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Bordeaux harvest: day seven

Published:  23 July, 2008

A week of our tracking the 2007 Bordeaux harvest has gone by, and it's a conflicting picture that is emerging.

Despite the rain some of the grapes have raisined, as in 2003 and 2005, making careful sorting vital. Meanwhile, ripening problems from the wet also persist.

Florence Forgas - Chateau Ducla, Entre-Deux-Mers

Monday: today we spent all day undergoing one of the regular audits for ISO 9000 Certification (which we have already obtained) - perfect timing, of course..

This certification is very important, not just to ensure best practice for ourselves, but also for the way we work with Yvon Mau.

No harvest today because the Cabernet Sauvignon is not yet ripe. In the cellars, we just carry on with the pumpings over, such an important stage for the reds.

The first tanks of Merlot, that started fermenting on September 24 are now finished (less than two gms of residual sugar) and are undergoing a warm maceration.

The "Experience" cuvee of barrel fermented white, mainly Sauvignon Gris, has also finished and is beginning its maturation on the lees.

Tuesday: the weather is grey, depressing and unlikely to help the Cabernet Sauvignon ripen. We'll go out tomorrow and take a look.

In the cellars, the same routine of pumping over the reds and lees stirring the tanks of white, the constant throb of pumps in the background.

I have just finished tasting the different tanks:

The whites have gained fat and roundness from the last 15 days' lees stirring

The ros is in mid-fermentation

The reds appear fruity and round. Now we have to wait until the end of fermentation to have a better idea.

Philippe Bardet - Chateaux Val d'Or and Picoron

Wednesday: it is raining this morning, so no picking today, but hope to restart tomorrow.

This is a fascinating vintage. For instance, everyone is saying how wet it was this summer, but not everywhere. We are making the most of the day off by picking today to dig holes for new vines to replace the missing ones, and it is amazing how dry the soil is in some places.

On some plateaux in Castillon and the more gravely soils in St Emilion, we have noticed that some of the berries we have picked have been raisined ("fltri") in way that is reminiscent of 2003 and, to a lesser extent, 2005, two dry years.

Fortunately, our grape-sorting machine enables us to eliminate both the raisined berries and those that may be underripe. It will also come in handy for sorting out any rotten berries that result from the current rain.

Another aspect of 2007 that I am aware of is that I am spending more time on winemaking decisions than I normally would.

For instance on batches where we conducted a strict green harvest or on which we did a bleeding ("saigne") of just 10%, the colour and anthocyanin levels are extremely high - we have observed that bleeding has made much more of a difference than usual.

Secondly, the balance of anthocyanin and tannins this year is exceptional and will, as long as our regular tasting confirms our expectations, allow us to conduct very long post-fermentation macerations.

We have also been encouraged to trial a tank at higher fermentation temperatures than normal (32C compared to our normal 28C) so we can gauge the impact on colour, tannin and overall balance.