The BIG day arrived for Château Giscours! Around 8:30 am on Wednesday, a small team of 58 harvesters started picking our first young Merlots at the parcel called "Mika," situated at the northern part of the estate.
All the harvesters arrived on time, and we were only missing three people, which is great! It's always a gamble; you never know how many will actually arrive. People are in good spirits; the sun is shining and the weather forecast is supposed to be smashing all week. The maturity of the grapes looks very promising. (In the first bins, the potential alcohol was 13.8 percent, with a total acidity of 3.6.)
On Tuesday at Giscours we decided, together with enologists Jacques and Eric Boissenot, to slowly work through the first part of our younger Merlots (around 11 hectares) this week and hold off on the remaining 17 hectares of older Merlots until next week.
At Château Du Tertre, we have decided to wait until next week to pick as we have fewer young vines.
Château Haut-Bailly has begun picking Merlot from younger vines.
At Château Haut-Bailly, we started harvesting last week, picking some of our very young Merlots (see the first photo, at left), but only in the mornings on Tuesday and Thursday. That means we are 10 days earlier than in 2008. You can see how dry everything was at the time in the second photo, below: The air was full of dust. We continued yesterday with some 12-year-old Merlots.
The analysis of the grapes has shown the same characteristics as in 2000 or 2005. The older generation is making comparisons with 1982 and 1990. As Denis Dubourdieu [an enology professor, consultant and owner of Sauternes estate Doisy-Daëne] has said: "We are not tasting berries this year, we are tasting sweets!" ("La vigne ne porte pas des raisins cette année, elle porte des bonbons!") They are bursting with sugar and aromas!
The weekend was rainy, and that's exactly what everybody wanted: some rain to help the maturation process of the Cabernet Sauvignon. It also gave our grapes a good cleaning. Now the weather is back to its best, and if it stays as beautiful as it has been during the last two months, we might get an exceptional vintage.
Before the weekend rains, the vineyard at Château Haut-Bailly was very dry and dusty.
A profile of 2009 by the numbers
Rainfall: April, May and June were rainier on average than during the last 30 years, but July, August and September were drier than the average for the last 30 years. The summer of 2009 was the driest of the last 10 vintages.
Temperatures and sunshine: If we add up the temperatures from July 1 through August 31, the figure for 2009 is higher than the ten-year average and very near to 2000 and 2005. In terms of sunshine, however, 2009 is better than 2005, with 314 hours of sunshine in August compared to 252 hours for the same period in 2005.
The French saying "August makes the must" applies well to this vintage: We had eight days with temperatures higher than 86°F (30°C)—compared with seven in 2005—and three days over 95°F (35°C)!
Cold nights and warm days: The difference in temperatures between the day and the night since the véraison has been crucial in developing anthocyanins, the pigments that color the grape skins. These cold nights really top off a great summer; they not only help with the color development, they also preserve the aromas and acidity in the grapes.
As always, it's about more than just the numbers, and it has been great tasting the grapes this year. The skins are thick and well ripened, and the pips have a slight nutty taste; both indicate a great vintage. The analysis of the Merlots and Cabernet Sauvignons confirm this richness: The potential alcohol is high, acidity is good and the superb levels of anthocyanins give fantastic color to the grapes.
The grapes are in good health, which will allow us to wait until the point of optimum maturity.
The weather forecast for the end of September looks ideal: dry and sunny. This will permit us to harvest the Merlots in good time and to leave the Cabernets until around October 5th. Patience, patience ... .
Johnny Espinoza Esquivel — Wine World — September 24, 2009 7:01pm ET
Alexander Van Beek — France — September 25, 2009 12:47pm ET
Johnny Espinoza Esquivel — Wine World — September 25, 2009 5:17pm ET
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