Bordeaux 2013 – so what is the vintage like?

Having just returned from Bordeaux, here is our 2013 Vintage report which you will also find on

2013 will long be remembered for being one of the most controversial vintages as well as being a winemaking feat. The weather conditions combined to produce a fair amount of challenges for even the most experienced viticulturists. The winter was wet and cool, resulting in delayed shooting and putting pressure on flowering. There was a high percentage of millerandage (poor fruit set – often referred to as hen and chickens – irregular fruit set resulting in small and large berries) and coulure (where flowers drop off the cluster due to wind, rain and chemical deficiencies).  The average temperature between beginning of April and end of May was the lowest recorded in decades. May was plagued with rain and at this point the vintage was looking woeful. July brought some happier news to the Bordelais with a period of warm weather; it was hot without being a heat wave.

This allowed the grape development to catch up a little; with less fruit on the vines, the crop did catch up quicker than anticipated, leaving a short spell of hope in the air. September then dealt another blow to the vintage with rain, warmth and a resulting humidity that added botrytis risk to the already challenging harvest conditions. With this imminent, quick harvesting was essential;  it’s at this point that the difference across the region started to be established, those who could afford to increase labour and had the available resources to do so picked very quickly. Chateau Margaux started harvest 3 days earlier than they would have liked due to the botrytis looming and, as they progressed, increased speed rapidly;  one day they had 100 people in the vineyard and the next 300 people, picking the entire harvest in 8 days. The yield coming in was dramatically reduced due to the weather conditions at the start of harvest: Margaux in 2009 picked 39 hl/ha and in 2013 22hl/ha; Chateau Petrus – 24 hl/ha compared to 39hl/ha from the 2009 vintage, for example. The next quality decision came at the sorting table; in a recurring theme, those who could afford to make the very hard decisions did, resulting in even further reduction in yields;  Pontet Canet had 30 people sorting in the winery (with 50 people in the vineyard) and produced only 50% of their normal production. The JP Moueix stable on the right bank have generally produced only a third of their normal production and did not in fact produce any Hosanna; being a 4ha site, the yield of 12hl / ha so little, they opted to concentrate their resource and time into other properties. Those that carefully selected fruit, picked very quickly, vinified gently and smartly have produced very good wines from this challenging situation; the difficulty in this vintage is identifying these wines amongst the raft of Bordeaux Chateau available, visiting and tasting was clearly the only way to do this.