Helen’s blog

Thoughts and tastings from Helen Savage, wine writer.

Archive for September, 2011

Harvest 2011 – hail and rot, but good things to come too.

Tuesday, September 20th, 2011

As the story of 2011 unfolds in western France, the picture is proving ever more complex – just as you might expect. Hail in the first week of September created havoc in around 300 hectares of Saint Estèphe and an even larger part of St Emilion.  Rot has become a serious worry, prompting some growers to abandon hopes of leaving the grapes a little longer to become even riper and make the best of what they can. Tales of sugar levels vary wildly, but the almost preposterous strength of the record-breaking 2010s and 2009s is not likely to be reached. Florence de la Filolie says that the current level is around 13.5 to 13.8 at Château Laniote (Grand Cru Classé St Emilion), as is unlikely to peak much above 14% when they pick –they were hoping to start yesterday. Last year the finished wine came in at 15.2%. They have been lucky to escape hail damage and the grapes look to be in fine health. Some vineyards in Pomerol had already been picked when I last drove through on 10 September. Back on the west side of the Gironde, the grapes at Caronne Sainte Gemme at Saint Laurent in the Médoc also looked in good health when I visited the same day. Georges Nony was quietly confident that a tricky, unpredictable year might yet deliver something special