We are in the middle of the Primeurs Week here in Bordeaux and we are tasting the 2014 vintage. This is one of my favorite times of the year. The vineyard, which is usually a very peaceful place, is invaded by people from the entire world. Here, at Pichon Baron, for example, we will be receiving around 1300 people in 5 days from all over the world. It is a real pleasure to meet all these people and to taste the new vintage with them.
After the spectacular film of the Pichon Baron harvest, I thought the best way to give you some idea of how things went in the other properties would be to talk to the individual directors of each property and ask them to give us their view on how things went in 2014.
Marielle Cazaux, Château Petit-Village, Pomerol:
“The excellent arrière saison of this vintage enabled us to harvest à la carte. We were able to wait for the skins to become finer and for the pips to ripen gently.
We began the Merlots on 23 September for the parcels of younger vines. The older vine Merlots were harvested between the 28th and the 30th September. Finally the Cabernets Franc and Sauvignon were harvested on the 6th and 8th October.
The aromatic profile of the Merlots is about freshness for the younger parcels, and ripe fruit for the older vines. We have a lovely concentration of tannins and the post fermentation maceration gave a lot of depth to the wines. The Cabernets are seductive and very well structured. Their maceration finished just recently.
This is a very lovely vintage, with beautiful equilibrium in the wine. Young wood will be integrated at around 50 to 60% to preserve the fruit. Yields were pretty low at 30 hectolitres per hectare, but the quality is there!”
Read the 2014 Harvest Reports of the other properties :
We began working with horses at Château Petit-Village earlier this year.
Java and Milord are working horses, Breton and Percheron respectively.
In this initial phase we are working 3 of our 10,8 hectares with Java and Milord. The results so far are very encouraging, among the advantages being a reduction in compacting of the soil that results from working with tractors, and the possibility of giving individual attention to the vines and their needs due to the pace of the work and the close personal contact of the men working the horses with the work that is being undertaken.
This experiment is proving very positive, and I was surprised the first time I saw the horses at work at my strongly emotional reaction. These wonderful animals were our partners in agriculture for thousands of years, and it is only a few decades since we abandoned them to pursue mechanical efficiency. It is a noble and beautiful sight to see man and horse at work together again in this way, and we intend to continue and extend this experiment, which apart from the aesthetic experience it affords, has several real practical advantage.
Now that we have had some time to taste and retaste the wines of the remarkable 2010 vintage in Bordeaux, it is time to post a harvest report. The rumours you may have been hearing are perfectly justified: 2010 is an outstanding year in Bordeaux. I give below a summary of how things went in all of our vineyards, in Bordeaux and elsewhere.
A great year for the dry whites and the reds, but also for the liquoreux, with a perfect late arrival of botrytis that enabled us to harvest an impressive 2nd and 3rd trie.
In the Languedoc, summer was extremely dry. Thanks to our first year of installation of irrigation on half the Belles eaux vineyard, we were able to optimise quality. Here also, 2010 will be a lovely year.
Burgundy was a little less fortunate, with a terrible winter and severe frosts that caused severe damage in certain climates, leading to a reduction in yields that an irregular floraison did nothing to help. Very low yields therefore, but a beautiful maturity for these 2010, and some lovely wines in spite of the difficulties earlier in the year.
No drought in Tokaj, rather the contrary, with 800 mm of rain between april and mid September. A difficult year with a lot of disease problems, very weak “sortie” and a chaotic floraison, all combiing to give us an historially low yield. But the Aszús we were able to harvest will enable us to produce all the same a harvest in the style of 2004, aromatic and vivacious, with a structure marked by finesse and elegance rather than by power.
In the Douro we harvested an impressive volume of the kind not seen since 2007. This significant production gave all the same wines that are very pure, elegant, aromatic and structures, both for Port wine and for Douro reds.
Last week the world descended on Bordeaux to taste the 2009 vintage. This is one of the most hectic weeks of our year, with a constant stream of visitors throughout the day and usually a dinner every night, but it is one that we look forward to.
Although one can make an argument that there are more appropriate times in the life of a wine to make a judgement of its real intrinsic quality than the month of March after the harvest, the reality is that this is what everyone tries to do.
Judgements are made about the quality and style of the year, and about the relative performances of the individual properties. For us as producers it is a time of excitement and anguish. The result of all that we have been doing in the vineyard and the chai is held up to the scrutiny of the wine world. We of course have our own ideas about our wines, but we are probably too passionately engaged with what we are doing to give a truly objective judgement ourselves (although we try our best to do so). So it is down to our visitors to give us their verdict, whether they are journalists or members of the world wine trade. Will they confirm all that we believe to be true about the quality of our wines? Will they notice what we have been trying to do?
The place where we receive most visitors is the tasting room at Pichon. I spent time last week at Petit-Village as well, but a couple of days were spent at the Pichon tasting room. It is a fascinating and very enjoyable experience to taste our wines with different visitors throughout the day, and to hear what they have to say about the wines and the year. Some of course say nothing, usually the journalists. In this case, one receives the visit, one tries to gauge the reaction by the enigmatic facial expressions of the taster in question, and then one waits to read what they have to say. However, enough people have expressed themselves openly to confirm the general impression that 2009 is a great vintage, and the “buzz” about Pichon, Petit-Village, and Suduiraut has been highly positive. Now we must wait for the verdicts to roll in to give a composite picture of the wine world’s judgement of the vintage and of our wines.
For what it is worth, I love the 2009 vintage. I have tried to taste everywhere I could and I believe there are some very beautiful wines out there. The ones I like best are those that I consider to have captured the essence of the 2009 vintage at their properties. These wines have a lovely purity of fruit, intense concentration, but are marked above all by a harmony and balance, and an extraordinary elegance and silkiness of tannins, perfectly enrobed by the fruit, in spite of the very high level of tannins that are analytically in the wines. There are some that have pursued a more extractive route, and their wines are marked by more obvious tannins but also extreme concentration of fruit, and I think that 09 will be a year marked by stylistic differences between those who have pursued elegance and finesse and those who have gone down a more power driven route. But in general the wines are wonderful, and I think the opinion seems general that it is a great year for Bordeaux. So much attention is focussed on the amazing reds this year that it is easy to forget that 2009 was also a great year for Sauternes. The Suduiraut is one of my favourite wines ever from the property, with extraordinary richness and complexity, but marked, in the same was as the best red wines, by the wonderful balance and harmony and elegance of the year.
We received a group of distinguished journalists at Petit-Village for a group tasting of the UGC wines of St Emilion and Pomerol. One of the advantages of hosting such a tasting is the opportunity to talk to so many journalists during one visit, but the other is the opportunity it gives one to slip into the tasting room after they have gone and taste all the wines oneself. I tasted them all first with their labels showing, making copious and detailed tasting notes (purely for my own benefit), and then tasted them all again blind, making tasting notes again. I then tried to reconcile the two sets of tasting notes. If you have never done this kind of thing, I recommend it as a rather disconcerting exercise in humility! But it is fascinating to see the differences in perception in the two cases. Probably in an ideal world one would always taste twice, once blind and once not: there are obviously positive things to be said about both methods.
Naturally, while the world is concentrating its attention on the 2009s, life goes on in the vineyards and chais. I took these two photographs of the first buds of 2010 at Petit-Village while the 09s were being tasted. Spring is in the air, and it feels very good after what has been an unusually hard winter, not just in terms of the weather.