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A new approach starting in 1985
Stephan von Neipperg totally redefined viticulture and winemaking at Canon La Gaffelière, succeeding in reflecting the very best of what the estate has to offer. The present richness and concentration of its wines place Canon La Gaffelière among the top crus classés of Saint Emilion - which was exactly its position in the 1940s.
For quite some time, this siliceous terroir suffered from a fairly mediocre image.
However, clay and sand soil is by no means bad! Everything depends on how you grow the grapes. A common error is to over-fertilise such well-filtered soil. In the early 60s, the use of chemical fertilisers was widespread, largely with a view to increasing production. The prevalent winemaking philosophy at the time found this perfectly acceptable.
Unfortunately, though, wines from this period were lacking in structure. In addition, excess nitrogen created a serious, long-lasting imbalance in the relationship between the vines and the soil. Firmly packed, and deprived of oxygen and micro-organisms, the soil lacked the necessary health and dynamism for deep rooting and quality wine production. This explains why Canon La Gaffelière was so lacklustre after 1964. The wines were weak and lacked complexity.
Upon closer examination of the decade, attention must also be drawn to the Bordeaux 1950 vintage, which offered quantity more than quality - indeed, with welcome exceptions. Due to the relatively rainy summer, expectations for the year were not very high, but the change in weather by the end of the year made it a good one, and in some areas even excellent. The wines lacked the ample and balanced character of the previous year. They were instead noted for their highly tannic quality. But the wines have matured with surprising grace. Many of the wines have become more harmonious as the tannins have faded.
Two vintage gems are the Cheval Blanc and Pétrus. On the other hand, the Graves La-Mission-Haut-Brion is an outstanding wine. Although the finest wines are at the peak of their drinkability right now, they will remain there for years to come. Due to the large crop and the very modest reputation of the vintage, these wines can be found at very affordable prices.