The wine world’s spin doctors are up to their usual hype. But last year’s weather has made for a fascinating vintage.
It’s that time of year again, when the latest claret vintage roars into view. There is the usual trumpeting, words such as ‘spectacular’ and ‘outstanding’ being sprinkled (sometimes cautiously, sometimes liberally) by owners of the top châteaux – and, however hard one tries, it’s difficult to detect the presence of irony. Tongues appear to be nowhere near cheeks.
Then again, there is wine to sell, and positive spin is part of that process: we should expect nothing less.
So, what do we actuallyhave coming to the market on this occasion?
It turns out that last year’s climatic conditions played perhaps an even greater role than normal. Many growers, journalists and merchants have used the cliché of the ‘game of two halves’ – but it is entirely appropriate.
March, April, May and the early part of June 2018 saw plenty of wet weather. Mildew greatly affected the development of the berries, especially at properties such as Pauillac’s Pontet-Canet, and Margaux’s Palmer, both of which farm bio-dynamically (and are therefore unable to use synthetic treatments to mitigate the problem). Yields were looking as if they would be diminished significantly; a small crop beckoned.