By Henry Samuel in Paris:
Although pickers are only know harvesting the last of the grapes and the young wines will not be tasted until next year, grower are already convinced that 2009 clarets will better the near-perfect 2005 vintage.
“Nature has been extremely generous, it is sumptuous,” said Denis Dubourdieu, director of the Bordeaux Institute of Vine and Wine Sciences and a renowned winemaker.
“It’s difficult to find comparisons, you have to go back to the climatology of the 40s to find, perhaps, comparable conditions,” he added.
Growers said the mix of fine days but cool, dry nights in the final days before grape picking began last month had been the finest since 1949.
The cool nights stopped the grapes from over-ripening and added sophistication. July and August were ideally hot and sunny. Then just when drought threatened to stop the grapes from ripening and developing crucial tannins to help age the wines, the rain came.
“(It) came like the answer to a prayer, exactly at the right time, and the vines continued maturing,” said Pierre Lurton, General Manager of Chateau Cheval Blanc in Saint Emilion.
“Such a fall after such a summer, it’s rather extraordinary, one can’t dream of anything better,” said Mr Dubourdieu.
As a result, he said, the grapes have all the sugar content, colour and fruitiness found in the greatest of vintages.
Not all growers are celebrating, however, as violent May hail storms wiped out an estimated 15 percent of crops and half of some vineyards in the Entre-Deux-Mers, Saint-Emilion and Graves. The wines also may be a little strong for some tastes – the alcohol content is expected to be around 14 percent.
Bordeaux winegrowers have a habit of throwing in superlatives about vintages and the sceptical may question the fortuity of such a great year given that Bordeaux sales have been falling in the wake of the 2005 boom.
But foreign wine traders and importers appear to agree that this year could be truly exceptional.
In the wine blog of the British importer Berry Brothers & Rudd, the company’s Bordeaux buyer, Max Lalondrelle, said: “The weather in Bordeaux (and the rest of France) has been textbook, with the fruits being the healthiest I have ever seen All the ingredients of a good vintage look to be in place.”