In the second of my face-to-face reports on the Bordeaux 2013 harvest, I drove up from Château Margaux and arrived just on time at Château Pontet-Canet, where I had an appointment with Jean-Michel Comme.
No sooner had I arrived than Jean-Michel (pictured below) appeared. We headed into the chai and upstairs, where he had a half bottle of the 2011 ready to go. After tasting, I got around to the 2013 vintage.
Me: Please tell me about the 2013 vintage and harvest.
Jean-Michel: This has been a small harvest, and many vats are empty. The yields are low, 15 hl/ha approximately, this is less than half what we had last year, when it was 34 hl/ha. People will say this is low because of biodynamics, but everybody has low yields this year; we are perhaps slightly lower than others, but the low yield is universal and due to the vintage, not biodynamics. We have managed the vineyard in the same manner as usual. We allow the natural balance of the vines to determine the yields, we never try to reduce the crop, for example we don’t green harvest. We don’t cut the shoots, and we don’t deleaf. All the potential that comes from the vine goes to the wine.
This has been a more difficult year, the main problem was coulure, but in the end I am confident in the quality. It is difficult to say this after such a complicated vintage, as people will think it is a joke, but I will present the wine with confidence in spring. The wine is still on skins at present, but I can tell it is not a wine of low quality.
Nothing in the world comes for free though – if you want to produce the best wine in the world, you have to take harsh decisions and follow them. Biodynamics is very significant for our success. Under biodynamics the quality of the Cabernet Sauvignon improved quickly, but the Merlots followed more slowly. You can see this in the Cabernet Sauvignon this year. Even a few days after the véraison the berries are good to taste. Also, after instituting biodynamics, I have noticed that the difference in ripening of the Merlots and the Cabernets is much less than it used to be.
I am very satisfied with what we achieved this year, especially when it comes to biodynamics as we have proved that we can do it. This is the third difficult year in a row, and we have had no significant loss of crop compared to other estates. We used 2.75 kg/ha of copper sulphate, a reduction from last year’s figure which was 4 kg/ha, and we are allowed 6 kg/ha. In 2011 we used 2 kg/ha though. These figures are all official, we are certified and have recently been inspected and signed off. It is important to reduce copper use where possible as I expect in the future the permitted quantity per hectare will reduce, to 5 kg/ha, then 4 kg/ha, and perhaps based on any one year rather than the current system where the figure may be averaged over five years, which means you can use more than 6 kg/ha in a year at present. We are well prepared for any reductions coming our way.
The 2013 vintage will be aged in the new cement vats which have replaced our eggs (subscribers can read more on Jean-Michel Comme’s own vat-design in my Pontet-Canet profile), so there will be less wood influence on the wine. This is a nice idea, but nice ideas aren’t always good ideas. We will see how it goes. If it is a good idea, we will develop it, but if not then we will ditch it.
My thanks to Jean-Michel for his time, and his report on 2013. I left after about 30 minutes in his company, and made the very short journey across to Château Mouton-Rothschild.
These early Bordeaux 2013 reports are essentially funded by Winedoctor subscribers, the first purpose of this latest trip to Bordeaux having been to taste 2011s for a forthcoming report on that vintage. If you find these reports interesting, please consider taking out a subscription to Winedoctor.