Bordeaux’s Indian Summer saves the 2007 Vintage

enprim2.jpg The word on the street about the 2007 harvest. The white wines were a pleasant surprise. Each year they get stronger and stronger. The weather was perfect for harvesting them. And they did well. Among the reds, the Cabernet Sauvignon was the strongest with difficulty encompassing the Merlot. Knowing when to harvest the red grapes was a difficult decision as August was a terrible month for the weather. More on the weather.

Fortunately, the winds blew in – dry winds versus the humid Atlantic winds and these helped save the harvest. According to a 2nd growth Technical Director the winds were a miracle and they saved the vintage. The ideal characteristics that affect a vintage include:
1. Rapid and early flowering
2. Beginning of water stress at “nouaison”
3. Ends to shoot growth at the approach of “veraison”. The shoot growth should stop just before the grapes change color.
To stop the shoot growth you need stress in the vines. And in an oceanic climate, there is a certain suspense about this all. There are two other conditions that offset the suspense and promote the right level of water stress. The soil must have relatively low water reserves and that’s the case of the best terroir. The second is the large area of leaf canopy, which is handled by planting the vines very close to one another.
Other important characteristics include:
4. Dryness and moderate heat during maturation of the grapes to favor the production of sugar, color and tannins and aromas. This is very important too.
5. Clement weather during harvest, without fear of dilution or Botrytis: maximum ripening of late-ripening parcels and varieties. This lets the winemakers wait till the end before harvesting and lets them pluck late ripening grapes too.
For great sweet white wines, the development of noble rot also necessitates alternating damp periods (propitious to the spread of Botrytis cinerea) and warm, dry weather conducive to concentrating the grapes. Once the grapes are ripe the ideal conditions for noble rot are an alternating climate of damp weather letting the rot spread through vineyards with dry weather, which concentrates the juices.
2007 started with a mild winter with temperatures in January and February above average. The bud break was right at the end of March similar to 2006. The temperatures in April had several days over 30 degrees and made us worry that it could be like 2003. Then in contrast in May there were lower temperatures than usual with heavy rainfall and as a result the flowering only took place very late in May. Thanks to the April weather, flowering was still early supporting the grapes and better wine quality. The flowering was quite spread out with it taking up to two weeks to complete in some plots. There were some unfertilized berries too. Also the damp weather led tot he development of mildew on some leaves and grapes.
Thanks to the hot weather in April the curve was still up to the averages and offset the advance that the grapes were on and then they lost that head start.
It was a miserable summer. Average July and August temperatures were 1.3 degrees Celsius lower than usual as was the amount of sunshine. Rainfall was near normal in July but there was higher rainfall in August than usual. The water stress in some plots were similar to that of 2000 and on the plots known to give high quality grapes, we need the water stress to stop the vine growth and that is what happened. But there wasn’t sufficient level of high water stress to produce a great vintage throughout the whole region. Color change took place during the usual period around the 3rd of August versus the 6th of August in 2006.
So after an early period of August, the rains set in the second half with several unfortunate consequences. The water stress was released, the vines started growing again, therefore ripening slowed down, with grapes growing larger resulting in a loss of concentration and with the humidity a risk of rot in some areas too.
Thank goodness the summer came back again in September and October with much lower rainfall than we have usual. There were very high sunshine levels. But no excessively hot temperatures which meant that the aromas were fine. This really nice weather at the end of the growing season meant that the grapes started ripening again appropriately; they got smaller as they lost water and limited the spread of rot too.
At the beginning of September the really dry weather allowed for the picking of the white grapes that benefited from the dry runs. This was excellent for that. For the Sauterne and Barsac there was alternating light rainfall and sunny weather that was favorable for the grapes. And so when the grape pickers went through the vineyards, they were very careful about what they picked. As the weather dried out, it was possible to wait for the red grapes to ripen before they were picked. The harvest was between mid September and mid October for the reds.
With the Merlot grapes, which ripened the earliest, we were worried because of the bad weather but waiting till the end of September helped. The late ripening varieties benefited the most from the fine weather in September and October. Cabernet Sauvignon was brought in with relatively high sugar levels for the grape variety, a good level of acidity, and in the vineyards where leaf thinning was
carried out early; there were no herbaceous aromas.
As told by Denis Dubourdieu of the Faculty of Oenology.

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