Journal | September 22, 2016
Lessons Learned From 2010
Merlot harvest starts today. It seems that the weather will be good next week, so we are only picking the riper blocks this week. That would be the younger vines on lighter soils at Avenius and the steep slope blocks at Hardscrabble. In tasting grapes, I’m finding that the acidity is dropping fast, and I don’t want to lose the freshness factor that makes Merlot attractive.
I can’t forget the experience we had in 2010. In this very hot, dry vintage we delayed harvest (because we could), and brought in very ripe Merlot. We were all very excited and expected an exceptional wine. What we got was a flabby, alcoholic beast that was declassified (blended into a lesser bottling). With Merlot there is a small picking window. Its not a garage door. Pick too early and the wines are skinny and tough. Pick too late and they are clumsy and boring.
I opened a bottle of Chateau Monbousquet 2010 last night to help calibrate my palate. This St-Emilion made from mostly Merlot is reliably ripe and extracted. While not my style, it showed me what Merlot can do in the right place and in the right hands. The good news is that I may be opening a lot of 2009 and 2010 Bordeaux in the next few weeks. It is instructive to taste vintages similar to what we are experiencing as the harvest and fermentations progress. These were great Bordeaux vintages. I’m happy that I’m not reaching for 2007 or 2013 bottlings, which were not!