Get ready, wine collectors: Bordeaux looks like it's having a historically great vintage in 2009.
The weather has been warm and dry all summer, and most of the Merlot is already harvested. On the Right Bank, where Merlot is the dominant grape, vintners are comparing '09 to the great years of the last century.
"The '09 vintage has been the perfect vintage," said Christian Moueix, president of the family company that makes some of the most expensive wines in Pomerol, including Petrus. "We had the summer of '89 and the picking of '90. I compare it to '47. We will have that kind of extraordinary character."
There's always some hype with vintage reports, because nobody wants to tell customers that next year's product isn't worthy. But weather records don't lie.
About an inch of rain fell over three days in mid-September; then the skies stayed dry for the next three weeks. A storm was expected last week, encouraging some wineries to pick beforehand. But the clouds stayed away days longer than expected and eventually dropped just a few millimeters in some areas, a sprinkling that the Medoc's famous Cabernet Sauvignon vines probably welcomed.
Moreover, technology has advanced tremendously since great vintages like 1982, meaning quality should be more consistent. The one worry is alcohol level: All that warm weather means some of this year's wines will be pushing 15%. That, and the fear that the world economy may not be ready for the prices Bordeaux negociants might demand when word starts to get out -- which it will very soon.
"The word for the vintage is fruit," Moueix said. "Unbelievable -- you enter the tank rooms and you smell so much more fruit than I have smelled in years."
-- W. Blake Gray
Photo: Christian Moueix. Credit: Los Angeles Times Syndicate