2012 Sauternes Harvest – The Tension Mounts

The 2012 Sauternes harvest now hangs in the balance with most grapes still on the vine.  In the three videos below I first sum up the situation, then pop into Chateau Climens to confirm my thinking with Bérénice Lurton and finally revisit the same row of grapes that I filmed on the 10th October.

Today only a few estates were picking anything at all – I watched the pickers at Suduiraut, Sigalas and Doisy but I’m not sure they were picking for 1er cru.  Most have decided to wait it out until all the bunches dry out and concentrate.  Today should have been a strong picking day but the fog for once let Sauternes down by sticking around until midday (Early autumn fog is traditionally good to encourage botrytis formation, but now we are too late for that).  The afternoon was dry and sunny but not quite enough to dry things out and most estates didn’t call their pickers in.

So the penultimate window of opportunity this mid-week is passing us by and we now rely totally on the ultimate one, next week, from Sunday on, when drying northerly air-flows are due to bring freezing temperatures to Sauternes.  If we get a few drops (as forecast) between then and now, we could still be in for an ultra-late good vintage well into November; if it rains more than that, I hate to think.

Meanwhile many especially minor estates are harvesting for dry botrytis wine or semi-sweet generic Sauternes or even artificially concentrated sweet wine. the latter will go to the French supermarkets for foie gras at Christmas.  But my guess for the dry wines is that they will create a whole new style for fabulously rich botrytis-type dry wines à la Ygrec, all full and rich and smelling of Sauternes yet not sweet, and as complex as you could wish because of the botrytis.  Did you see Ch Saint Marc of Barsac get a trophy award for its dry wine at the International Wine Challenge?  I have always thought that this was the way to go for a part of each château’s production: All the fullness and complexity of Côtes de Jura without the oxydation. These dry botrytis wines are unique: all the smells and flavours of Sauternes yet totally dry.  Great with seafood, veal, cheese, anything savoury.

I will be reporting more on this moving forward, but meantime we hope for some great sweet wine harvesting next week. Fingers crossed, but it’s getting late!  Bill Blatch

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2 Responses to “2012 Sauternes Harvest – The Tension Mounts”

  1. Martin Travers Says:

    fascinating videos. It’s great to be up so close to those vines and their grapes, which have producedwines that have given us so much pleasure over the years.

    It looks like being a poor year, but we have had three excellent vintages in a row, so we shouldn’t complain too much.

    All the best,

    Martin Travers

  2. Crisis in Sauternes? What Crisis? | Bordeaux Undiscovered – Nick's Blog Says:

    […] as the weather conditions have been challenging for the development of the grapes. Bill Blatch at Bordeaux Gold has been keeping an eye on the challenges faced by Sauternes producers and thinks that the […]

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