Petit Cantenac 2014

Petit Cantenac 2014 is made with fruit with from our older Merlot, Cabernet Franc and Cabernet Sauvignon vines and was picked in perfect conditions during the cool early mornings of late September and early October.

The colour of the wine shows a deep dark red robe and is marked by its’ beautiful Cabernet character, with fresh and lush rich notes of black plums, cassis, cherry, raspberry, figs, and fine leather, with hints of liquorice, spice and soft vanillary new oak.

On the palate, it is full-bodied with thick tannins on the entry, which become more defined as the wine lingers in the mouth, with some delicate smokey characters leading towards a rounded, supple, blackberry and plum finish that displays good restraint and poise.

It is a savoury, delicious and well-made wine, quite forward in style, with a pleasant attack of fine soft tannins and an aromatic evolution that speads satisfyingly right across the palate. It will drink well after only 2 or 3 years,  but will also continue to develop nicely in the bottle. Drink 2016-2022.

Vineyard: 5.3 hectares overall vineyard

Grape variety: 90% Merlot, 7% Cabernet Franc, 3% Cabernet Sauvignon

Harvest: 100% by hand on 24th & 30th September

Winemaking: Saignée, cold maceration (7-8°C) for 7 days to develop fruit aromas.  Alcoholic fermentation (25C) for 5 days with regular pumping over. Post-fermentation macerating (28-29°C) for 15-20 days, due to the exceptional fruit quality. Malo-lactic fermentation in oak barrels

Ageing: Aged in 40% New French Oak and 60% 2nd year barrels for 24 months

Alcohol by volume: 13.5%vol

Residual sugar: < 2 g/l

Production: 14,000 bottles

It was the wettest winter in Bordeaux since 2001 with 650 mm of rainfall for the period October to March compared with the 30 year average of just 534 mm. March was actually a little warmer than usual which prompted an early bud-break at the start of April and then more sunny weather saw a surge in growth in the vines and by mid month and we were three weeks ahead of 2013 although only slightly behind the notoriously early vintage of 2011.

However, later in the month as the weather changed and we again experienced intermittent sun and rain, which was followed by a big storm on 22nd April and then by more rain, so the huge variation in spring temperatures meant that we had to be very vigilant and work hard to combat the early threat of mildew. Overall, temperatures actually ended up slightly above the monthly average, but then May was also up and down again and further chilly periods put the brakes firmly on the rapid early growth.

Then over the first weekend in June, in glorious sunshine, the flowering slowly began with the earlier-ripening Merlot leading the way but followed closely by the Cabernet Franc, which was a good sign and then finally the Cabernet Sauvignon. Also as the weather remained dry and fine during this critical stage of the growing season, we were most encouraged as the flowering finally finished 2 weeks later with signs of a good crop of nice even small green bunches. June was then hot and sunny, but as we moved towards July, the grapes were still only just starting to develop and remained very green as the temperatures soared to 35C which left the exposed fruit susceptible to sunburn and scorching after the early leaf pulling, which had just taken place.

It was a difficult period and the emerging weather pattern was rather like that of the last couple of years with a lack of prolonged sun during the summer months and a ripening period potentially cut short by the risk of rot, although we remained as optimistic as ever remembering the old saying that ‘August makes the wine’. However, August was very changeable and wet with not that many hours of sun and only around 24°C during the day. This was not the usual August hot sun that we needed and the nights and mornings were also cold at around 10C.

However, despite the un-favourable conditions, the small bunches of fruit did slowly start to turn colour and ‘veraison’ got underway and was in the main, relatively uniform due to the good earlier flowering conditions, although the Merlot experienced a little ‘millerandage’ and ‘coulure’ but nothing like last year.

The changeable and unpredictable weather continued to pose a risk as the vines continued green growth, which at this time of year means the leaves at the top of the vine can be affected by mildew. To combat that we remove most of the top leaves by ‘rognage’ and the coolness of the nights also helped, but it was also important at that stage to protect the rest of the canopy until harvest so that photosynthesis could function properly.

In the meantime, the water table also still high and the vines were struggling to know at which point to make the switch from further growth to the transfer of all energy to the ripening of the fruit. Grass had also become a big problem with the combination of sun and rain as well the cool nights producing such a heavy dew between the vines each morning, that the weak sunshine was not able to dry it out until early afternoon.

Once again, this called for a lot of extra work, firstly ploughing with a special machine under the vines to remove the grass and any weeds, then cutting the grass and finally by having another team of workers carefully remove any unwanted grass from around the fruit.

Then finally our prayers were answered as the good weather arrived and we were blessed with five glorious weeks of sunshine from late August onwards and we enjoyed a prolonged dry and sunny spell throughout the crucial ripening period, which completely transformed the vintage. Then over the next few weeks, it also started to look like a very good vintage, maybe even a miracle vintage compared to what we had feared after the fairly lacklustre summer. On top of which, it also turned out to be one of the best starts to September, that I have ever experienced in my 12 harvests here.

Harvest started on 24th September under clear skies and with much promise and lasted only a week, even taking into account the luxury of taking the weekend off.

The excellent flowering in June, followed by a mixed summer, but a gorgeous September, all points to a ’bookend’ season. One that started well and finished well. On top of which after three years of declining yields, our 2014 production levels were a cause for celebration as all of our tanks were full. Another oddly positive note of this vintage is that it was not a uniform one in Bordeaux and so if all of the joy of wine is in its diversity, then perhaps despite all the modern technology employed today in Bordeaux, we will still find wines of markedly different character and quality from the 2014 vintage.

So in conclusion I believe that 2014 has also really been a positively different year for us at Clos Cantenac as whilst we all know that no two years are ever the same, I think that this year we will produce very elegant wines.

Good colour, rich Merlot black fruits, already smooth and almost seductive, shows fragrance and fruit and lovely balance, very well made.”

Steven Spurrier