Overall Evaluation of the 2007 Wines: Those that could afford to do the work in the vineyard and severly select in the cellars produced fruity soft medium-bodied wines for earlyish drinking. Wines predominantly made from Cabernet Sauvignon were the winners this year over Merlot. The overall winners this year were the dry white wines and sweet wines.
What complicates the picture further is the strong euro against the dollar and pound. Prices are beginning to come out with Sauternes up in price (Rieussec a whopping 30% up on 2006 prices) and one or two reds such as Beychevelle down 5% on last year’s price despite good reviews showing a consciousness of the fragile markets. Costs were high this year for wine makers with very high labour costs in the vineyard.
Climate Evaluation 2007: Vey hot April followed by cold May meant that flowering was uneven. The summer was wet and temperatures were down on average. There was a lack of sunshine until the end of August when an Indian Summer saved the day.
Understanding what happened in the vineyards and why; The 2007 climate caused two main occurrences; excessive vigour in the vineyards with lots of vegetation and grape growth and uneven ripening.
The cooler wetter weather meant that much care had to be taken in the vineyard to ensure that too much vegetation or grapes packed together did impede aeration and cause rot so there was much leaf plucking and grape thinning this year. With plenty of water throughout the growing season the vine was encouraged to grow vegetation and lots of grapes. Severe pruning at the beginning of the year, green harvesting and severe selecting in the chai was the route many wine-makers took this year in producing quality wines. Additonal spraying was carried out against mildew.
Uneven maturation of grapes between parcels was helped by ‘vendange vert’ (particularly grape thinning at veraison) but also meant that at harvest care had to be taken to pick parcel by parcel. In 2007 both the flowering and the veraison (changing of the grape’s colour) were drawn out and long (one does not always follow the other). This predicted an uneven ripening of the grapes which was indeed the case.
The lack of sun during the early summer, the high levels of rainfall and the appearance of the weaker Autumn sun had a varying effect on the different grape varieties.
The quality of the early ripening Merlot suffered in 2007 because the normal stopping of the vegetative cycle which concentrates the grape’s components did not happen this year. Merlot tends to grow on clay soils which readily supplys the vne with water anyway. Normally this happens when the vine does not have enough water to continue growing its leaves and so shuts this side of its production down. When this happens the grape’s sugars become more concentrated and the level of acids in the grape start to diminish. The dryness of the summer around veraison normally makes this happen.
Due to the wet summer of 2007 this did not happen. There was a reduction of the weight of the grapes as the Merlot grapes began to mature.This concentration was due to loss of water as the grapes became dried out. As Merlot is early ripening the Autumn sun served only to dry out the grapes and through ‘passerillage’ or ‘surmaturation’ in some terroirs. This does not result in the same quality of concentration of the grape’s sugars with a lackof fresh flavours and aromas.
In addition with the vine still putting energy into vegetative growth levels of malic acid in the grapes stayed high. The Merlots that did best this year were grown on soils that have a higher ‘contraint hydrique’ ie cause water shortage sooner. The clay soils of the best terroir in Pomerol are so sticky and thick that they do just this limiting the vine’s access to the water that is there.
Cabernet Sauvignon is often grown on well-drained more gravelly soils where the ‘contraint hydrique’ (water stress) did happen this year despite the wet weather. The long cool growing season this year suited the late ripenig Cabernet Sauvignon. With the lack of sun the normally late ripening grape variety was even later but thanks to the Indian Summer the vines on the best soils were able to catch up, ripen their tannins and produce good quality grapes with complexity and smoothness.
Cabernet Franc too fits into this category. Ausone which has a high percentage of Cabernet Franc (50% o blend with Merlot) in its Cotes St Emilion vineyards was voted one of the top wines of 2007.
Petit Verdot which is very late ripening was still green at the end of August was able to turbo-boost itself and achieve perfect ripeness in a few weeks of Autmn sun and proved itself to be the surprise of the vintage.
The wet weather and the sunshine at the end of the year favoured white wine production (Sauvignon and Semillon) this year with ripe fruit but also good acidity levels to provide fresness and citric fruit aromas. The cool tempertures during the summer maintained the freshness and vivacity and the autmn sun helped to finish the ripening to provide volume and density to the best white wine terroirs.
This provided a good base for the pourriture noble to do its magic. To have a good ‘vin liquoreux’ the grapes first of need to be well-ripened and have the balance of flavours that come with the sort of weather conditions experienced in 2007.
The sunny autumn with cool nights was perfect to produce the foggy mornings and sunny days needed for Botrytis cinerea to develop. The fact that the grapes matured at diffferent times (possibly linked back to the uneven flowering in Maytime) meant that the harvest was very drawn out (over two months). This suits the method of picking in ‘trie successive’ in waves of picking where only the grapes that perfectly infected with botrytis are picked (when the fungus has punctured the skins allowing the water to evaporate).