*** NOTE - added later *** Below you find the first posting about the subject Bordeaux 2009. If you are looking for information about this subject in general, this link will give you all postings on this blog written about Bordeaux 2009 (from the newest to the oldest). ***
Early in 2008 Paul Pontallier spoke the following words: "We are so fortunate with global warming. Look at the number of great vintages we have had in the last 12 or 13 years. It is absolutely amazing."
Since he said this Bordeaux has suffered from a series of devastating hail storms. The first one hit the 2008 crop in the south of the Médoc, around Cantenac, causing losses at Du Tertre, Cantenac-Brown and Prieuré-Lichine, among others. The second series took place this week, unusually early in the growing season: two storms, severely damaging extensive areas in the Bordeaux region. Normally these kind of storms occur in September, just before or around harvest time.
Of course it is hard to say whether these fierce storms are the result of global warming, but nevertheless I wonder if the Bordelais are still so enthusiastic about Modern Weather as a whole.
The first storm covered the largest area, from the Charentes in the north down to the Graves in the south. It took place Monday afternoon. The Charentes was hit the worst, with many, many hectares of vineyards lost. From there it raged south along the right bank border, it passed Blaye, and blew over the southern Médoc & Graves, and the Libournais more to the east. With this first storm the southern Médoc (Margaux) was hit for the second year in row.
The second storm was more local yet more damaging: it took place around 4:00 in the morning from Tuesday to Wednesday and more or less ran from the Entre-Deux-Mers region towards Saint-Emilion. Normally the Carteaux côte is enough of a barrier to split a storm in two, but this one couldn't be stopped and cut deep into the Saint-Emilion vineyards.
The losses are big. For example Château Canon lost about 80% of its crop, some others even more. The damage is so serious that it probably will affect the 2010 crop as well. The plants have been bombarded with huge hail stones, the young twigs and leaves have been ripped off, and - worse - the wood of many vines has been severely injured.
Of vital importance now is that these damaged vines are treated and pruned, enabling them to continue (or restart) their vegetative cycle. But that is difficult: the soil is extremely wet - there has also been lots of rain these days. One can enter the wet clay by foot (whereby the boot will grow with every step) but the tractors can't get in (yet another reason to bring back the horses!). To treat against mildew the richer properties might hire a helicopter.
The drama behind the plant-kill is financial. Most producers aren't insured (any more) because of the big expenses, and a year (or two?) without wine can mean that a producer loses his market.
One of the wines that I work with is the white Vieille France 2007 (Graves), and they have already said there will be no white 2009. That's sad. Besides the financial loss for the owners, it means that we will have to miss a lovely wine this year.
More details (with numbers etc.) can be found in a Wine Spectator article by Diana Macle.