Following en primeur week several producers have told Decanter magazine that they had to chaptalise some of their 2013 wines due to the challenges of the vintage. Chaptalisation is the process of adding sugar to wines and is named after Jean-Antoine-Claude Chaptal, who first wrote about the technique in his 1801 book ‘The Art of Winemaking'.
At Chateau Palmer, Thomas Duroux said that 2013 was the first time he had used chaptalisation since arriving at the property in 2004. Their tanks came in at an average of 12.25 abv, and they chaptalised up to 13%,' he said. 'The last time that happened was 1994.'
Chateau Montrose, Chateau Lafite-Rothschild and Domaine de Chevalier also chaptalised some of the 2013 vintage.
Chaptalisation of pre-fermented grape must was almost banned by the European Union in 2008 with other wine sector reforms, but it remained legal, with limits set for different geographic winemaking zones.
Official rules for the 2013 Bordeaux vintage state that chateaux cannot add more than 1.5% abv to their wines. Denis Dubourdieu, a wine consultant and professor at Bordeaux’s institute of oenology, the ISVV, said producers who chaptalise should try to limit the increase in alcohol to 1% abv, to avoid unbalancing other flavours. In theory, that means adding no more than 17g of sugar per litre.