2008 Bordeaux — Back from the Brink
The 2008 vintage looked gloomy on paper as September approached — a series of weather challenges that had affected the vines nearly all year long seemed like they would never relent. The troubles began a year earlier in the difficult conditions of 2007, which affected the size and vigour of the 2008 crop. Things did not improve much in the new year as a warm February and variable weather in March caused an uneven bud break, creating a gap in the ripening cycle that would wreak havoc throughout the year. The beginning of April saw a cold spell that caused frost damage to the vines, and continued cool weather reduced the potential size of the crop and pushed back flowering. A warm and wet May came and went, and the risk of mildew increased in the humid conditions. An uneven flowering began in late May and was stretched out for a month. Millerandage and coulure further reduced the already small crop size.
Beginning in mid-June, the weather improved, with mainly warm, dry, sunny days lasting through the end of July. A few isolated thunderstorms and a coolish first week of July were exceptions, but July was without a doubt a saving grace for the vintage. The grapes began to develop In the sunny conditions, but sadly, August didn’t follow suit, and it was cool and damp right through to early September. Grapes were beginning to swell and split, and the specter of rot rampaging through the vineyards was a serious worry.
By early September, growers were wondering if they would be able to achieve even a miserly 12.5% alcohol, or, in some cases, make a harvest at all. But just then, around the 13th of the month, the weather patterns changed and the vines made a miraculous comeback. Those who kept ahead and worked hard in the vineyards were able to make some very good wines, although not with the scale of power, richness, and depth of the two years that would follow.
Ironically, having dodged one bullet, growers were hit with another in the form of the unfolding economic crisis. Having patched together some very good wines, they now wondered if there would be anyone left with the money to buy them.