1999 Bordeaux — A Challenging Year with Variable Results
The 1999 vintage presented a number of challenges for growers and resulted in a variable year in terms of quality. Some growers carved out balanced, mid-weight wines, geared towards near to mid-term drinking, while others, suffering more from the recurring rain, wound up with wines that are thinner and lighter, showing the greenness characteristic of unripe fruit. The growers who worked hard in the vineyards, made the sacrifices required in terms of selection and yield, and carefully managed extractions and fermentations, have produced some fine — if slightly delicate — wines for fairly early consumption.
Bud break in 1999 took place during an early warm spell. Overall, spring was warm but moist, and disease, brought on by the humidity, was a constant threat. As flowering arrived, the weather improved and a large crop was set. Mother Nature cooperated through May, June, and into July, but when August arrived, heavy rain came along, soaking the ground early in the month. Once the rain let up, the weather improved, and conditions were stable. Things were looking up until the first week of September, when the weather shifted again. Hail storms caused damage on September 5th, especially in Saint Emilion. Rain poured throughout the rest of the month, almost without pause, and growers were forced to harvest early — ready and ripe or not — especially where the hail was most severe. Ultimately, the abysmal weather, combined with the large crop, proved too much for the vines, and the grapes never had the chance to reach anything close to optimal ripeness.
This was a challenging vintage that took its toll on quality. Overall, the results were variable. 1999 is perhaps better than 1997, not quite as good as 2001 or 1998, and clearly overshadowed by the spectacular 2000s.