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Bordeaux 2014: Autumn heatwave gives Cabernet narrow lead, say consultants

Cabernet Sauvignon in Medoc has a slight advantage in the Bordeaux 2014 vintage due to its later ripening, according to consultants Stephane Derenoncourt and Denis Dubourdieu, but both warned against writing off Merlot.

Many Bordeaux winemakers have this week described the September heatwave that ‘saved’ their 2014 vintage as a blessing from the heavens, following a cool summer that did little to ripen grapes in the vineyards.

‘In August I thought the 2014 vintage could be worse than 2013,’ Philippe Dhalluin told Decanter.com at Chateau Mouton Rothschild during en primeur tasting week – referencing a now notoriously difficult harvest year in Bordeaux’s recent history. ‘But, then we had this incredible weather from 25 August.’

It was this weather pattern that gave Cabernet Sauvignon a natural advantage going into the harvest period.

‘It’s a later harvest for Cabernet, so we could wait,’ said Denis Dubourdieu, consultant and winemaking professor. ‘Merlot is ok, but it was more difficult,’ he said, because of the grape variety’s earlier ripening tendencies.

Stephane Derenoncourt, based at La Gaffeliere on the Right Bank and consulting with around 70 Bordeaux estates, said, ‘There was a little bit less rain on the Left Bank and consequently there was a small advantage for Cabernet Sauvignon in Medoc.

‘When we picked the Merlot it was ripe, but the 10 days after that, for Cabernet, were fantastic days.’

However, Derenoncourt warned against writing off Merlot in 2014.

We picked everything when we wanted to, which is quite rare. We took more than one month to pick,’ said Derenoncourt.

He added that thinning out the grapes on the vines – a process known as green harvesting – was important during August in order to help the remaining grapes achieve full ripeness.

Dhalluin added that he was very happy with the Merlot at Mouton and said the estate also picked exactly when it wanted to.

Several experts believe there will be greater variation with Merlot from the 2014 vintage according to soil type. On the Right Bank, Dubourdieu said Merlot vines on limestone performed better in general than those on sandy soils.

Read James Lawther MW and Steven Spurrier’s first impressions of Right Bank and Medoc wines respectively over the next fews days on Decanter.com.

See more Bordeaux 2014 coverage:

Bordeaux 2014


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