleasant and enjoyable, although not what they had in mind at the start of the season; in any case it ensures they will have sufficient income to invest in the following year.
So it’s with a sense of cautious optimism that we greet the news that the flowering season is going well – long may the favourable conditions continue, so that 2015 can be a memorable vintage for all the right reasons.