The Bordeaux Marathon
Emeline Borie from Grande Puy Lacoste aptly described 2014 as a ‘marathon’. ‘It was easy to start with… really tough in the middle… the last part was a breeze… and we were just elated when we crossed the finishing line’. This captures the thoughts and experiences of vignerons up and down the Medoc, the Graves and in St Emilion and Pomerol. Usually one side of the river or a particular commune gets preferential treatment from the heavens; in this respect 2014 was even handed. Flowering was much easier than in 2013 and fine spring weather lulled Chateaux into thinking this would be an early harvest. July and August were drab; not wet, but cool and overcast. By mid-August early optimism had turned to despair. But as is so often the way in Bordeaux, an Indian summer rode to their rescue. Wonderful conditions continued until mid-October. Warm, breezy days and cool nights concentrated fruit and allowed wine-makers to wait and choose their moment to harvest.
Yields are healthy, but not bountiful. Many estates expected more juice from the weight of their musts, but achieved a few hl/ha less than their calculations. When asked why, they shrugged and said that there just wasn’t that much juice. This is not the scientific response we anticipated, but it probably points to the juice to skin ratio being quite low. Certainly, colours are good and there is the potential for substantial tannins. Analytically, the berries possessed high levels of sugar, acidity and tannin, so vinification had to be managed thoughtfully.
At its best, 2014 has produced gorgeous wines. There is not the fatness or concentration of great vintages, but these are not weedy. There is a real intensity and class with some of the best delineated flavours we can ever remember. To achieve this level of quality, wine-makers needed to understand the vintage and its limitations. Those who respected the vintage have prospered and made wines with wonderful aromatics and incredible clarity. Sadly, too many in our opinion have made hollow, over-extracted wines with tannins that may never resolve.
In general, we are actually very upbeat about the 2014s. There are wines at all price levels that will offer wonderful quality and a style that we really enjoy. Shopping lists were being formed in the J&B bus, which I think is the best kind of endorsement. Our sales and buying teams have tasted extensively over four days and can advise on what offers the best quality and value. We strongly advise anyone buying 2014 to seek guidance before taking the plunge; and yes there is that rather vulgar word the Bordelaise don’t really like to talk about, ‘price’, that will be a major consideration.
Our tasting notes will appear on the website over the coming week, but for now, we will highlight, in no particular order our wines of the vintage.
Right Bank: Lafleur Petrus, Petrus, Lafleur, Le Pin, L’If, Grand Village Rouge, Champs Libres, Vieux Chateau Certan, Cheval Blanc, Ausone, Grande Maye, Roc de Cambes, Le Chenade, Eglise Clinet. Montlandrie and La Conseillante.
Left Bank and Graves: La Mission Haut Brion, Haut Brion, Haut Brion Blanc, Smith Haut Lafitte, Domaine de Chevalier Blanc, Picque Caillou (red and white), Margaux, Pavillon Blanc, Leoville Las Cases, Montrose, Calon Segur, Lafite Rothschild, Duhart Milon, Mouton Rothschild, Pontet Canet, Pichon Lalande, Ducru Beaucaillou, Grand Puy Lacoste, Cantemerle, Chasse Spleen, Meyney and Rauzan Segla.