Interview between Andrew Black of Premiere Presse and
Alexandre Thienpont Chateau View Certain Pommerol
Back in March, you said that Bordeaux badly needed a good 2014 vintage. The growing season has gone pretty well so far, hasn’t it?
The concern I have right now is that vegetation growthdoesn’t seem to be slowing. We’ve had more than enough rain, and if we don’t get some sustained dry weather, the vines won’t settle down to concentrate on ripening the fruit.
Yet the vine cycle is ahead of schedule, temperatures
have been high…
But the weather pattern is tropical with rain and wind. We’ve had to go into the vines three times recently just to tuck back in the branches.
One thing is for sure, barring hail, the crop size will be good …
There was a bit of coulure, and downy mildew has threatened, but we’re
OK this year, as far as crop size is concerned. It’s a reasonable size both for Merlot and Cabernet
With decent weather between now and the harvest a very good vintage is on the cards. Yet I sense you’re not so optimistic…
It kind of reminds me of 2012, which in the end wasn’t a bad year at all, I
Why 2012? That was a late-ripening vintage…
It’s the excessive vigour of the vines. 2012 struggled to ripen fully. 2014
could face the same struggle.
Veraison has started early. That’s a good sign, isn’t it?
I agree, but it’s slow. We’ve de-leafed around the fruit to help things along.
Then we’ll be crop thinning to even out the crop load and get rid of what we don’t want. Then it’s
up to the weather. It has to stop raining. Usually, by the end of July we’ve got water deficit stress
in the vineyard. It’s not the case this year.
If you don’t get that water deficit stress soon, and the tropical conditions continue, what sort of vintage might we get then? Not as good as 2012, I’m sure.
Alexandre Thienpont Possibly a 2007 or even a 1987. That’s the worst case scenario. But we’ve a long way to go yet in the season.
When do you expect to be harvesting?
I can’t predict with precision, but it’s likely to be during the second half ofSeptember.
Veraison is usually a reliable guide to harvesting dates. Why are you unsure?
Although the flowering went OK, the process was spread out; and now the veraison is going in waves. As you say, the cycle is ahead of schedule, and fortunately the gaps between those waves are closing, but we have to wait and see for the optimum moment.
Very often the ripening tends to come together just before the harvest, doesn’t it?
Yes, that’s not a concern. The main worry is whether we’ll get that water
stress we need.
If 2014 turned out to be of similar quality to 2012, I suppose you wouldn’t complain…
2012 was a very good vintage. It wasn’t on a par with 2011 at VCC, but it
was of similar quality to 1985 or 1995.
Looking back to the 2013 vintage, what are your feelings about the primeurs campaign?Was it right to release a First Wine?
When I look back on the 2013, I think of the tiny quantity of VCC –a fifth of a normal crop, a Merlot year, average quality. I fully understand that other growths didn’t release a First Wine. In VCC’s case, certain lots were worthy of the First Wine, and I couldn’t conceive of putting those into the Second Wine, and I don’t regret it today. We sold the 2013 well, too well.
Did you come down in price?
The 2013 primeurs campaign was a battlefield. There was pressure to come
down drastically on 2012 prices. I knew that if I came down marginally, it wouldn’t be considered
enough. I was left with the choice of either coming down substantially or not at all, and I opted for the latter.
Might this refusal to come down in price have damaged the image of VCC?
The work and the sacrifice involved in producing the 2013 was colossal, and that needed to be recognized. I believe that in the long run people will understand our decision.
Even if it was an average year at VCC?
2013 is not the VCC vintage I would recommend to a consumer who is just starting out in the world of fine wine. 2013 is a collector’s vintage. It’s a vintage for people who understand not just the 2013 wine but also the context in which it was made. I recognize however that our opening price of 75 euros may seem high to some, but VCC followers will understand, because even if the quality is average for VCC, the wine still has pedigree.
When should those followers be drinking the 2013, in your opinion?
In 5 to 8 years.
And which vintage would you recommend VCC followers to drink right now?
My daughter Marie got married a few weeks ago; and I had the task of selecting a VCC vintage for the reception meal. My reflex was to serve a 2001, which is always a winner. I opened 3 or 4 bottles, and curiously the 2001 is not in great form at the moment.
It’s going through a little phase, and it needs to be left for another day. I decided on the 2006 for thefirst VCC, and that’s drinking very nicely now. Interestingly, the vintage which really impressed me,
and which I chose to follow the 2006, was the 2000. It was excellent! It’s still a bit young, but it was showing beautifully.