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Bordeaux harvest: day 20

Published:  23 July, 2008

The end of the picking is in sight for the Bordelais, but will good autumn weather make up for a dire summer?

Jean-Christophe Mau - Chateaux Preuillac and Brown

We finally finished the picking at Chateau Preuillac on October 19th in bright sunshine.

After the shocking weather of the summer, we at least had a magnificent autumn which enabled us to catch up significantly in the run up to the harvest.

In a normal year at Preuillac, we think in terms of 110 days between flowering and harvest. This year, we are nearer 130 days, thanks to the exceptionally sunny September and October.

Initial tastings indicate a pleasing suppleness of tannins and excellent colour. Acidity levels are on the high side, resulting directly from the lack of sunshine in the summer months which left a high proportion of tartaric acid in the grapes.

Having said that, it is still too early to judge - we will be in a better position to assess the acid balance after the malolactic fermentations.

Malic acid in the Merlots is in the order of 1.2 to 1.5 and, unusually, the levels are similar for the Cabernets. These malic acid levels are relatively low.

Few of the vats have been run off as yet, but initial indications are that yields are the following:

At Chateau Brown, around 40 hl/ha, almost identical to 2006

At Chateau Preuillac, we think we will end up around 35 hl/ha, due mainly to the weak yields of the Cabernet

Tastings so far suggest that skin contact should not exceed 25 days this year on our properties, and we will run off the first vats of Merlot at Ch Brown later this week.

Alexandra Martet - Chateau Lavison, Entre-Deux-Mers

Apologies for the recent silence, but I have been suffering from headaches and a cold, so any time not spent in the cellars has been spent working.

The whole of the last week was devoted to running off the Merlots. The wine had been on the skins for 20 days, and when I tasted the wines with Stephane (Becquet, Agronomist at Yvon Mau), we felt the pip tannins were beginning to show.

We expect to run off the Cabernet Francs this week. Not sure about the Cabernet Sauvignons yet because they are still fermenting, but slowly because it is getting colder.

I am sure we will have to warm up the cuves. Last night the temperature dropped to 3 C.

Great weather, though, the leaves are yellowing, the Autumn colours are in full swing, the fruits of our efforts are in the cellars - and now it is up to Yvon Mau and myself to make the most of them.