The potential looks good. The sunny autumn has helped to ripen the grapes. A hot August followed a cool July but there was need for a sunshine boost. The lack of water helped the ‘stress hydrique’ to ocurr early on and cause the vines to aliment the grapes instead of the leaves giving concentration. The cool autumn nights have given the grapes freshness and wonderful aromatics. The grapes are in a healthy state (though a few grape worms around this year). Yields will be down this year.
Merlot looks good with good potential alcohol levels. It ripens earlier and its skins are thinner than the Cabernets so more prone to any rot. For the Merlot there is no point in waiting further on the sandy and gravelly soils. I have heard Cheval Blanc and Figeac are about to start. The Merlots in the Medoc too. The Merlots on the limestone plateau and in clayey soils will be picked later in a week or two.
The Cabernets are well off being ripe but they can withstand the autumn weather better. Lets hope it keeps sunny. The key problem this year is the lack of uniform ripening in the same plot. This was caused by rain in the middle of flowering which caused the flowering to spread out over a two week period. The timing of picking, rigorous sorting and the treatment of the grapes in the cellar with extraction early on in the fermentaion process will make all the difference.
It is the skins and particularly the pips that are not ripe. So extracting the colour and aromatics from the skins without taking on the green unripe elements is the challenge.
One of the technical recipes to achieve this this year is the following; Cold soaking before the fermentation is important (gentle as there is no alcohol to extract), then once fermentation begins pumping over (4 volumes a day) and delestage (removing the liquid into another vat and then letting it fall onto the marc (the cap of skins). This is a more effective way of extracting the colour and aromatics from the skins. Also using a nitrogen gas gun to pump this inert gas through the cap.
It is a winemakers’ vintage, that is the difference will be determined in the cellar. Producers are getting their sleep this weekend in preparation for the busy week ahead…………