Bordeaux vineyards: the harvest is really early this year… Why?

M. Jacques Lurton, President of the A.O.C Pessac Léogan explains why the harvest started so early this year. Indeed, for the whites, properties started on Tuesday morning, August 16. It is the case for instance for Château La Louvière or Château Carbonnieux where I remember that as a student I was very happy to pick up grapes from mid-september until mid October, just before starting university.

@Credit Photo: Château La Louvière

@Credit Photo: Château Carbonnieux

This year the harvest is 2 days ahead of 2003, which was the earliest date that we knew of. In the 80s the ban was opened (*the ban is the administrative authorization to start the grape harvest) in mid-September. Nowadays, 40 years later, we are 1 month early !

The reasons for this very early date is the combination of two factors says M. Lurton. First of all, excess heat and water deficit. Every day it was nice and every night it was hot. This encouraged the ripening of the grapes. Generally, in Bordeaux, at night, we fall to 15°C. This summer, we systematically had nights at 23 or 24°C and many days that exceeded 35°C. This is an exceptional situation, with an unprecedented climate. Water stress also increased the concentration of sugar. As a result, we logically lost acidity.

Have high temperatures affected the health of the vineyard? We can wonder about this…

In a whole, not so much. The vine is an extraordinary plant that has resisted rather well. However a few properties have requested derogations from the ban on irrigating vines with shallow roots or on alio soils, or vines not yet established. It is an epi phenomenon, representing only 1%. The smal rainfall around 20th June (70 mm of water) allowed the vineyard to last until the rains of August 13th when it fell on Pessac Léognan about 25 mm.

M. Lurton explains also that the sauvignon and the semillon do not resist in the same way to drought and strong heat. Although Bordeaux went into the sauvignon in the 80s, the original grape variety is the semillon.

Sauvignon is a very popular international grape variety, very aromatic, which is very pleasant for its freshness. It is a variety of fresh climate. Semillon, on the other hand, is a very aromatically calm grape: it is rather an ageing grape. It is much more resistant to heat and water stress and does not have this aromatic deficiency due to water stress. The riper, the better and it even becomes very aromatic. It looks like 2022 is more a semillon than a sauvignon year. It could favour semillon in the blendings.

Winegrowers will need to adapt to this climate change. In Bordeaux, according to M. Lurton we might have to prepare for irrigation, in order to keep the vine alive and make a balanced grape between sugar and acidity… It will be necessary to preserve and adapt our grape varieties without seeking others in order to preserve the identity of Bordeaux. On this last point, research must help find solutions.

Enjoy your 2022 harvest !!

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