Saint-Émilion turns out some sumptuous wines in 2014, but it’s a case of “buyer beware,” says Jeannie Cho Lee.
When I asked two Saint-Émilion producers if they wanted to comment on how Merlot fared in 2014, they avoided the question and replied, “Can I talk about Cabernet Franc instead?” Even with the success of Pomerol, the lingering concern remains about Merlot’s large berry size, the lack of flavor concentration and the difficulty during flowering and the growing season.
In Saint-Émilion where half or more of the blend is made up of Merlot on mostly gravel or limestone rather than Pomerol’s predominantly clay soils, there was wider variation on quality and more dilution. At the top end, wines were superb – one would expect Ausone and Cheval Blanc to top the list but there were many other wonderful surprises.
Late harvest for a great wine
The most impressive was Tertre Roteboeuf. In this vintage, if I had to pick one wine that stood out in Saint-Émilion, it was this wine. Tertre Roteboeuf is a glorious wine with great depth and elegance, power as well as finesse and a very long finish. Owner Francois Mitjevile says this was the latest harvest he could remember, with the last plots being harvested in November! The other superstars of this appellation was Troplong Mondot, Valandraud, Clos Fourtet, Pavie and Figeac.
These wines combine the best of the vintage – the freshness of a cool July and August with the sweet ripeness of the warm Indian summer. And the other 100 Saint-Émilion wines I tasted? The variation is quite wide and overall it was a very good but uneven vintage with wide quality variation, from hollow and astringent to sumptuous and complex. This is a ‘buyer beware’ vintage in Saint-Émilion.