A first glance at the baby Bordeaux 2008 vintage
Harvest has ended, all grapes are safely in. Time to look back at the completed 2008 growing season.
April − June 2008
With a cold spring the 2008 vintage doesn't have an ideal start, with even some frost in the beginning of April, diminishing the crop in the Graves region. During flowering (mid-May) and fruit set (end of May) there is lots of rain: mildew threatens the grapes (possibly leading to rot, and demanding a lot of work in the vineyard) and there is millerandage (uneven berry set); especially merlot is affected. This grape variety is struck precisely during its flowering, which is a vulnerable stage. It implies − in the end − a lot of extra work during harvest when the selection is done − all the tiny green bullets (undeveloped grapes) need to be removed from the bunches. As a result there are only small quantities of merlot in 2008.
July − September 2008
Finally good weather arrives, it is hot and sunny, and this weather remains until the berries are changing colour, the véraison (beginning of August). The August-weather is variable, with rain arriving in the second week and staying for over 2 weeks. Mildew continues to threaten the vines. The end of August is warm again, happily flowing into a "very good September". But due to the abundance of rain so far (and lack of warmth and sunshine) the ripening of the grapes demands more time. With the good weather in this late stage of the season the late ripening (and less affected) cabernet sauvignon is promising: it has a good chance to ripen properly. Also cabernet franc, the variety that usually reaches full ripeness in between merlot and cabernet sauvignon, ripens well.
September − October 2008
Getting to the desired quality of the fruit was a matter of waiting, and hoping that the weather wouldn't alter. And it didn't (except for some rain in the first week of October). The good Indian Summer weather more or less saved the vintage. Harvest took place mostly during good weather.
An early conclusion about Bordeaux 2008
It seems that Bordeaux 2008 is going to be more successful than 2007. I have heard people making comparisons with good vintages like 1983 and 1998. One thing is sure: the quantities will be low, for the ambitious properties there will be around 40% less wine.
A characteristic of the year is the relatively high acidity, with a high proportion of lactic acids (and this is even more so for merlot). At the time of writing the malolactic fermentation has not yet taken place (we're more or less in between the alcoholic and malolactic fermentation) and we will have to see what will be the outcome, but it seems that Bordeaux 2008 will be a year with plenty of freshness, balanced by a good ripeness, especially from the cabernets. Again, very early conclusions, so let's finish with the words "to be continued!"
Added April 2009: Further Reading:
− Bordeaux 2008 vintage report − an update (14 Jan 2009)
− Bordeaux 2008 on Bordoverview
− Bordeaux 2008 offers
− and various other postings on this blog