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Assessing 2009 Now That the Bordeaux Harvest Is Complete

Most of the Bordeaux properties finished the harvest this week, with just a few grapes left to pick here and there

Posted: Oct 19, 2009 3:00pm ET

By Alexander Van Beek, Véronique Sanders

Last harvest day at Château du Tertre and Giscours

The harvest finished here Tuesday, Oct. 13, another day marked by brilliant sunshine. Our two teams of 80 pickers at du Tertre and 140 for Giscours kept their spirits high in spite of 16 days of hard work carried out during hot afternoons. The last bunches of Cabernet Sauvignon were cut and placed in the crates to sounds of laughter, yelps and music! Having gathered the Cabernet Sauvignons from our best terroirs Oct. 9, we waited for two days extra to perfectly mature the Cabernets situated on sandy, gravelly soils. The result is that the grapes come off the stems easily, the skins open freely and the juice is extremely well-colored.

Once the grapes were sorted and put into vat, the exceptional amount of sugar was confirmed. The average for the Cabernets was more than 13 degrees, with low acidity and a great amount of tannins. The parcels harvested last week, which are now fermenting, are showing an intense color and exquisite fruit with great length in the mouth. The parcels of Merlot have finished their alcoholic fermentation, but we are going to macerate the grapes for a further 12 days before emptying the vats, in order to obtain more power and body in the midpalate; there is real potential there!

And now it's time for our traditional party, the Gerbaude, where all of the workers of Château Giscours and Château du Tertre celebrate the end of the picking. Without doubt there will be huge smiles all around to bid farewell to an extraordinary harvest. A meal and a party accompanied by some good bottles from each château are being put on to thank all of our vendangeurs (harvest workers) for their enthusiasm and diligence, without which nothing would be possible.

"Haute couture" at Château Haut-Bailly

At Château Haut-Bailly we finished the harvest this past Wednesday! In total, we did 10 half-days (mostly for picking the Merlot and avoiding the heat of the afternoons) and five full days at the end for the Cabernets. All that over five weeks, from Sept. 15 to Oct. 14. This is thanks to a great team of harvesters who are willing to come just when we want. We are extremely lucky to have them doing this real "haute couture" work!

It is amazing also the number of people who came to see the birth of this great vintage ... another record for this year.

The real work now starts in the cellars: fermentation, cuvaison, pressing ... we have to taste the wines every day to know exactly when to stop the maceration for each tank. A few Merlots already finished their fermentation but we'll have a more precise opinion on the vintage after the alcoholic fermentation of the Cabernets.

Opinions from the Bordeaux wine industry

We asked a few friends for their view about Bordeaux 2009. Frédéric Engerer of Château Latour: "Monstrous!" For Valentin Lillet, broker in Bordeaux (Les Grands Crus): "A great wine for aging ... a vintage for eternity!" Philippe Dhalluin (Chateau Mouton-Rothschild) thinks "2009 is a 2005 but more concentrated." For Mathieu Chadronnier, who is general manager of CVBG (one of the biggest négociants in Bordeaux): "It is a great vintage for Bordeaux because it is a success in all colors and all grape varieties. It will be great on the Left Bank and on the Right." François Thienpont from Wings, another négociant in Bordeaux, said, "Having tasting some vats already fermented (before malolactic) in Médoc and Pomerol, I was extremely seduced by the roundness and power of the fruit and the freshness in the finish. Knowing the high percentage of natural sugar, the fear was to get unbalanced wines. It's exactly the opposite due to the quality of mature tannins. The wines I tasted so far leave an impression of silkiness and your tastebuds an impression of happiness—benchmark of a Grand Millésime."

Sweet wine in Cadillac

Our very good Lebanese friends, Tony and Youmna Asseily, who bought Château Biac (Langoiran, Cadillac appellation) in 2006, are still harvesting at the moment their Sémillon with the utmost care: only chocolate-colored berries fall in their basket and the juices are pressing at a handsome 23 degrees, which is absolutely wonderful for a first passage of this great sweet wine. There is still plenty more waiting to be picked in the coming days.


Johnny Espinoza Esquivel
Wine World —  October 20, 2009 9:37am ET

Well this is it! I cannot express my feelings! I have been reading thru all you blog entries. I was not really aware about 2005 'till wines were already bottled. Since then, I have kept myself as informed as I can on Bordeaux vintages. With 2009 and with yours and Veronique blog entries was different. Thank you so much for your work and for sharing this useful -truly useful indeed- information.

I will keep my eyes on this potentially classic vintage. Maybe you can keep us informed from time to time on the development of the wines. First part of the work it's done. The one that nature delivers. Now it is your turn.

I wish nothing but good luck. . .
Vincenzo Tagliavia
United Kingdom —  November 4, 2009 2:57pm ET
It would seem as if we are set to have a very long and expensive En Primeur 2009 campaign next year.
By having a quick browse on the net, it is not difficult to feel the hype already for a vintage that is set to be one of the benchmarks in history - and a what cost...

It is believed that wines will be released very late (I would confortably say that with such excitement on the vintage, many will be tempted to wait influential wine critics' ratings before releasing their wines) with 1st growths exploiting economic recovery to apply a fat mark up on their juices.

I personally believe - sadly - that 1st growths will non release 1st tranches at less than 380-450 Euros per bottle...
Alexander Van Beek
France —  November 13, 2009 4:53pm ET
Dear Vincenzo,
You can be very right in your assessment, but you should never forget that everything is great in a big vintage!
You will also be able to find great wines at great prices including classified growths!
Best regards,
Veronique and Alexander

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