Bordeaux 2013: Wonderful year in Sauternes does not bode well for red producers

Grey Rot worries implicates ideal harvest date

Noble rot just happens to be the same rot that the rest of the region is dreading. Unfortunately the risk is high this year and is going to be the limiting factor of when to harvest in 2013. The harvest boom this year is much earlier than predicted and will start this week 30th September.

Organic Merlot grapes some of the forst to be harvested in 2013
Organic Merlot grapes some of the forst to be harvested in 2013

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Riper earlier if Organic; Organic and biodynamic Château Fonroque, St Emilion Grand Cru Classé always harvests a week before his neighbours on the ‘pied de côtes’ of St Emilion. ‘Using only natural products enables the vines to ripen its grapes easier and therefore earlier’ explains Alain Moueix on Friday. They were one of the first in the area to start harvesting on 25th September. It has given him an early insight into the 2013 vintage.  He predicted a rush to harvest next week with the forecast of rain this weekend (28/29 September).

Red harvest has started in Pomerol already which is always one of the first with its gravel and clay soils and warm microclimate.The rain is set to continue and the hopeful start dates of 10 October for St Emilion and mid October for the Medoc and the plateau of St Emilion are looking very doubtful. Château Figeac on St Emilion’s only deep gravel soils will start on Monday and are very happy with their very healthy crop this year.

It helps to have deleafed both sides to help aeration and done a minimal ‘eclaircissage’ removing any access bunches (not many this year!) that touch another bunch. It is too late to spray but some are using a chalky powder to dry the moisture on the grapes.

Red Wine-making in Bordeaux Recipe for 2013!

Beginning of fermentation 2013 Merlot
Beginning of fermentation 2013 Merlot

Gentle Extractions this year; So the grapes this year will be picked by most slightly under-ripe (a good weeks or so’s worth!). Despite the warm summer, the vines were never able to catch up the 10 day delay from the cold wet Spring which set things back. The last week of hot sunshine helped to increase sugar levesl by .03 g of sugar per day a total of 1.5° potential alcohol in all. Very valuable for the wines of 2013.

No prefermentation cold soaks this year. Extraction will be very gentle this year as the skins with its polyphénols* (see below) will not be perfectly ripe this year and may be difficult to extract without taking the green component of the grape skins too. The grapes are already sweet with potential alcohol levels already of around 12°C in some plots due to the consistant sunshine for 10 weeks from beginning of July. Acidity remains quite high though. (This can be sorted in the cellar by legal techniques of de-acidifying and addition of sugar may take place this year to slightly boost the alcohol levels, this has not had to be done for many years).

Painstaking sorting in 2013 particularly the Merlot
Painstaking sorting in 2013 particularly the Merlot

Sorting the small green aborted berries in the Merlot; This will be crucial and done by the big boys with optic sorting machine. For the rest it will be painstakingly sorted by hand, as much as is humanly possible. For those that end up in the vat being so hard and green they will not impart anything to the wine. The key moment though is for them not to end up in the press! Apparently they should sink to the bottom of the vat and when shovelling out the cap of marc (the skins and pips sludge) it is important to not take these with you but discard what is at the bottom of the vat.

* Note on Polyphénols; The natural phenols are not evenly distributed within the fruit. Phenolic acids are largely present in the pulp, anthocyanins and stilbenoids in the skin, and other phenols (catechins, proanthocyanidins and flavonols) in the skin and the seeds. During the growth cycle of the grapevine, sunlight will increase the concentration of phenolics in the grape berries, their development being an important component of canopy management. The proportion of the different phenols in any one wine will therefore vary according to the type of vinification. Red wine will be richer in phenols abundant in the skin and seeds, such as anthocyanin, proanthocyanidins and flavonols, whereas the phenols in white wine will essentially originate from the pulp, and these will be the phenolic acids together with lower amounts of catechins and stilbenes. Red wines will also have the phenols found in white wines.

Average total polyphenol content measured by the Folin method is 216 mg/100 ml for red wine and 32 mg/100 ml for white wine. The content of phenols in rosé wine (82 mg/100 ml) is intermediate between that in red and white wines.

In winemaking, the process of maceration or “skin contact” is used to increase the concentration of phenols in wine. Phenolic acids are found in the pulp or juice of the wine.

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