As I write, at 10.30pm Bordeaux time Sunday evening, flashes of lightning and the rumble of thunder punctuate the torrential rain. It is probably fair to say that this is not what most Bordeaux châteaux were hoping for this past weekend. Those who were planning to start picking their reds Monday [14/9] may have to think again.
June and July were generally warm and very dry, almost drought-like in some areas. Temperatures during the crucial month of August were promising, with most days above (sometimes well above) the 10-year average and there was some welcome rain to relieve water stress. Picking of the dry whites started in the Graves and Pessac-Léognan in the last weeks of August and in the Entre-Deux-Mers in the first week of September, and in theory these grapes should yield high-quality wines with a good balance of alcohol and acidity.
The current weather conditions, with more showers forecast for the coming week, do not bode well for the early red varieties. That said, an Indian summer towards the end of the season could still change everything – and allow the châteaux to declare yet another vintage of the century.
For the moment, several châteaux are comforting themselves with the observation that vintages ending in “5” are often very good, citing 1945, 1955, 1975, 1985, 1995 and 2005 (conveniently forgetting 1965, which was one of the worst in living memory). Perhaps they have never played roulette . . .
David Rowe is the former editor of Decanter Magazine and a wine consultant based in Bordeaux