Harvest 2013 update: optical sorting machines hard to find in Bordeaux
September 14, 2013
By Panos Kakaviatos in Bordeaux
“June was awful,” said Tristan Kressmann, owner of Chateau Latour Martillac just ahead of a massive 1,000 person invite only celebration at nearby Domaine de Chevalier to commemorate the start of this year’s harvest. The food and music and ambiance was superb, and I will post detailed notes on such wines as La Mission Haut Brion 1998, which was magnificent. And Haut Brion 2010, which I had underrated en primeur. And top model Adriana Karembeu who participated in the dinner celebrations certainly obtained much press coverage for the event.
But the 2013 harvest looks somewhat bleak. Red grape pickings may not be finished before end of October, Kressmann said. “I have never seen such a late harvest vintage.” And it will be the smallest since 1991.
You can read from my previous reports here and in Decanter.com that Spring was awful, that flowering happened late and now – as a result – grapes are unevenly ripening. Especially hard hit was Merlot.
“We reserved our optical sorting machine early,” Kressmann said, as 2013 is a vintage that will require it. He said that he was lucky to have reserved it in July, because the company that rented it told him that it was their last machine. “If you want to find one now, it will be difficult,” Kressmann said. “And if they [the optical sorting machines] do not work this year, then they are not worth the money.” Renting one costs €40k. “That includes the technician and cleaning it at night after the grapes are sorted out,” explained Kressmann. The machines use high tech laser technology to sort out grapes not fit for making classified quality wines.
Certainly the Cabernets looked better when we visited his lovely vineyard. A few uneven looking bunches. But the Merlots seemed most susceptible to shattering (coulure) where lack of spring light, clouds, cold and rain did not allow for proper pollination, and thus a poor fruit set. Kressmann said the Merlots required two green harvests
“This will be a year of sorting and more sorting,” Kressmann said. “Funny how the great vintages actually cost less,” he remarked, referring to 2009 and 2010, where excellent weather required less selection. And certainly less of a need for optical sorting machines. I recall reporting on their use in 2009, a vintage that did not need them, really. It was more for publicity. But 2013 is different.
Like other vineyards in Bordeaux – but thankfully not nearly as bad as in the Loire Valley – Latour Martillac also hit by hail, as you see in the photo of hail affected Semillon grapes. But it was rather light damage. Kressmann believes that 2013 may turn out to be very good for whites.
For reds, it may be a vintage that will be easier for Cabernet – but even then, Kressmann said, Bordeaux needs a great Indian Summer… Perhaps the whites will turn out better – as they did in 2007. Who knows? Too early to call… The white harvest at Latour Martillac begins in the next few days.