The pickers are out in force all over the vineyards of Bordeaux and the noisier harvesting machines too. It is the Merlot that is under the secateurs and looks good. Most people started this week and the weather has stayed pretty fine. The grapes have been able to come in cool and fresh with helps with te prefermentation cold soak. The grapes are very healthy. The bunches are quite small and the berry size too. So far it seems that the alcohol levels are quite high (around 13.5° potential alcohol). There was worry of the low degree of anthocyanins (colour pigment) and moreover the ability to extract the colour and tannins from the skins. But so far in the cellar the colour looks good even from the juice ‘saignée’ that comes from the weight of the berrys in the bins behind the tractor. The colour from the first pumping overs is deep and almost flourescent! Acidity is present but relatively low. The juice is very aromatic.
The key concern is the lack of uniform ripening this year. So producers are picking late as possible. Temperatures have been cool so there has not been much ripening going on. Skins particularly for the Merlot are deteriorating (also impact on level of colour pigments and tannins and extractability) and becoming more prone to any rot ……..so the decision of when best to pick is a difficult one this year. Many plots of Merlot (and certainly for Cabernet) are not yet ripe.
It is very early days. Only the most ripe plots have been harvested. In between pumping juice into vats, producers are tasting the grapes in vines to ascertain the order of which plots to next harvest. A very hot Friday and Saturday is forecasted with temperatures of 28° – not good for the botrytis particularly if there is a morning mist. (Great for the sweet wines as they need this same rot!)