Jeff Leve Having conducted numerous interviews with vintners on the 2012 Bordeaux vintage, a few growers stated they found similarities in the weather patterns with the difficult 2012 Bordeaux vintage, and previous, highly regarded years. What are your thoughts?
Jean Emmanuel Danjoy “Overall, for the 2012 Clerc Milon, the weather data has some strong similarities with 2000 and 2009. Those shared characteristics are the cool and wet spring that delayed vine development, an increasing water deficit from mid-July to harvest, above-normal average temperatures in August. It was the warmed year since 2003 and high day / night temperature differences that allowed for very good anthocyanins synthesis.”
Jeff Leve What is one of the main differences between the years?
Jean Emmanuel Danjoy “The flowering and veraison in 2012 Clerc Milon were less uniform and yields are lower. The wines are also showing a more forward structure, lower acidity and probably a bit more flesh this year.”
Jeff Leve In Pauillac, at Clerc Milon, what do you do when you have a vintage with uneven flowering?
Jean Emmanuel Danjoy “Since flower caps had a tendency to stick in the Merlot, we used the sulfur duster to blow them out. It also took extensive leaf and lateral removal this year to reduce disease pressure and improve the fruit ripeness as well as late veraison thinning to get ride off any green clusters of grapes.”
Jeff Leve Were the issues with flowering and veraison in 2012 Clerc Milon the most difficult aspect of the growing season this year?
Jean Emmanuel Danjoy “The whole season was a constant challenge against changing threats: the wet spring unleashed downy mildew, but also powdery mildew during the few warmer days of June. The young vines suffered, severely from late-season water deficit, and the harvest took place with a least a drop of rain everyday!”
Jeff Leve You had your work cut out for you. With all that, compared to 2011, did you need to spend more or less time on sorting 2012 Clerc Milon?
Jean Emmanuel Danjoy “Thanks to the favorable weather during summer, the maturity eventually evened out. We did not experience the green or pink berries at harvest like we did last year. The thicker skins also resisted better to Botryis. So sorting was less intensive compared to 2011.”
Jeff Leve “Did you continue to use optical sorting this year for the 2012 Clerc Milon?
Jean Emmanuel Danjoy “Following the experiments with optical sorting last year, we did purchase the equipment and ran it on 100% of the fruit coming into Clerc Milon this year. Tasting and measuring the quality of what is sorted out by the machine confirmed its ability to be much more accurate, precise and thorough than hand sorting.”
Jeff Leve Which was the more difficult situation for you with the 2012 Clerc Milon, dealing with botrytis or downy mildew?
Jean Emmanuel Danjoy “Botrytis only showed up the last couple of days during the harvest and never became a serious threat. Downy-mildew pressure was a much greater problem in the spring and had to be fought all the way to veraison, particularly in the vineyards we farm using organic farming techniques, which is up to 30% of the estate this year.”
Jeff Leve What about the water tables with the 2012 Clerc Milon?
Jean Emmanuel Danjoy “Water deficit after July 20th was comparable to that of 2000, 2005 and 2009. This became a challenge in young vineyard blocks with limited root system, where we had to severely reduce leaf area by trimming the canopies mid-August. This helped reduce water loss through transpiration.”
Jeff Leve When did you start harvesting?
Jean Emmanuel Danjoy “We started to pick October 1and finished harvesting October 16.”
Jeff Leve “With the rapid changes in the October weather, did you finish picking earlier than anticipated?
Jean Emmanuel Danjoy “When the trend for a low-pressure weather system was confirmed, we did accelerate harvest by bringing in all the crews on October 8. This decision was later supported by the fact that proper ripening conditions did not return after October 13.”
Jeff Leve What were the conditions like for you during the harvesting of the 2012 Clerc Milon?
Jean Emmanuel Danjoy “The weather during harvest was overall wet and mild, with some rainfall being recorded every day.”
Jeff Leve Do you think any variety performed better in this specific year.
Jean Emmanuel Danjoy “The Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon both reached an excellent quality and maturity level. But I would say that with 2012 Clerc Milon, the Merlot may have an extra dimension this year in depth and complexity.”
Jeff Leve With everything you went through this year with the 2012 Clerc Milon growing season, what are your yields?
Jean Emmanuel Danjoy “Way too low because of poor berry set and high skin to juice ratio. It hurts to even think about it!”