2007 Bordeaux en primeur: thoughts before the tasting starts

2007 Bordeaux Reds

Due to the abundance of water during the growing season the vine did not experience the usual summer shut-down of the vegetative cycle during the summer of 2007. This meant that the vine continued to produce vegetation instead of pumping all of its sugars into the grapes themselves. It was only on soils that naturally limited the vine’s access to water that the usual concentration of sugars in the grape occurred. This was particularly a problem with the Merlot grape unless on well-drained (like on the Cotes of St Emilion) or exceptionally clayey soils (so heavy that water is restricted to the vine) – as in parts of Pomerol. Merlot is the first to ripen.

Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc did not seem to suffer so much from this problem particularly when grown on well-drained soils which limited the amount to water the vine received.  There is good potential for these wines.

Ripeness could be achieved if the vines had been well tended and sprayed to avoid mildew and leaves remved to aid aeration. Good wines could be made if the wine producer could wait to benefit from the Autumn sun not as powerful as the Summer sun but did ripen the vines.

Petit Verdot ripened amazingly well and was the surprise of the vintage with its black colour and spicy notes.

2007 Bordeaux Whites

This will be a year for dry white wines with good aromatic potential (lots of citrus flavours) and high levels of acidity. Good levels of ripeness.  Good basis for vins liquoreux too. It was the sweet wine producing regions south of Bordeaux that could make the most of the hot sunny autumn to super-ripen the Sauvignon and Semillon grapes further sweetened by the arrival of noble rot. Wonderful range of aromas from lemon and grapefruit through to apricot and peach on the fruit palate, honeysuckle and organge blossom on the flower palate and honey and butterscotch from the noble rot itself intermingling with toasty vanillary notes from the oak barrels.

 Do the wines in Bordeaux really vary so much year to year?

Being so ‘northern’ Bordeaux is particularly subjected to any vagries of the weather causing rot and unripeness due to the lack of sun.  Whatever techniques the producers employ, the wines of Bordeaux do continue to show considerable vintage variation due to the region’s temperate climate. Having great terroir does seem to even these differences out. Global warming seems to helping too across the region with a string of ripe vintages in the 2000s (particularly the late ripening Cabernet Sauvignon).

If you listen to the producers themselves in Bordeaux every year is a ‘vintage’ year (although this does not have the same meaning as with Champagne or Port when only exceptional years are ‘vintage’ and have only that year’s wine in the bottle). Do the quality of years vary so much today with modern technology available to smooth out any problems and global warming to boost the temperatures?

With a greater understanding of the science of wine aided by modern technology and a greater attention to detail it is true that many of the problems of past vintages can be avoided today. Producers would be the first to admit that nature can never be overridden but today there is a better understanding of how to work with nature and this starts in the vineyard. In good vintages such as 2005 producer and nature were able to work even hand in hand. In more difficult vintages such as 2007 producers have had to work against nature spraying against mildew, removing leaves to allow greater through-flow of air and if the health of the grapes permitted leaving harvesting as late as possible into the autumn to achieve a level of ripeness.

And then there is the problem of the pricing. 2005 was the vintage of the century. 2006 was in its shadow but has become expensive. The dollar and pound is very low against the Euro. 2007 is being compared to 2004 but yields are down and they say there is always demand for good Bordeaux wines…..

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