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Every year comes with its own challenges, and most winemakers and viticulturalists feel a combined sense of excitement and dread when a new year rolls around, with nobody really able to predict what surprises it might bring. Vine growing is so massively dependent on climatic conditions and good luck, that it is a real testament to the skill and expertise of wineries in the world’s greatest regions - such as France’s Rhone Valley - that fine wine is produced year in, year out, almost without exception.
2014 was a difficult year for red wines in the Rhone Valley, with an early season of good weather quickly hampered by a cold and wet summer, which was even worse than the previous year. As in the year before, 2014 favoured Syrah and Mourvedre varietal grapes over Grenache, meaning many of the year’s blended red wines tended to be far softer and lighter in body than is truly representative of the region. This is by no means a bad thing for people looking for delicious, carefully blended and highly drinkable red wines, but these are wines to be drunk relatively young as the soft tannins in the blend mean that these bottles are less suitable for cellaring or ageing beyond a couple of years.
The vintner’s troubles didn’t end with the weather, either. 2014 brought with it a fruit fly problem, which affected many of the red grapes in the region. This led to lower yields - again, not a bad thing for the drinker - and twice as much work for the wineries, who had to double their time sorting the grapes. Those that got through the sorting process, though, were of exceptional quality. The flies took no interest in the white grapes of this vintage, however, meaning that 2014 was a truly exceptional year for Rhone Valley Viognier and Roussanne wines, with these showing fantastic expression of the region’s granite and minerally soils.