Chateau Haut Brion and Chateau La Mission Haut Brion started harvesting their young vine Merlot, August 29. This is early for the First Growth estate. To give you an idea of how early, in 2010, Haut Brion started to pick their young Merlot vines, Septemebr 8. In that vintage, harvesting continued until October 9. Obviously, 2011 is going to end much earlier. How early remains to be seen.
Between the two Pessac Leognan properties, with red and white grapes to pick, they have a busy schedule. The harvesters begin their day working on the grapes for their Bordeaux white wine, often starting their day before the sun rises.
Jean-Philippe Delmas explains why they harvest in the early morning: “The purpose of picking the white grapes early in the morning is to ensure the fruit remains cool. This helps the berries to retain their unique, fresh aromas. This not only for 2011 Haut Brion. It’s something we have done for quite a while.”
We asked Jean-Phillipe Delmas a few more questions about what is taking place with 2011 Haut Brion and their Bordeaux harvest and what to expect next.
Delmas: Everything is subject to change, depending on the weather. As a guess, we will start picking Cabernet Franc, September 12 and Cabernet Sauvignon September 19.
JL: Knowing the grapes for your white wine can be picked before sunrise, what time of the morning do your harvesters begin picking your red wine grapes?
Delmas: “This year, we picked our white grapes between 7am and noon. Last week, we harvested our young Merlot parcels between 1pm and 16:00. Now that the white wine harvest is finished, we start picking our red grapes beginning at 9:00 am. The reason is, by that time of day, the skins are dry. None of the dew from the night is remaining.”
JL: With 2 properties and 4 wines, how many harvesters are working in your vineyards?
Delmas: “A total of 150 harvesters for Haut-Brion and La Mission Haut-Brion. This encompasses 3 different teams of 50 harvesters each.”
JL: 2011 is one of the earliest harvests on record for numerous estates. With a start date of August 29 for your red wine grapes, when was the last time you picked this early?
Delmas: “We started earlier for the 2003. August 13 for white and August 25 for red grapes.”
JL: Lastly, if everything goes according to plan, when do you expect to complete your Merlot harvest?
Delmas: “Not before September 10. Although it could be September 12 or 13 at the latest.”