The 2020 Vintage: "LE SUBLIME"
2020, the mirror year, is also the golden number of this rare vintage -one of perfect proportion and ideal harmony. It evokes at the same time the cyclical time of the vine and its work, an ideal of balance and that duality, undergone, overcome and sublimated, which characterises it.
Between the very mild winter and ensuing spring, there was no break but instead a fluid transition ensured by abundant rainfall. The equivalent of a whole year’s rain fell between November 2019 and June 2020, which replenished the soil’s water reserves, necessary for the vines during the summer period.
Months of hot weather followed, not extreme heat but very dry conditions, until storms arrived in mid-August, which delivered to the soils just what they needed in order to partner the vines in their growth cycle and avoid them slowing or shutting down. These alternating conditions which appeared very marked, even violent, were smoothed out by our clays soils which, acting like a sponge, were able to retain moisture and pass it on sparingly and with regularity to the vines.
This smooth, harmonious development of the vines was marked by a number of important stages. After an early start to the growing season and fears of frost, which didn’t materialise, the flowering process was fast and perfectly smooth, especially in the early-ripening vineyards just after the 15th May. The veraison process took place mid-July in excellent weather conditions.
The vines were in perfect health throughout the whole of the cycle, and the grapes filled up with sugar as they benefited from an even ripening right till the end. The berries remained small but perfectly formed, while the skins were thick and the pips ripe.
Although a hot and sunny year, this vintage is perfectly balanced. While the alcoholic degrees are relatively high, these are subtly balanced by pHs which bring out the freshness and intensity of the fruit flavour.
At Angélus this year, the harvest began on 15th September and lasted only a short time. The Merlot was harvested in just 8 days! The Cabernet Franc was picked in three days –September 28th, 29th and 30th in absolutely perfect weather conditions. Rarely has a vintage produced such sublime Cabernet Franc at Angélus.
Our initial impressions when we tasted the berries have been consistently confirmed when tasting the wines: silky, tight-knit tannins, a very deep colour, precision in the ripe fruit aromas, amazingly intense aromatic complexity, and very long, very lively freshness of flavour on the mid palate.
This lively tension and sublime duality have forged the character of a new, remarkable Angélus which is bound to capture people’s imaginations and remain long in their memories.
ANGELUS AFFECTED BY FROST
Everything in the vineyard had been been in the best possible shape up till now. It gave us an early glimpse of the potential 2017 crop. After a normal bud-break, spring brought mild temperatures and vine vegetation growth accelerated, while the formation of bunches was 10 days early.
Unfortunately, the wine region of Bordeaux was severely hit by frost during the nights of the 26th and 27th April, Angélus included. Although 80% of the vines at Angélus dedicated to the First Wine are undamaged, the impact is nevertheless quite significant.
The 2017 harvest will therefore not be abundant. However we will muster all the necessary energy and all our resources to make the little wine we will produce in 2017 of outstanding quality.
If we look back over the history of our region, we are reminded that if a spring frost affects the abundance of the harvest, it does not necessarily reduce quality. The glorious vintages of 1945 and 1961, when the initial weather conditions were similar to what we have just experienced, are two shining examples.
"Unstinting efforts ensure the successful completion of all work." Virgil.
Could Cabernet Franc be one of our oldest grape varieties?
In his ampelographical treatise of 1909, P. Viala stated that the etymology of its name and its synonyms go way back in history and referred to a scholar of the 17th century called Petit Lafitte, who appeared to claim that the Vidure (the Petite Vidure or the Grosse Vidure)-its Bordeaux name, was the ancestor of the Biturica. He bases his opinion on the hypothesis that the word Vidure may come from the word Bidure, then Biturica. It was from the 19th century that the Cabernet Franc could be found in written works.
In 1829, in his “Classification of the Wines of Bordeaux and Specific Grape Varieties”, the wine broker M. Paguierre found it to be “delicate with a bright deep colour and with superior flavour”. Then in 1855, in “Vine-growing, Vinification and Wine” by M. d’Armailhacq, an article by the Count Odart stated that the wine it produces is “fine, full of bouquet and long-ageing”. At this time already, specific reference was being made to the very notion of terroir and the nature of the soils. He also wrote that “according to the spot where it was planted, the results were different: on limestone soils the wine was outstanding; on gravel over clay subsoil it produced a wine that was rich in colour and long ageing; on light sands the wine was light and had limited ageing potential; in tuff the wines were of no interest, it was flat and colourless”. In other words, the place where it was planted and its supply of water were of great importance. We are also told that the wine of this variety “keeps for a very long time and gains in bouquet and delicacy over 12 to 15 years… and it can keep well up to 20 years”.
In 1868, Cocks et Ferret described it as having “ leaves which were comparable to those of the Cabernet Sauvignon, they are slightly less fine and less shiny, their indentations are a little less deep; its canes are long and covered with light brown-greyish bark, which led to its name Cabernet Gris. Its bunches are less long than those of the Cabernet Sauvignon, its fruit is very flavoursome”. In 1874, in his treatise on grape varieties, Count Odart said that the wine it produced in suitable terroir was “ fine, full of bouquet and long-ageing”. He added that “ it was one of the plants in Gironde that had the reputation of producing one of the most distinguished wines when the fruit reaches complete ripeness”.
In 1886, again in Cocks et Ferret, we can read that the wine is “light in colour when it leaves the vat and that it becomes darker after three or four months”, a fact that we witness today during each of our vinifications.
The Cabernet Franc has numerous synonyms. According to “Synonymy of Ampelography” by the INRA, it can correspond to different origins and types: Achéria –the Basque country, Arrouya – the Jurançon region, Bouchet or Gros Bouchet – around Libourne, Bouchey or Boubet – the Adour basin, Breton – the Loire valley, Capbreton rouge and Messange rouge – the Landes sands, Gouhaort – Madiran, Noir dur – Loiret, Grosse Vidure and Carmenet – the Bordeaux area, Véronais – Saumur, Cabernet Gris and Petit Fer – around Libourne, Carbouet – Bazas area.
P. Galet, in “Grape Varieties and Vineyards of France” described it in 1962 as a “ small producer”. Jancis Robinson, in her1986 book on grape varieties wrote, “ it participates in Saint-Emilion in the production of absolutely superb wines. Its aromas are of raspberries, violets and pencil shavings”. She reminds us that a report dating from the 18th century, quoted by Professor Enjalbert, considered it particularly well adapted to the Libourne vineyards.