Archive for October, 2012

2012 Sauternes Harvest – The Tension Mounts

Wednesday, October 24th, 2012

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

2012 Sauternes Harvest Update

Monday, October 22nd, 2012

The tension is mounting in Sauternes for the 2012 harvest.

At the end of last week there was a bit more botrytis since my last clip but it all had to dry out and concentrate up so not much picking was going on.  It looked like we still could have a winner if the weather went round to the East and got drier and/or colder.   It was a big risk not picking, and good on the Sauternais for generally sticking out while the reds finished, but meantime quite a lot of estates had harvested generic Sauternes or second wine at 15-16° potential, with a few Grand Vin pickings here and there going up to 19° especially in Barsac.  Many estates had hedged by harvesting for dry white.  There was a meeting on Thursday where yields were the main subject with most growers reporting record small yields even less than the frosted 91 and 08.

Fast forward to today and it has been raining depressingly hard in Sauternes this weekend, especially Friday evening, and, with only very small amounts so far picked, there are a lot of well-botrytised bunches still out there.  Any unpicked grapes that were at “rôti” stage last Thursday will certainly not have survived the weekend, but the majority at “pourri plein” stage have resisted the water better and just need to dry out.  Everything is rather damp today and morale is pretty low, but there are now two small windows of opportunity left to make some very good Sauternes: 1) from tomorrow Tuesday through Thursday when the forecast is for sunshine and drying southeasterly winds, then 2) from next Sunday 28th when the forecast is for brisk northerlies – too cold to allow any new botrytis from forming but perfect for faster concentration of the existing botrytis + the added advantage of keeping bad rot and wine-flies out of the vineyard.

Fingers crossed!  I will try and film on Thursday and report on how things have gone during the first window.  Bill Blatch

2009 Sauternes by the Riverside

Saturday, October 13th, 2012

Sometimes even I think opening a bottle of Sauternes can be a bit daunting.  It’s somehow easier to open a bottle of red for lunch or to take some dry white along on a picnic.  It really shouldn’t be like that though as this clip shows – you can drink Sauternes anywhere and at any time.

On Friday Steve and I were enjoying a day’s fishing, trying our best to relieve a chalk stream of some unwanted pike.  An unsuccessful morning meant lunch and a glass of wine or two was much needed.  I had a selection of red and white Bordeaux in my car boot but, as many of you will have recently taken delivery of your 2009 Sauternes it seemed a good idea to try some Chateau Climens and Chateau Guiraud alongside our sandwiches just let you know how they are tasting.

It’s something that I should do more often and I’d encourage anyone to do the same – Sauternes can help to make the most of the most mundane meal or occasion and always puts a smile on my face.

We never did catch any pike but the river keeper very kindly provided us with some crayfish for our efforts which we had for supper – more about that later.  Steve thinks that the clip below might explain why the fish weren’t biting!  Bill Blatch

2012 Sauternes – First Look at the Harvest

Wednesday, October 10th, 2012

A trip today to look at the upcoming 2012 Sauternes harvest was a very pleasant surprise!

I’d been down last week and didn’t film anything as, frankly, everyone was feeling pretty down.  A difficult year looked set to end without any botrytis but, as the following video clip shows, a lot can change in a week.

There is now some hope for a good late harvest if the new moon next Monday brings better weather.  Bill Blatch

PS Forgive my getting the date wrong in the video – this was actually filmed today the 10th October!