I hesitate to write this update but such has been the interest in the quality of the 2015 “en primeur” that several of you have been asking me about the prognostics for the 2016 vintage

We vignerons are a superstitious lot and as my husband, Jacques Thienpont, says “the harvest can only be judged when it is safely gathered and the wines are fermenting in the vats.” For any of you who have been lucky enough to holiday in the south west of France, the weather has been glorious for all of July and August with nary a rain cloud to interrupt the blue skies.

Luckily the temperatures have not been too excessive either so we have not had the problem with sunburn and drought that we had in years such as 2003 and 2006. The vines however are looking a little thirsty at this stage, especially the young vines whose tender leaves have started curling inwards in subconscious protection from the sun. The water tables were amply filled up by the Spring rains so there is no drought stress for those vines with deep enough roots to tap into them; in fact so much rain fell during the months of May and June that we could hardly conceive that the summer would be able to turn things around.

At this stage of the growing cycle, veraison is almost completed in our vineyards from Pomerol to the Côtes de Castillon. The rows for the most part look green and healthy with lots of ripening bunches hanging from the vines. The Merlots in particular are looking very good – atypically because Merlot is often affected by coulure and millerandage so that on the same bunch, there will be shot or unset berries. This year, there was a small window of good weather at the beginning of June when flowering took place. This helped create a uniform fruit set that hopefully will have very good consequences on the quantity of healthy grapes come harvest time.

Not that we have had a completely clean sheet. There have been problems with black rot and oidium as so often is the case in Bordeaux’s maritime climate, so great care and attentive spraying was needed during the Spring to keep disease and rot at bay.

It doesn’t look as if this year will be an especially early harvest. The lack of water has slowed down photosynthesis quite a bit (the process where the vines process the energy in sunlight to produce sugars that feed the berries). We are looking for a harvest date around the third week of September at this stage.

A post on Jancis Robinson’s purple pages particularly impressed me this week. Fellow Brit and wine writer, Gavin Quinney, who makes wine at Chateau Bauduc in the Entre-deux-Mers, wrote it. He came up with a synthesis of rainfall for the last few years and his comparison shows just how wet the Spring was and how dry the Summer has been in 2016.

I write this with mixed feelings because the rosy picture in Bordeaux is very different from that found in Burgundy (beset by hail and frost damage during the Spring) or in the Languedoc (where a terrible hail storm destroyed many hectares of grapes in mid-August.) A lot can happen in a month’s time and ideally, a bit of rain would freshen up the grapes nicely. Not too much mind, the 2012 vintage was dampened by Autumn rains, but enough to give the vines a welcome drink before facing the final stretch of ripeness. Bordeaux lovers, keep your fingers crossed and in the meantime, if you haven’t taken a look at our 2015 en primeurs offer, here is another chance to read my tasting notes on this very attractive vintage.

© Fiona Morrison M.W.