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White wine production at Château Margaux goes back to the end of the XVII century. The cellar master at that time recounts how he was one of the first to separate the white grapes from the red during the vinification. Sold in the XIX century under the name « Château Margaux vin de sauvignon », it has existed under the brand name « Pavillon Blanc du Château Margaux » since 1920 and its label has not changed since that date.
The eleven-hectare vineyard is composed only of Sauvignon Blanc. It is situated on a very old plot of the Estate that had long since been planted with red vines and then been dug up because of the high risk of spring frosts. Production techniques, as well as the selection have been completely reviewed since the years 2009/2010 in order to reach a higher level of excellence; only 1/3 of the harvest is bottled, the remaining 2/3 is sold loose. So the quantity of Pavillon Blanc has been greatly reduced and isn’t more than one thousand cases. Today it benefits from the new wine cellar’s ultra-modern installations designed by Norman Foster.
The finesse, complexity, richness and the length in the mouth of Pavillon Blanc are incomparable for a wine produced from 100% Sauvignon. The very latest vintages, 2011, 2012, 2013 and 2014 in particular, have opened up new horizons in quality, ageing capacity and style which has become more mineral and much more complex. A significant part of the harvest is bottled in magnums which create optimum ageing conditions.
Bordeaux Vintage 2014 - is not a great vintage like 2005, 2009 or 2010 but it will be able to secure a position as one of the very good vintages of Bordeaux.
Timed usually ath the end of March and beginning of April the Primeur Week in Bordeaux is always an exciting moment as it allows a first view on the latest vintage. The huge number of wines available for tasting is impressing and one week seems almost to short. Therefore the Union de Grand Crus offers a well organised blind tasting for the press on every morning during the week. On the precendt weekend the Grand Cercle des vins de Bordeaux holds blind tastings of over 200 samples. These impressions are complemented by tastings at various Châteaux and tastings organized by the Bordeaux trade. Therefore some oft he wines can be tasted twice or even more often during this week to doublecheck on quality and style.
An interesting fact is the weather situation. Meterologic low pressure means that wines may close down, meanwhile meterologic high pressure presents the wines in a more open and flavourful style. This year the wheather was quite bad during the first days of the tasting week but ameliorated a lot in the second half of the week. This had an influence on the tasting notes in general which has to be considered. Another effect has been the late harvest in 2014, which shortened the time period between harvest and Primeur tastings for up to a month. A month less time for maturation has effects on the tasting results which is another aspect to consider, always keeping in mind that each tasting result remains a snap-shot and is not an absolute and final judgement.
2014 had an early start with budbreak around 10 days ahead of the 10 years average. End of May flowering started on the early terroirs in heterogeneous conditions, whereas the later varieties such as Cabernet-Sauvignon and Franc as well as later terroirs took advantage of a warm and sunny period beginning of June. July and August where quite cool and humid and in the second half of August the vintners prepared themselves for a vintage even worse than 2013 but at the end of August everything changed. A spledid indian summer througout September and October saved the quality. Harvest started for the white grapes started three days later than in 2012 but two weeks later than 2011. For the red grapes the harvest startet with Merlot at the end of September and ended with the Cabernets in the second half of October. The cool climate during summer provides a higher acidity, the indian summer is responsible for the right ripening.
The dry white wines are on a very good quality level showing crisp acidity and ripe flavours. The noble sweet white wines also take advantage of the higher acidity balancing the opulent sweetness. Therefore this vintage seems more on the elegant side. The presentation of red wines depends very much on the grape varietes and terroirs. Overall the red wines are on a higher quality level than the three previous vintages. Saint-Emilion is excellent on the plateau calcaire and shows in general very good wines.
In Pomerol the centre of the plateau was in advantage over the surrounding areas. Fronsac was a very positive surprise for 2014. In the Médoc the southern part proved to be more heterogenous than the northern part, where especially Saint-Estèphe was homogenous and excellent. South of Bordeaux Pessac-Léognan presented a very homogenous picture of a very good quality level with outstanding wines from Haut Brion and La Mission Haut Brion.
One last observation: This vintage digests oak in a great way. The oak is even not obvious in wines with a 100% new oak barrels for maturation. Now there are roughtly twelve month to follow for the maturation of the 2014s untill the bottling in 2016. A lot can happen in this period. Let us see how the wines will present themselves after bottling, it will be a very interesting tasting again. 2014 is not a great vintage like 2005, 2009 or 2010 but it will be able to secure a position as one of the very good vintages of Bordeaux.
by Markus del Monego MW