2001 Harvest Highlights: Cabernet Shines in Bordeaux

Sauternes producers say sweet wines also poised to excel.
Oct 25, 2001

Bordeaux wine producers are expecting very good quality from the 2001 harvest, even though the year was characterized by sudden climatic changes throughout most of the growing season.

According to consulting enologist Michel Rolland, who oversees wine production at numerous châteaus throughout the region, 2001 was a late harvest but a very good quality year. "Because of the unstable weather, everything was delayed about 10 days," said Rolland, who also owns Château Le Bon-Pasteur in Pomerol. "The main difference from last year's vintage is that this year's shows higher acidity levels, a lower pH level and harder tannins. The wines are deep and rich in color. It's a good year for age-worthy wines."

Comparisons have already been made to 1986, a classic Bordeaux year in which the best wines were produced with a large percentage of Cabernet Sauvignon. They were hard and tannic wines when young -- textbook clarets that needed years of aging. The best are only now coming into their own.

Other producers say that 2001 will fall between the 1995 and 1996 vintages, the former being a "classic" quality year and the latter "very good," particularly in the northern Médoc region.

Nonetheless, some producers are extremely enthusiastic with their Merlot in 2001. "The Merlot is exceptional," said Patrick Leon, enologist and technical manager for one of the Médoc first-growths, Château Mouton-Rothschild in Pauillac. "It's ripe, with good tannins as well as being round and supple. It's actually better than last year, likewise the Cabernet Franc. Last year we didn't blend the Cabernet Franc with the Merlot, but this year we will."

Olivier Bernard of Domaine de Chevalier in Pessac-Léognan said his Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon were equally good in quality, with the grapes harvested from vineyards in well-drained gravely soil giving the best results. "The best Cabernet Sauvignon of 2001 will be superior to that of 2000," he predicted.

One of the brightest spots in 2001 may be the sweet wine harvest. According to Rolland, Sauternes producers are very excited about their harvest, saying that weather conditions have been perfect for noble rot to develop. "Bordeaux is smiling," said Rolland. "Sauternes' vintage 2001 is the best vintage since 1990; in fact it is even better than 1990."

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