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.
JL: When will you begin harvesting Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc for the 2011 Haut Brion?
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.”
Thanks for the indications regarding your forum, as with addressing my questions. I’ll see what’s what at the forum.
Those whose business it is to sell wine often find themselves talking at the earliest of the previous vintage. In particular, in the case of Bordeaux, the en primeur campaign means all focus is on the prior year.
However, it has been clear for some time that a changing climate is having its effect on Bordeaux, as it is in every aspect of life. It is particularly interesting, therefore, to be able to have further insights as to the development of the actual vintage.
Moreover, in market terms, if this does turn out to be a vintage year of above average quality, with much wine available, China not yet buying into en primeur and no guarantee that it will, the implications for prices are clear. Further, the major London merchants may rely on Asia-China for as much as 50% of their turnover.
Might I take the opportunity to inquire further?
Why are young vines harvested earlier?
What is the water stress like across Bordeaux?
What are the expectations for quality at this stage?
Thanks a lot
Thank you for the long and thoughtful post. We always like your contributions. If you want to discuss in detail, it would be easier to do this on our forums. http://thewinecellarinsider.com/forums_new/forumdisplay.php?5-Wine-amp-Food-Talk
In response to what I think are your 3 main questions…
Why are young vines harvested earlier? – Young vines are always harvested earlier. However, the fear of rot in the Northern Medoc pushed the harvesting forward by several days. It’s all about selection. Estates willing to reduce effective yields can make good wine.
What is the water stress like across Bordeaux? – I think it varies in 2011. Until the recent hail storm, my guess was, the vintage might have been favored the Northern Medoc.
What are the expectations for quality at this stage? – It is too early to tell. It could end up being an average or classic vintage, but it’s not going to be as good as 2008, 2009 or 2010.