Monday, 8 February 2010

Bordeaux 2009 (Part 1)

About this time last year I was at a Sauternes tasting in London and a very cross Christian Seely pulled me to one side to give me a good dressing-down. Over the past couple of months I'd been writing news reports on the possible state of the 2008 harvest. It was wasn't flattering, I'll be honest, but it was what was circulating at the time. I had quoted much of the French press who were playing it down, saying how bad the weather was before the harvest, etc. etc.

Seely had taken umbrage. Essentially, he said: 'how can you make judgements on the wines before anyone's tasted them yet'. Believe me, he's not the first person in Bordeaux to have said similar things.

So let's admit he had a point.

Now lets also take a minute and think about how much hype has been generated within Bordeaux for the 2009 vintage. There have been endless reports on how great the vintage is. Just recently, Bill Blatch has written a huge report on, yes, the weather on Jancis Robinson MW's site. Has Christian Seely given Bill a call and told him off for talking about the weather and the wines before En Primeur? It's probably safe to assume he hasn't.

So the first conclusion we can make is that when you hear nothing from Bordeaux it's likely to be a mediocre to poor vintage.

And let's think about the weather for a second. A while ago I made the point that most winemakers from Bordeaux will tell you not to talk about the weather and wait until you've tasted the wines at En Primeur, after that they say you have to wait until they're bottled; once they're bottled, you have to wait for them to get a bit of age before they're ready, and then, in 20-30 years time, you open the bottle and all anyone in the room can talk about is what the weather was like during the vintage.

Let me make a second point - about winemaking. Any winemaker who knows what s/he's doing - and there are a few in Bordeaux - will know pretty much straight away how good the wine is going to be. S/he also knows how good/bad it is compared to other years. You don't need to wait for En Primeur for that. So once again, you can assume that if all is quiet in Bordeaux, it's a mediocre year.

But why stop the press from reporting this? Well, simply because it makes business sense. After all, last year the UGC 'pleaded' with the press to help make consumers love their wines.

So what can we conclude? Well, if everyone was honest, we'd be able to get a general idea of the vintage from the winemakers themselves in September, six months before En Primeur. And with all the hype this year about a great vintage, how long can Bordeaux go on complaining about the bad press in the not-so-good vintages?

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