Wine Spectator senior editor James Molesworth is in France for his 2017 vintage Bordeaux barrel tastings. While there, he's visiting the châteaus of some of the region's top estates, as well as some up-and-coming new producers.
I swung back up to the top of the plateau to check in with Nicolas Audebert at Château Canon. Since arriving in 2014, Audebert has tweaked both Canon and its sister property of Rauzan-Ségla in Margaux toward a fresher, purer style. The results have not gone unnoticed, with both estates now clipping the classic-quality mark in 2015 and potentially in 2016 as well.
"We are extremely lucky, with almost no frost here—just 300 or 400 vines," says Audebert. "So in the end, our volume is just about the same as '15 and '16. From there the season was basically perfect—flowering, veraison, both homogeneous and compact, with rains at the right moments. We arrived quite early with ideal maturity, and started harvest Sept. 4, which is the earliest ever for Canon."
"We did have to do some selection. The impact of the September rain was not much on the quality of the grapes. But right after the rain there was some building disease pressure. It wasn't much to sort out, but you had to do it," says Audebert. "The berries were generally small, black and healthy, so we did a few days of cold maceration to secure to freshness. And then from there the vinification was very easy."
Note: These wines were tasted non-blind. See the full 2017 Bordeaux barrel tastings report for more than 250 official barrel scores and tasting notes for wines submitted to Wine Spectator's blind tasting here in Bordeaux.
The 2017 Canon Croix Canon (second wine) is a typical 80/20 Merlot and Cabernet Franc blend, showing a fleshy and inviting profile with plum sauce and raspberry compote flavors framed with suave toast. Light anise and black tea nuances check in through the finish, and it has a very velvety feel.
The 2017 Canon grand vin, a 77 percent Merlot, 23 Cabernet Franc blend, is refined from the start, with a very focused beam of raspberry and red currant coulis flavors carried by fine chalky minerality that emerges steadily through the lengthy finish. It has lovely mouthfeel with both caressing and racy elements working in harmony. And terrific purity throughout.
"Summer may not have been 'the summer' with warmth and sun. But the harvest was the earliest ever, and it wasn't that warm a year, which tells you that everything progressed as it should and it was very well-balanced. The fruit has that crunchy feel, the tension is there, and it's ripe. And that's exactly what we want," says Audebert.
The newly acquired 2017 Berliquet, (70 Merlot, 30 Cabernet Franc) is the first vintage under Audebert's control, but the Wertheimer family acquired ownership midway through the vintage, so Audebert did not get a full season with the vineyard, giving him a pass. He doesn't need it though. There was no frost damage here either, as it sits next to Canon, atop the plateau, and the wine shows a plump and open feel, with friendly plum, blackberry and anise notes. The telltale chalky hint is buried on the finish, along with a light savory edge, as the tannins are just a touch on the firm side, though it does flesh out slowly in the glass.
"It's going to take five or 10 years to figure out the details," explains Audebert, "but I'm pleased that we found the direction right away in terms of the style we want, emphasizing freshness and minerality."
I suspect as Audebert gets a handle on the site, the wine from this estate will gain in refinement. If you've missed the boat on Canon as it has shot up in price over the past few vintages, here's your chance to get in on the next new thing.
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