2004 Bordeaux — An Uneven Season with Mixed Results
The 2004 vintage was an uneven one, the result of a very large crop and a cool, fairly wet summer.
After the drought and heat of 2003 and the miserably cold and wet 2002, the vines seemed to have plenty of pent up energy to begin 2004. The vineyards got off to a vigorous start, and flowering took place under good conditions. Both factors resulted in one of the largest crops on record.
The key to success was managing the crop. Thinning dramatically was necessary to keep the fruit loads balanced and give grapes the best chance for ripening. June was moderate, July cooler than normal, and August cool and damp. All of this made the case for crop management even more urgent as the less than stellar weather slowed the ripening cycle. As the harvest approached, there was a great deal of concern with the progress of the grapes — time was running out. The vintage was saved when a period of warm, sunny weather settled in as September arrived, allowing the grapes to make the final push under excellent conditions. The good weather lasted until mid-October, when more rain arrived and put an end to the harvest. Whether the grapes were fully ripe or not, it was time for them to come in.
The key to making the best wines in the uneven conditions was keeping yields low and picking as late as possible to allow the tannins and flavors to develop. There are some very good wines, which are moderately firm in structure and more “classic” in style. Many of the lesser wines are a bit hard or astringent in their tannins, showing the green notes typical of a cooler, wet growing season. Wines are perhaps a bit better in the northern Medoc than in Margaux, Graves, or the Right Bank. Top properties were definitely more successful in 2004, and there are now some bargains to be had, as the vintage has been overshadowed by 2005.