The sun is still shining here in Bordeaux and though most young vine Merlot plots have been picked, many wine producers are taking their time this year letting the vines soak up the Autumn sun rays. Earlier ripening appellations and areas such as Pessac Leognan and the graves of St Emilion and Pomerol are finishing picking most of their Merlot but the rest of Bordeaux have their foot off the accelerator for the moment.
The mornings are cool (around 10°C) but the days are sunny (around 25°C). Sugar levels are good this year (alcohol levels will be around 13.5/14%), acidity is still present though as the summer was not a ‘canicule’ (heatwave) and vines were able to rest a little during the cooler nights (16°C difference on average between night and day temperature which helps develop complex aromas and freshness. It is the skins that need these sunny days to complete their ripening and thinning to produce silky tannins not green rough ones. It was however very dry (good for the lizards) but it has been amazing to see how the mature vines stayed green and resilient with their deep roots. The very wet spring filled water tables to the brim (good for the frogs) so this helped. Quite a year of extremes.
The very timely rain that fell (around 40mm) on September 13th got the vines back on track and their ripening metabolism trucking away again. Further rain during the night on Friday September 30th (around 20mm) has helped to swell the small grapes a little. Despite early attacks of Mildew in the Spring, the yield should be slightly up on last year 2015.
The skins are thick this year (lot of tannin and colour) and those grapes that are being given the chance of these extra sunny days to ripen will make the difference. The grapes are very healthy with no sign of rot (Botrytis) so far. The mornings are not too wet and foggy as yet.
A young vine vat of Merlot I saw last week being pumped over at Figeac S Emilion was almost black in colour only after a few days in the vat undergoing fermentation. Wonderful black cherry aromas too.
The colour is immediately black this year with very high levels of anthocyanins colour pigments – see here Merlot at Château Coutet St Emilion on Friday 7th October.
I believe it is going to be a great vintage with lots of fruit and substance for those who take time (but not too much!). People are already comparing it to 2010 with its body and freshness.
Good winemakers will be careful not to over extract the abundant tannins this year.
Despite a wet beginning the sun has not stopped shining from mid July…and wine producers are still smiling too as they start the most exciting time of the year.