We talked about 2012 as being a very challenging year which beat many vignerons! Wow, next bring on vintage 2013!!

Cabernet Franc fruit in Hourcat Sud Cardan just after a rain shower

Cabernet Franc fruit in Hourcat Sud  after the storm of October 3rd, hours before harvest

It started cold wet and late! Throughout spring it continued. Bud burst was well behind schedule and early growth was slow as the spring months continued cold and wet. Vineyards were still under water in late June and several cashed up growers even applied to spray their vines by helicopter as it was becoming impossible to get tractors into the vineyards. Flower setting or coulure was very variable.

As July started, the cold went to super hot as a heat wave powered massive vegetation growth and ten weeks of normal vine progress was realised in less than a month. With careful regular low dose sulphur based organic treatments, the vigour of the vines was stunning. Summer continued well until waves of storms hit in early August. A much publicised hail storm cell caused considerable devastation to nearly 10% of Bordeaux’s vineyards in the Entre-Deux-Mers sector. And it never really recovered from there. The remainder of summer was mild and just as growers hoped for more stable dry calmer weather to save something of the season, rainy humid periods returned, increasing the pressure from grey rot. Obtaining full ripeness and maturity looked like being a long battle.

The choice was on! Either to harvest cleaner less ripe fruit earlier or hang on and hope for drier weather and better maturity. We aimed to harvest on the second Saturday of October. After 50mm of rain fell in less than 2 hours during the evening of Thursday 3rd, the plan changed rapidly and we harvested 36 hours later! Wise decision once again from the Operations team! Merlot suffered the worst across the region and for us the quantity was too small to safely vinify. Cabernet generally and specifically for us Cabernet Franc was the winner. It is a much better wine grape variety than it gets credit for. The harvest team put in unbelievable effort to check every bunch as it was cut, followed by further “triage” at the winery table followed by very specific vinification and fermentation. Disaster was skillfully averted.

Many commentators have talked about Bordeaux 2013 as the “year to forget”, estimated to be the worst in a long time. Yes it required huge skill in the vineyard, good luck not to be in the path of a ruinous mega hail storm cell and persistence plus determination to follow the vintage to the very end. For those of us, who did manage to see it through, it will have been worth it.  The taste is already showing itself as light, fruity but very fine and elegant in quality. Don’t listen to what all the critics have said, taste the wines and be your own judge. You will be very (pleasantly) surprised!