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Robert Parker's Wine Advocate / The deep purple-black colored 2017 Canon offers-up intense notes of crushed blackberries, black cherries and warm cassis with touches of fertile loam, yeast extract, beef drippings and iron ore plus a waft of garrigue. Medium to full-bodied with great freshness and firm, rounded tannins, it's very earthy in the mouth, finishing long and mineral-laced. A very serious wine, it is also fun, bright and vivacious and should age impressively.
Barrel Sample: 94-96
With 30% of Cabernet Franc, Château Canon’s planting is characteristic of Saint-Emilion. The limestone soil reveals the full character of Cabernet Franc, which is a perfect complement to Merlot. The two varieties have long been used together. Cabernet Franc brings freshness, delicacy and structure to Château Canon wines. It makes subtle wines with fine acidity. It gives them great aromatic persistence with varied and complex smoky, roasted and mineral notes
The Merlot grape variety reigns supreme in Saint-Emilion. Its name comes from the local patois and means petite merle (small blackbird) because of its dark colour similar to that of the bird. Restructuring Château Canon’s vineyard has made it possible to plant it 65% to Merlot, bringing it in line with the estate’s original planting scheme. Their wide, dark green leaves are highly indented. They provide shelter for large, long, open clusters of grapes. The small, round grapes are bluish black when ripe and their juicy flesh is particularly sweet. Although hardy, Merlot vines are sensitive to spring frost as they develop early. They thrive in this clay and limestone soil which stays cool even in summer. These engaging Merlots are smooth on the palate, mellow and supple; they have presence and offer roundness in the mouth. Their aromatic complexity is characterised by aromas of red and dark summer fruit. On aging they develop woody and spicy notes. These subtle and refined Merlots with delicate, silky tannins bring smoothness and charm to Château Canon.
Winemaker Notes: Canon 2017 takes us on a sensory journey of crisp fruit and aromas of garrigue scrubland. It starts with an explosion of fruit, blackcurrants, blueberries and cherries, that then gives way to a spring-like freshness. The nose reveals notes of broom and rosemary, like a walk through a field of flowers and a forest of eucalyptus. On the palate, we find a whole raft of delicate, smooth flavours. The rich, detailed texture stretches out like Ariadne’s thread, leading to a mineral, chalky finish, typical of the wines from the limestone plateau.
Blend: 77% Merlot, 23% Cabernet Franc
Bordeaux 2017 - A year of contrast
Life is not fair and neither is nature. As the earth warms, flowering becomes earlier and the risk of frost damage increases. Few winemakers remember the frosts of 1991, but their legacy is still haunting. When meteorologists predicted a cold blast on the nights of April 27 and 28, there was a real sense of panic. Most with the means deployed, candles, wind turbines, helicopters, lit hay, took all the measures they could - the others left it to chance.
The best protection was provided by nature; proximity to the Gironde and the altitude. These are not at all the best terroirs. Large Médoc estates such as Léoville Las Cases, Pichon Comtesse and Montrose reported virtually no frost damage. Likewise in Pomerol, Château Lafleur, Petrus, Vieux Château Certan and all the other big names on the Pomerol plateau were unscathed. There were some notable casualties such as Cheval Blanc and Figeac, but the damage was far from catastrophic and the resulting wines are both spectacular.
Those located on low altitude vineyards in St Emilion or further away from the Gironde estuary in the Médoc had no natural protection. Here the mercury fell below the critical level and the damage from the frost was devastating. In places, the entire harvest was lost. Winegrowers had to wait patiently and hope for a second generation bud. In most cases, the second generation was futile.
Those partially affected by the frost mainly lost their less favorable terroirs and their plots planted with young vines, normally designated as secondary and generic wines. A natural selection if you will... Statistically, 2017 is not a good reading for Bordeaux as a whole; Appellations that produce wine in bulk have been hit hard. Total production amounted to 3.5 million hectoliters, around 40% less than in 2016. However, yields from higher châteaux are relatively normal and if they are declining, this is usually attributed to small berries caused by drought conditions in July and August.
2017 is best summarized as an early vintage with significant water stress. Bud break, flowering, veraison and harvest were all two weeks ahead of the norm. Fortunately, there was enough rain in June to carry the vines through the drought of July and August. Average temperatures in July and August were not remarkable, although some châteaux pointed out that alternating temperatures from hot to cold days favored ripening. September brought much needed rain and cooler conditions. The nights were particularly cool, which helped prevent botrytis and maintain low pH levels. The latter part of the month saw a return to dry conditions which allowed the Cabernets to reach full maturity.
And what about wines? Statistics can provide rationalizations, but they can't tell you what wines taste like. As Baptiste Guinaudeau says, the 2017s clearly fit into the trilogy of vintages affected by water constraints, 2015, 2016 and 2017. There is a wonderful and refreshing acidity and vitality to the fruit. Very moderate alcohol level, a bit like in 2016. The wines are vibrant and aromatic. Due to the small berries there is good color and the quality of the press wines is very interesting. As 2017 did not have the heat of 2015 and 2016, they are generally not as broad as their predecessors, however, the key was to extract gently then use the high quality press wines to fill out the middle of mouth. There are dozens of successes. The winegrowers who were friendly and let their terroirs speak have triumphed. Olivier Berrouet's Petrus is absolutely exceptional, Château Lafleur and Percesses de Lafleur speak of purity and breed, Canon, Ausone, Cheval Blanc, Figeac and Tertre Roteboeuf have all produced worthy successors to their 2015 and 2016. On the left bank , Château Margaux may be in a class of its own, but Mouton Rothschild, Haut Brion, La Mission Haut Brion, Montrose, Pichon Comtesse and Léoville Las Cases all came from the top drawer, and there are many more worthy ones of mention: Grand Puy Lacoste, Smith Haut Lafitte, Haut Bailly, Léoville Barton, Lynch Bages, Ducru Beaucaillou, Calon Segur, Palmer, Pichon Longueville, Brane Cantenac and Rauzan Segla.