Any day now, in some corner of a vineyard in South West France, the last grape of the 2012 harvest will be picked and put into a basket and then, the serious business of making the Bordeaux vintage will begin.
Right now, the whole wine world is waiting in bated breath to find out about this year’s vintage because, for a long time, no one was quite sure whether there was ever going to be one. Bordeaux suffered the same torrential rain that Britain did in March and April, which disrupted the vines’ flowering – something which wasn’t helped by a brutally hot summer and a drought that scorched the vines, followed by even more rain. “It’s been very stressful this year for sure,” Jean-Charles Cazes, of Château Lynch-Bages in Pauillac, told me. “We have had to stay on top of the vineyards all the time”. The harvest, he says, was saved by a good September when there was the right mixture of sun and rain that finally enabled the grapes to ripen. To say that the region’s winemakers have battled the elements to protect their crop, then, would be quite the understatement.
So what does this mean for the wine buyer, particularly if, like me, you buy a few cases En Primeur each year and then wait patiently to drink it? Good news by the sounds of it. The grapes are in and there will be a vintage. Not the finest or a lot of it, mind you, but it will definitely be there and might offer some bargains for the savvy wine buyer when the time comes.
Leading merchants are expecting prices to come down. “The formula is simple. The vintage needs a reason for people to buy it and the only one we can think of is a low price,” says Giles Cooper of Bordeaux Index. The trade feels that prices in 2011 were too high and as result, a significant portion of the vintage remains unsold. 2012’s offering, then, will need to be priced to go.
We still have a while to see just how affordable this year’s vintage will be, since we won’t begin to get a feel for it until next year, but the prospect of decent, affordable claret is exciting enough for those of us who have seen our favourite bottles spiraling out of our budgets in recent years.
THREE TO FOLLOW
One for the weekend
Berrys’ Extra Ordinary Claret, £13.65
This has always been one of my favourites and is reputedly made by the Cazes family. A classy claret at a very decent price.
One to impress the neighbours
Segla 2006, Margaux, £23
Segla is the second wine of Château Rauzan Segla. It drinks vey nicely now and will keep well for a few years.
One to tuck away
Château Cantemerle 2010, £245 per case in bond or £321.37 duty paid
It is now clear that the 2011 and 2012 are ordinary vintages so it is well worth looking back at the great 2010 vintage and seeing what you can pick up there. This is a beautifully elegant wine, arguably one of the finest the château has ever made and will keep for 10 or 15 years.