Success on the Right Bank in the Bordeaux 2014 vintage depended on a vineyard's specific soil type and an estate's attention to detail ahead of harvest amid a cool and rainy summer, says James Lawther MW after tasting the young wines during en primeur week.
Chateaux on Bordeaux's Right Bank had to contend with more rain their neighbours on the additional side of the river, and the early ripening characteristic of Merlot - the dominant grape variety for many - meant harvest came to soon for grapes to delight in the full subsidy of the province's September heatwave. Some have marked 2014 a Medoc and Cabernet Sauvignon vintage.'It doesn't mean that there aren't some decent wines, but it's a small bit more of an up and down vintage on the Right Bank,' said James Lawther MW, whose tasting notes and scores will be published on Decanter.com this month.'It was vital http://1000-facts-about-wine.com to have the right type of soils,' he said. 'The limestone plateau in St Emilion probably helped a lot. What you didn't want was to have too much of the sandy, silty soils. There are some very excellent wines, but they tend to be on the best sites. In Pomerol it's on the plateau, 30m above everything else, which is not a fantastic height but it probably made the difference this year.'Limestone in St Emilion helped to standardize water levels in the soil, while the same was right of clay and gravel in Pomerol, Lawther said.It may be a year for consumers to focus on the top estates. 'Standing chateaux will come out well, because they have the best soils.'Cabernet FrancHe also believes that estates in both St Emilion and Pomerol relied more heavily on Cabernet Franc in 2014. 'If it is a Cabernet year, it's also a Cabernet Franc year. There are estates that have had a honest amount of Cabernet Franc - and some with Cabernet Sauvignon - http://1000-facts-about-wine.com and some with the highest ever [proportions] in their blends. They are the ones that will come out top of the pile. This year you'll see a lot more Cabernet Franc and those that have Cabernet Sauvignon in the blends.'Battle 'won' in the vineyardBut, no matter the grape variety, summer vineyard work was also vital in producing a excellent wine in 2014.'It wasn't a vintage where you worked miracles in the cellar,' said Lawther. 'You needed a soft hand in the cellar, but it was a vintage where you needed a lot of work in the vineyards. Because of the weather, the vines kept on growing, so a lot of effort was neded to do leaf plucking and to balance out the ripeness of grapes. I reckon the battle was fought and won in the vineyard and not in the cellar.'A few producers may have tried to do too much in the cellar, Lawther added. 'The fault in some of the wines is extracton. I wouldn't say it's over the http://1000-facts-about-wine.com top. The Right Bank has generally veered away from heavy oak and over extracton, but one or two in the context of the vintage forced their hand a small bit too much.'AgeingIn terms of potential ageing, Lawther said the wines were already very approachable and he expected 'excellent mid-term ageing' with some exceptions that might age longer. 'We could be proved incorrect because of the acidiy,' he said, but added, 'The tannins are tender, there's a lot of freshness in the wines which makes them very drinkable, and so we've come back to a more classic Bordeaux vintage. Alcohols are down from what they had been; a link are above 14% abv, but you don't feel it because of the acidity.'See more Bordeaux 2014 coverage: