Overall 2014 is an impressive vintage judging from what was in the glass in many of the St Emilion’s tasted during primeurs week last month. There is perhaps more weight and structure than 2012 [itself a very good vintage in St Emilion] and, overall, 2014 is probably the best since 2009 and 2010. It also has greater apparent acidity than in those two years. What’s exciting is the combination of the freshness, the aromatics and the depth in the best wines. There are also excellent wines at all levels, not just at the top echelons. That means there is value to be had in 2014, where the price is right. Overall it is undoubtedly an excellent year for Cabernet Franc here. The variety loved the Indian summer. Merlot is also impressive on the best terroirs. It’s a generalization, but the wines seemed less over-extracted than usual, with greater emphasis on proportionality and harmony. This may be the vintage speaking, but let’s hope it reflects more balanced, adaptive winemaking approaches. And even where properties have gone hell for leather, generally the ball stays in the air. The notes on the following 107 wines represents my most comprehensive primeurs tastings yet of the wines of St Emilion.
Posts Tagged ‘Le Petit Cheval’
Château Cheval Blanc is cool and pure in 2014. There is no doubt that the Indian summer favoured the later ripening Cabernet Franc here, which is such an important constituent in the grand vin [it represents 45% of the blend]. The resulting wine is aromatic and elegant, the palate beautifully sophisticated with plenty of extract and purity. All the elements are held in proportion and there is impressive length on the finish. Cheval Blanc doesn’t usually come out of the starting gate first during primeurs, so expect this to gain further weight and depth during elévage. While vintage comparisons may often be erroneous [but fun] I reckon we are perhaps looking at something similar to 2001 or 1985 here in Cheval Blanc 2014.
Overall St Emilion is something of a mixed bag in 2013. Quality is better than you might expect given the dreadful vintage, conditions that were especially tricky for Merlot, the district’s principal grape. It was badly affected by poor weather at flowering, which reduced yields and led to poor fruit set; later the humid conditions at vintage and the threat and rapid onset of rot [botrytis] also adversely affected the variety. Still St Emilion has made a number of attractive and well-made wines. But there are plenty of disappointments too. Some are thin and over-worked; others hollow. Quality follows terroir and those with cash. The best wines have forward and attractive fruit flavours and some are competitively priced. While it’s a complex picture, overall the wines of St Emilion are probably a more immediately appealing and joyous bunch than their left-bank counterparts in 2013.
The notes that accompany Château Cheval Blanc in 2013 describe the vintage as ‘a minefield’. There were casualties. The team here produced no Château Quinault L’Enclos this year after a late July hailstorm effectively destroyed the crop. The hail missed Cheval Blanc but the other myriad meteorological hazards that affected the growing season could not be escaped. Even with great terroir, a dedicated team and all the resources available in the winemaking world, Cheval Blanc remains a delicate effort in 2013. Measured and not at all forced, it will doubtless fill out during elévage, but it will always remain elegant in style.