Much to the delight (and surprise) of many tasters, Bordeaux has produced very good wine in 2014. It is certainly the best since 2010 and much of the talk at the en primeurs has been about where it ranks and which vintages it most resembles.
(Image: Sunrise over Latour, view from Pichon Lalande, during Bordeaux 2014 en primeur week. Credit: Chris Mercer)
That, of course, depends on who you talk to and which part of Bordeaux is under discussion. For the Sauternais, 2011 was a wonderful vintage. But many winemakers there argue Bordeaux 2014 is even better. Perhaps even on a par with 2001. The problem in 2014 is not quality but quantity.
Once again yields in Sauternes are miniscule and miserly. At Climens, Suduiraut and Coutet, they were down to as little as 7hl/ha.
For the dry whites, 2014 is also looking more than promising. Olivier Bernard, of Domaine de Chevalier, spoke of the quality of his white wines in the same breath as 2006, 2007 and 2011. High praise, but also justified.
There is much less agreement over the nearest red vintage. For obvious reasons, it bears no relation to 2003 or 2009. And 2014 is undoubtedly considerably better than 2007 and 2002. Some have ranked it alongside 2008, but most rate it higher.
A tiny minority of Bordelais, who shall remain nameless, have touted that it is similar, even as good as 2010. But no-one is taking that suggestion seriously. Least of all Frederic Engerer. ‘2014 is good but not in the same league as 2010,’ he said. For the record, Engerer has made wonderful wine at Latour which sadly won’t be available to buy for some considerable time.
When I visited Didier Cuvelier, owner of Chateau Leoville-Poyferre, he thought his wine was a cross between 2005 and 2006 due to the freshness and the concentration and roundness of its tannins. At Chateau Margaux, Paul Pontallier compared the vintage conditions with those of 1978, 1983, 1996 and 2008. Not surprisingly, Pontallier has also made exceptional wine in 2014.
Bibendum’s former Bordeaux Buyer Alex Marton, who recently set up under his own name, told me that it reminded him of tasting the 2001s. ‘But with all the technology, investment and knowledge that has accrued since then, this is probably going to turn out better. We have nice fresh fruit and the wine is very easy to taste. To me this is a fabulous drinking vintage, which is exactly what Bordeaux needed.’
Goedhuis’ David Roberts has an even longer memory of tasting nubile Bordeaux and has also been impressed by what he had so far sampled on the Left Bank. (At the time, he had not yet crossed the Gironde.) ‘There are some very good wines and some less good wines with brittle acidities,’ he commented. ‘However the best wines on the left bank are comparable with 1996 because of that clarity of Cabernet Sauvignon.’
Like many in Bordeaux, at the end of August, Angelus’ Stephanie de Bouard was fearful of another 2013 vintage. ‘But by October, I felt we could make something great from this vintage. The result is nice delicate wine with good fruit, freshness, structure and density. It’s not a blockbuster like nine and ten. On the right bank, the closest I can compare it to is 98 and 2001.’
Not everyone would be drawn. Otto Rettenmaier at La Tour Figeac in St Emilion commented that, ‘I actually think that the growing conditions were so unique that this is a vintage all on its own. ‘I can’t say that it is a great vintage like 2000, 2005, 2009 or 2010. But nor can I say that it is like 2001, 2004, 2008 or 2012. The fact is that we simply haven’t seen anything like it.’
Written by John Stimpfig