The ‘Dawn of a Beautiful Vintage’ in Bordeaux

Vineyard in FranceThose of us who have been in the wine industry for a while and “courted” by the wine estates of Bordeaux are amused by the seemingly annual claims about “vintage of the century” potential.”

Simply by definition, every year can’t be a “vintage of the century.” It’s simple mathematics — and I am an expert in simple mathematics: There can be a vintage of the century only once every 100 years, just as there can be a vintage of the decade only once every 10 years. You really can’t say for sure until the century or the decade is over.

It’s kind of like the phrase “first annual.” Until a second whatever it is takes place, a “first annual” designation is merely a hope.

But I digress. Now that the 2015 winegrape harvest in Bordeaux has been going on for a few weeks, the time has come for a prediction about the vintage. It comes from Olivier Bernard, President of the Union des Grands Crus de Bordeaux. His report is headlined, “2015: The Dawn of a Great Vintage.”

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Located on the 45th parallel, the northern limit for the world’s great red wine regions, Bordeaux likes sunny summers to produce great vintages. The months of May, June and July 2015 were among the hottest and driest on record. Water stress, so important for stopping vegetative growth and starting the ripening process, took place early, in July, and brought on a magnificent véraison (color change) in early August. I have not seen such an early, even véraison since 2009. All our grapes were red by the 15th of August, and many of them were already deeply colored.

Fortunately, the month of August was less hot and more wet, which gave a certain vigor to the vines.

Dry white wines — The month of August enabled the grapes, especially the white wine grapes, to “breathe” and retain their freshness. The first grapes were picked at the end of August. Their juices were superb and the weather forecast for the next two weeks is looking excellent… We are thus quite confident this will be a great year!!!”

Red wines — The Merlot grapes will be harvested the last ten days of September and the Cabernets the first two weeks of October. These are showing magnificent potential, but we still need six weeks without a major disturbance.

Sweet white wines — The Semillon and Sauvignon Blanc grapes are slowly reaching perfect ripeness. As with every vintage, botrytis will call all the shots, but the conditions conducive to its development are all there.

It has been several years since Bordeaux has seen the dawn of such a beautiful vintage. There are still a few weeks of suspense left before this promise is fulfilled.

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Wow! Now that was an assessment almost totally lacking in hyperbole, which is something all of us should appreciate. After all, when the wines really are great, they speak for themselves.

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