The 2017 vintage was a difficult one for Stephan von Neipperg and his team. In the frost of April 27-28 they lost much of the crop at Clos Marsalette in Pessac-Léognan, half of the crop in both his Castillon estate Château d’Aiguihle and St Emilion property Clos de l’Oratoire. At Château Canon-la-Gaffelière frost reduced the harvest by 40%. Only the prized La Mondotte vineyard was spared. That’s the bad news. The good news is that team Neipperg have succeeded in making impressive wines, very much against these odds. This is partly thanks to the quality of the remaining crop, a huge amount of work in the vineyard but also a determination to encourage a useful harvest from second generation grapes. It is also says much about Stephan von Neipperg’s own strength of character. Determined not to be despondent, he encouraged his team in the face of adversity. When the going gets tough, as Billy Ocean famously noted, the tough get going.
Posts Tagged ‘Côtes de Castillon’
Day four on the primeurs trail saw me return to the right bank. There is no doubt that 2015 is at its most consistent and impressive in St Emilion. Arriving at Château Pavie, appropriately enough I thought in a Napa Valley-like fog, it was actually interesting to see how they had opted for comparatively modest extraction here this year. Yes there was substance and extract, but also composure across an exciting range. Pavie itself is genuinely impressive, as is Bellevue-Mondotte [quite ravishing], Pavie-Decesse and Monbousquet [much better than its 2014]. I was also struck by the quality of their Castillon, Clos Lunelles. Château Cheval Blanc was up next. Chalk and cheese of course with Pavie. There is wonderful beauty and elegance here in this 2015 offering from Cheval Blanc, which comes from its unique terrior that borders Pomerol. The wine reminds me of their 1985. Pierre Lurton is very excited by the quality. They are comparing to 2010 and 1998, in terms of the dry, yet cool maturity [more on this later].
Very impressive wines have been made at the various estates that Stephan von Neipperg runs in St Emilion in 2014. Premier Grand Cru Classé Château Canon-la-Gaffelière is bold and concentrated with wonderful texture, Grand Cru Classé Clos de l’Oratoire is glossy and full flavoured, saturated with ripe fruit. The tiny Premier Grand Cru Classé La Mondotte vineyard has produced something typically voluptuous and caressing but also with deceptive power and concentration. For sheer value and immediacy, the over-achieving Château d’Aiguilhe in Castillion also delivers the goods in 2014 – a great introduction to the seductive charms common to the Neipperg wines.
For all the talk of a Left Bank vintage, the Right Bank, specifically the Côtes de Bordeaux comprising Blaye, Bourg, Cadillac, Francs and Castillon has produced a number of impressive wines in 2014. Francs and Castillon stood out for me at the Grand Cercle tasting late last month but there are successes elsewhere. There is plenty of flesh and sophistication in the best Côtes de Bordeaux and they should prove good value. In Castillon Château Alcée and Château d’Aiguilhe [especially] and Château Veyry are very good. In Francs Château de Franc, ‘Les Cerisiers’, Château La Prade and Château Puygueraud stand out. In the Côtes de Bourg Château Fougas Maldoror has produced a very good wine.
Now the dust has settled on primeurs week my verdict would be that 2014 Bordeaux is a good to very good vintage for red wines, a vintage which favours the Left Bank especially, but there are also many successes on the Right Bank too. Without doubt it is the best and most consistent vintage since 2010, though it is not up to the quality of that vintage nor its predecessor 2009, with a couple of possible exceptions. 2014 is another excellent vintage for the dry white wines of Bordeaux and there are a number of stylish sweet wines from Sauternes and Barsac. Given the overall quality of the reds, 2014 is definitely a vintage worthy of purchasing en primeur, assuming the price is right. Early indications are that prices will remain stable or increase a little from 2013 for the top estates [an altogether inferior vintage for the reds]. Still given exchange rates, this will still be a reduction of between 10-20% if you are a GBP or USD customer – so if that’s your currency 2014 is potentially interesting. The litmus test usually is that chateaux must release cheaper than any physically available vintage otherwise an en primeur purchase makes no financial sense. So, even if by default, 2014 may be the first vintage since 2008 to offer decent prospects for the consumer. Fingers crossed!