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Where the 1945 represents sophistication, nuance and classic character, the 1947 is all about richness, robustness and succulence. Spring was delayed that year, which meant a late start to the growing season. Summer warmed up toward the autumn and the abundant sunshine ripened the grapes very quickly. Daytime temperatures ranged between 35-38° C. The crop was finally harvested in nearly tropical conditions, when a thunderstorm ravaged Bordeaux on 19-20 September.
Fortunately a large percentage of the grapes had already been harvested. The grapes were unusually hot during picking and volatile acids caused problems for many vineyards during fermentation. The end result was an absolutely extraordinary vintage, which turned out to be magnificent, particularly on the right bank and in Sauternes. Even young, these reds were exceptionally drinkable. Their life-cycle, on the other hand, has been surprisingly varied. The Pomerol and Saint-Émilion wines have proven superior to Médocs and Graves. The supreme wine of this vintage is most certainly the Château Cheval Blanc, which, in terms of mouthfeel, is perhaps the greatest wine of the entire 20th century. Why the Cheval Blanc was such an unparalleled success that year is something of a mystery. Unlike what happened to so many others, the Cheval Blanc didn’t suffer from excess volatile acids.
Everything from vineyard microclimate to production have been offered as explanations. Because the weather was unusually warm, there were no damp morning mists at the vineyards, which restricted the conditions conducive to the formation of natural yeasts that increase volatility. The heat also killed natural yeasts and the quantity was generally less than normal. Fermentation was done in small concrete tanks, which provided effective insulation against the outside heat and kept temperatures sufficiently low, thus preventing the formation of volatile acids. Another very interesting aspect of the Cheval Blanc’s production was its 5-10-year maturation in old barrels; this was due to the fact that new oak barrels were not available following the depression and war years. In all its glory, the 1947 Cheval Blanc caricatures modern winemaking as an incredible example of the pinnacles that can be reached with no help from technology. In addition to the Cheval, the Pétrus and Lafleur are vintage gems.