The Harvest: looking forward to En Primeur

September days – nail-biting times for winemakers in Europe as they keep a close eye on the barometer to ensure that their vineyards are unaffected by all manner of weather related problems, prior to harvest

In Burgundy, and Chablis in particular, hail can affect the vineyards. This year (2015) the top Chablis Grand Cru site Les Clos was hit, and over 10% of the vineyard area affected. This has a terrific impact on the next vintage and means reduced yields, more work in the vineyard – and may even affect overall quality.

In Bordeaux it is essential that, for the dry wines, there is not too much rain – so the fruit does not become dilute or mildewy. However, for the sweet wines (primarily made in Sauternes and Barsac) some light rain and humidity is actually desirable in September so the grapes obtain botrytis (mould) and shrink, making the grapes more concentrated.

Once the fruit is harvested, normally from early to late September, the onus is on the winemaking – not the quality of the fruit. However, the level of intervention required in the winery will certainly depend on the success of the vintage – for example juice from cooler vintages may need sugar added to bring up the potential alcohol.

Once the fermentation has taken place (either in tank or in barrel) quality wines, especially reds, will spend some time in oak barrel to mature in advance of En Primeur tastings – which are most important for Bordeaux, Burgundy and he Rhone. Italian producers tend to show wines later and release when they are ready, as do Spanish producers.

Published on 29/10/2015 / By Nick Connell