David Derby - Bordeaux Update

by Chuck Hayward

I must confess here and now that I need at least 4 hours of sleep EVERY night. With 18 hour days filled with visiting wineries etc, I have been literally "sleeping on the job."

For the past week, I have been in Bordeaux experiencing the adrenaline rush of my first en premier campaign of Bordeaux futures. While I have visited Bordeaux many times by glass and bottle, it has been close to 25 years since I stood in a Chai (cellar) and spit on the floor. To say Bordeaux was different, then, would be an understatement. Over the years the Bordelaise have slowly allowed in new technologies to advance the quality of their wines. What was cutting edge technologies way back when are simply outdated today. What that means to the 2007 vintage is immense. There was a time when there were more ‘challenging’ vintages than quality vintages, but with the knowledge and skill of the vineyard manager and winemaker today, many vintages are saved that would have most certainly been lost.

Most Chateaux agree that for 2007 the problem was a ripening issue. The smaller the number of grapes on the vine, the more ripeness per grape. Some Chateaux removed grapes in July, doing what is known as a green harvest. Many winemakers believe that this was too little, too late. The vineyards that practiced a heavy pruning or were working with soil types that naturally produce a low yield gave the best grapes.

What makes this vintage especially challenging for the consumer is there are only a few generalizations that can work as a guide. This was a year with some surprises at every corner. Some Chateaux superseded the quality of their neighbors and the region in general. Others stumbled and seemed to be resting on past glories and hoping no one would notice. One well known journalist made up their mind and only tasted one third the normal number. They just gave up. What was required, which is exactly the strategy that JJ Buckley took, is to taste 3 times as many. There is a lot of sub-standard wine for 2007, make no mistake about it. On the other hand, there are some select Chateaux that produced wines that offer some of the most pleasurable drinking. JJ Buckley notes will soon follow, which will give you a window into who we visited and what we tasted.