I begin this short series of harvest reports with the results of a day’s filming at Pichon Baron on the fourth day of picking. As is fairly evident, morale was high, after an extraordinary few weeks of perfect sunny weather that enabled us to harvest grapes in wonderful condition.
Now that we have had some time to taste and retaste the wines of the remarkable 2010 vintage in Bordeaux, it is time to post a harvest report. The rumours you may have been hearing are perfectly justified: 2010 is an outstanding year in Bordeaux. I give below a summary of how things went in all of our vineyards, in Bordeaux and elsewhere.
In Bordeaux, even if the end of spring and summer were relatively dry, the vines showed no signs of stress.The harvest of 2010 has given birth to a vintage that will undoubtedly take its place at the summit of any vintage classification, with an exceptional maturity. From an analytical point of view there are record breaking levels of ripeness in terms of sugar levels and also of polyphenols. In a somewhat different style, it will unquestionably bear comparison with its predecessor, the great 2009 vintage.
A great year for the dry whites and the reds, but also for the liquoreux, with a perfect late arrival of botrytis that enabled us to harvest an impressive 2nd and 3rd trie.
In the Languedoc, summer was extremely dry. Thanks to our first year of installation of irrigation on half the Belles eaux vineyard, we were able to optimise quality. Here also, 2010 will be a lovely year.
Burgundy was a little less fortunate, with a terrible winter and severe frosts that caused severe damage in certain climates, leading to a reduction in yields that an irregular floraison did nothing to help. Very low yields therefore, but a beautiful maturity for these 2010, and some lovely wines in spite of the difficulties earlier in the year.
No drought in Tokaj, rather the contrary, with 800 mm of rain between april and mid September. A difficult year with a lot of disease problems, very weak “sortie” and a chaotic floraison, all combiing to give us an historially low yield. But the Aszús we were able to harvest will enable us to produce all the same a harvest in the style of 2004, aromatic and vivacious, with a structure marked by finesse and elegance rather than by power.
In the Douro we harvested an impressive volume of the kind not seen since 2007. This significant production gave all the same wines that are very pure, elegant, aromatic and structures, both for Port wine and for Douro reds.
Last week saw the beginning of harvest in the Douro for Quinta do Noval and Quinta da Romaneira. Things are looking very good at this early stage. We had an unusually large amount of rain in the spring, nearly double our usual annual rainfall. This created its own problems at the time, with a lot of repair work necessary on terrace walls that collapsed during this period, but it did have the positive effect of replenishing the reserves of water in the soil. This has meant that in spite of a hot and sunny summer, the vines are in great condition, with no visible heat stress. I was in the Douro for the last ten days of August, and days were warm and sunny, but night were fresh, always good for the grapes. Before harvest began we spent several days visiting the vineyards.
Here are António Agrellos and Jose Eduardo Costa from Noval, visiting a Syrah plantation at Noval.
The first grapes to be harvested at Noval were actually white ones. We planted a small area at the top of the Quinta with Viosinho and Gouveio five years ago and both parcels gave great results this year. We harvested the Viosinho last Saturday the 28th. It is the first time we have made a white wine (unfortified) with 100% Viosinho, and the must tasted delicious on Saturday evening. Watch this space for news of a new white wine from Noval next year.
The first grapes to be picked at Romaneira were red: Tinta Roriz and Touriga Francesa to make the Romaneira Rose wine. We were in the vineyard last week to choose the grapes for this small production high quality rose that is one of the more unusual elements of the Romaneira portfolio.
Of course these first pickings are for unfortified wines, and there are several weeks to go before the Port wine harvest gets under way, and many of the Portuguese grape varieties such as Touriga Nacional with which we also make unfortified wines still need some time. But the potential is there for a great year in the Douro. I shall be going back before the end and will post up more news.
Today we finally go live with this blog. Welcome and thank you for taking the time to visit.
As MD of AXA Millésimes I am responsible for a number of vineyards, in Bordeaux, Burgundy, Languedoc, Hungary and Portugal. I spend a large part of my time visiting them all, and I hope that this blog format might be an interesting way of revealing to interested wine lovers something of what we do, and of the life of the vineyards and of the people who devote their time to looking after them.
I shall try to post something regularly, and I very much hope that these postings will stimulate some questions, to which I shall try give useful answers, the aim being to make it as interactive as possible so that you can have a real feeling of accompanying me to the vineyards and get some feeling of what goes on, and what is involved in the elaboration of a Grand Cru wine.
We are going live now following the 2009 harvest. It has been a great year in Bordeaux, for the reds, Right Bank and Left, and also in Sauternes. It was also a great year in Burgundy, of which more later. I started writing up a couple of things when I was in Portugal during august, so I post them up now, below, backdated as it were. But as from now, postings will go up as and when they happen.
I hope you will enjoy the site, visit regularly, and I look forward to hearing from you.
These pictures show the harvest of the Cabernet Sauvignon grapes on the plateau at the heart of the Pichon Baron vineyard. Very old vines on deep beds of gravel give Cabernet of wonderful finesse and purity. With the very low yields that we practise here, and the precision of the work that takes places in the vineyard, beautiful wine is made from these vines every year, but some years are more special than others, and it looks as though 2009 will be one of those. Summer was hot and dry, and by the beginning of September we were beginning to be just a little worried: was there enough water in the soil for the vines to continue to do their all important work in the last few weeks to bring the Cabernets to full maturity? And then we had a weekend of rain, that put everything right. Slowly and steadily over the past few weeks the Cabernets have been ripening before our eyes. We knew that the Merlots were spectacular, but to make it a great vintage the Cabernets had to come round. And they did. You will see the results in the 2009 wines, which I think will be among the greatest of Pichons.
Here you see the grapes being harvested on the Cabernet plateau with the towers of Pichon in the background. Watch this space: the 2009s will be something special.