Bordeaux 2014; grapes ripening slowly in cool summer sun

Merlot grapes at Château Béard La Chapelle, St Emilion Grand Cru
Merlot grapes at Château Béard La Chapelle, St Emilion Grand Cru

Apparently August ‘makes the wine’. So far it has been very changeable, wet and not much sun. Its around 24°C during the day, not the usual heat of the August sun, and the nights and mornings are cold around 10c (more like the autumn).

Despite the unfavorable conditions the bunches of grapes are turning red and the ‘veraison’ is well underway. It is relatively uniform due to the good flowering conditions this year. Merlot experienced a little ‘millerandage’  and ‘coulure’  (aborting of the fertilisation of the berries) due to the coolness of the nights but nothing like last year.

Wet & Cool Conditions

Mildew continues to be a high risk this year (once the grapes are red they are not at risk but the leaves are). The vines are still growing leaves and these at the top of the vine are affected by mildew. This is not very serious and most are removed by ‘rognage’ (the cutting of the access foilage on the tops and sides of the vines). There have been around 9 treatments so far this year (higher than last year when the average was 7) due to the wetness of the season. The coolness of the nights has helped to control the mildew. It is important at this stage (6 weeks or so before harvest to protect the leaves so that they can last through until the moment of harvest remaining green and large so that photosynthesis can continue to function properly.

The water tables are overflowing and the ‘arret de croissance’ (where the vine makes the switch from growing leaves to just putting all of its energy into its reproductive fruit) is not in sight. The vine needs to be in a semi-stressed state of not having enough water for this to happen.

Risk of Rot Already there is some rot (particularly on vines that have not had leaves removed). Last year the risk factor was 8 out of 10 and start October everyone was forced to pick unripe grapes. This year the risk at the moment is only 4, but this could change. The forecast is dry but cool with potentially some more sun next week.


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Grass is a big problem this year with so much water and sun during the day. Many producers are trying to avoid weedkillers are experimenting with ploughing around the vines with intercep and using ‘decavionneurs’ to pile the soil up against the vines and then pulling it away to smother the weeds naturally. In a year when grass growth is out-of-control the vines in many vineyards are invaded by grass. With the cool nights with lots of dew in the mornings and weak sunshine the grass does not dry out until early afternoon. This does not help the risk of botrytis rot.

June was very hot and sunny but the grapes were only just developing and very green.

July has been wet with the odd exceptionally hot day of 35°C that scorched some of the exposed grapes after leaf pulling had just occurred.

So the pattern is rather like he last couple of years with lack of sun during the summer and a ripening period cut short due to risk of rot.

Timing of the 2014 Harvest With the relatively cold conditions, the advance of the season has been reduced and harvest will occurr normally at the start of October. There is talk of the whites starting as early as 5th September but it dépends on the weather over the next couple of weeks.

Yield – The yield in Bordeaux 2014 should be relatively high due to the availability of water and the number of bunches on the vines. Limited ‘green harvest’ has been done so far.

France’s Holiday makers feel a little cheated as many return to wo. Let’s hope that wine producers don’t feel the same when it comes to harvest-time in a month or so.

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