The hot autumn sunshine saved the day but now the wine is leaving the vats and going into barrel, what is it like?
Most people will answer that it is too early to say….and it is but here goes
Fruity, juicy, fresh, pretty wines with supple tannins for medium-term drinking rather like 2012. Better than 2008 and 2011….lacking the concentration and tannic structure of 2005, 2009, 2010.
What do we know so far?
Ripeness in 2014
The wine is made from ripe grapes. The sugar levels have naturally given at least 13 degrees alcohol, in hotter appellations such as Pomerol Acidity is normal. Merlot was able to catch up and within 4 weeks was ripe (the sunshine started on 29th August and the Merlot in the Medoc and St Emilion (not the plateau) began to be picked around 29th September) . Cabernet Sauvignon and Franc seemed to catch up very well too and they were harvested quickly following on from the Merlot, not the usual week or so gap – around mid October.
Within a short time the Merlot in the sunny weather was able to assimulate lots of sugar (sucrose is produced through photosynthesis and then converted in the grapes to fructose and glucose) . At the same time that this ocurrs acidity levels in the leaf decrease, through dilution and breaking down.
But ripeness is not all about sugar levels. It is also about the physiological ripeness, the ripeness of the skins (and pips) – that is the phenolic compounds (anthocyanins = the colour pigments and the tannins). There is a correlation between the two types of ripeness but the skins also seem to need time and it does not seem to be so linked to sunshine.
What perhaps is lacking in 2014, particulalry with the earlier harvested Merlot, is the quality of the tannins in the skins that developed over such a short time (around 4 weeks for the Merlot and 6 weeks for the Cabernets). The later harvesting varieties (Cabs, Petit Verdot) and the Merlot harvested later on the limestone plateau of St Emilion for example had riper skins.
2014 Bordeaux, a Cabernet or a Merlot year?
The extra time that the Cabernets had to reach the ideal sugar ripeness enabled their skins to become riper benefitting from the sunshine. They began to take on a translucent bluey colour and become thinner and more ‘rubbery’. All of these factors show that the skins are ripe and that the tannins will be easier to extract during the vinification and maceration in the vats.
The total maceration time was not that long this year as the tannins and colours seem to relatively easily extracted. Malolactic happened relatively quickly (some vats still undergoing).
The yield is high (or one should say back to normal as 2011, 2012 and the tiny 2013 left barrel cellars rather empty)due to the plentiful rainfall throughout the summer. Merchants are happy as the market was running out of wine with the run of small vintages. There was some concentration or slight shrivelling on grapes left to ripen late in the hot Indian Summer. Also some problems caused by the new arrival Drosophilia Suzuki an insect from Asia which feeds on the juice puncturing the skin and causing some grapes to become vinegary.
High Juice to Skins Ratio In 2014 the wines produced lack the concentration of a great year when summer dryness forces the vines to shut down and divert all of the sugars produced into their reproductive fruit. But there is still fruit concentration from the ripe grapes, just that the juice to skins ratio in most cases was too high due to the summer rainfall. Some producers produced a ‘saignée’ to go into a rosé or other lesser wines.
It will not be until the futures tastings always in the first week of April that the verdicts will be awarded. Until then the wine can sleep quietly, innocently, ignorantly until their sentences are announced by the world’s jury of experts.