The growing season began ideally, with a warm, early start and near-perfect conditions for the flowering, which led to a nearly normal-size and healthy crop set. But Mother Nature threw a curveball in late July with cool, cloudy, humid weather that lasted through August. Veraison ran late and was irregular, delaying ripening.
Producers returned from August vacations to find vineyards with bunches of both green and dark-colored grapes on the same vines. Extra leaf-pulling for better aeration and more sun, along with perhaps a second round of green harvesting, was needed to ensure even ripening.
With so much extra work needed in the vineyards, there was clearly concern, with the year suddenly looking like it might continue the trend of difficult vintages from 2011 to 2013. But then September and October saw a near-perfect Indian summer, with warm, dry days that allowed vineyards to drain after the August humidity, particularly in gravel soils, while the grapes ripened slowly.
The La Clarté de Haut-Brion 2014 is a blend of 66% Sauvignon Blanc and 34% Sémillon, Jean-Philippe Delmas mentioning that he blended more of the former, two weeks prior to my visit. It has a straightforward bouquet with crisp grapefruit and melon scents, the Sauvignon Blanc more expressive at the moment. The palate is sharp and citric on the entry with a keen line of acidity, touches of pear coming through toward the finish. Fine.
The quinine, lemon chiffon and white asparagus notes are gliding together already, with a warm macadamia nut accent adding texture and weight to the finish. Still a little youthfully raw at the very end, but shows lovely concentration and length. Tasted non-blind.—J.M.