The temperatures are mild and the sunshine is still around with brief rainfalls. The 2008 red harvest has started in the Bordeaux vineyards. For those who have carried out leaf pulling and grape thinning there is not too much rot. The grapes are sweet and should naturally give around the 12.5% alcohol that the producers are looking for depending on the soils. The problem is acidity levels are very high so alcohol needs to be at least 13% alcohol to balance the high acidity. Chaptalising (addition of sugar) is being carried out to enable this to happen. There also seems to be high levels of tannins and colour in the wines – overall good phenolic ripeness.
Low Yields: The yields are very low (less 30%) on average particularly for the Merlots. The Cabernets had a better even flowering in May so the harvest is more abundant and ripeness more uniform. Winemakers would ideally carry out a ‘saignee’ of around 15% removing some juice before the skins can impart their colour and tannins to the wine. This has the effect of concentrating the aromas, tannins and colour into less juice – but yields are too low to do this. Yields are low due to two reasons; poor flowering in May due to cold temperatures and also due to the record lack of rain this year during the growing season. What this did mean was that the vine did stop its vegetative growth early on enabling the grapes to start their maturation and ripening of tannins. With the rains in 2007 this did not happen so there were many vegetal notes in the wines produced.
Late Harvest: The growing season was very cold which slowed the vine’s growing cycle down. Harvest was delayed compared to last year by at least 15 days (and last year, 2007, it was already delayed by 10 or so days!)
Most of the Merlot has been picked (the youngest first) and now vigneron are making the most of every last sunny autumn day to ripen the Cabernet Franc and then the Cabernet Sauvignon which are normally last to ripen. Rot is appearing so many will have to harvest sooner rather than later. The Cabernets are high in polyphenols so it is important to leave the grapes as long as possible on the vine. In this cool vintage it is the vineyards on warmer more gravelly soils that have been able to ripen earlier.