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Bordeaux 2007: first impressions

Cabernet Sauvignon, Cos d-Estournel, St Estephe

Last week I was in Bordeaux. It was a good time to visit, as harvest was just beginning, so it gave me a chance to have a look round, ask some questions, walk through vineyards, taste grapes and get an idea of what sort of quality the 2007 vintage is likely to be.

Of course, itís horridly premature to try to predict the quality of the final wines when the grapes arenít even picked. It would be daft to try to draw any sorts of conclusions other than just some very broad-brush observations, so thatís what these are.

Harvest at Ch Lafleur, Pomerol

First, the almost unanimous verdict from people I spoke to is that at the end of August, Bordeaux was heading for a disastrous year, in the mould of 1992, or perhaps worse. However, three weeks of sunny weather followed, and this has undoubtedly staved off disaster, turning 2007 into what promises to be a Ďcorrectí vintage. The feeling seems to be that while it wonít be great, or even very good, it wonít be a disaster.

Cabernet at Cos

Mildew has been a problem, and this has affected both the leaves and the grapes. 2007 has been a difficult vintage for the protection of the vineyard: the problem has not been the quantity of the rain, but the number of days that it has rained for (close to 1 in 2). Usually, when mildew (the main fungal problem in Bordeaux) appears, it hits the leaves first, at the seven-leaf stage, and then you can control it before it gets to the grapes. This year it hit the grapes first, and at the four-leaf stage of the vine.

Cabernet Sauvignon, Ch Lafite, Pauillac

The mildew problem has led to lower yields, first because affected bunches have had to be dropped, and secondly because it has affected the leaf area, and thus the ability of the vines to ripen their grape load.

Despite this, though, a quick tour through the vineyards of St Estephe, St Julien, Pauillac, Margaux, Pessac Leognan, Pomerol and St Emilion allowed us to have a look at the grapes on the vine, and those that are left seemed in pretty good hygienic condition, with little sign of botrytis. There were a few bunches showing signs of desiccation, and some raisined grapes, but overall they looked healthy. The Cabernet in the Medoc looked like it needed a couple of weeks more to ripen properly, and the Merlot was close. Harvesting was already well underway in Pomerol.

Pontet-Carnet, more Cabernet

Iím not terribly experienced at tasting grapes, but my naive conclusions seemed to agree with those more experienced than me. The berries seemed to be larger than normal, and there was perhaps a lack of real flavour development. Whether this translates through to the wines is anyoneís guess. In conclusion, it seems that 2007 wonít be a great vintage, nor will it be a straightforward one. It will be interesting to see who makes good wines this year.

Ch Lafite, Cabernet

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