Jane Anson goes back to the Bordeaux 2014 wines to see how they're developing in the bottle, with a focus on the Left Bank. Below, she picks 10 of her favourites from a recent tasting and talks about how the vintage has shaped up since the en primeur campaign two years ago.
There are many well-reasoned arguments against tasting extremely young, or en primeur, wines, not least from the winemakers themselves who point to the instability of the fledgling samples and the stress of having to make new blends camera-ready at a time when they should instead be focusing on their long-term development.
But if you pair these tastings with a re-run once that same harvest is bottled, then it’s hard to beat the picture it gives of both individual performances and the overall character and potential of a vintage.
Scroll down to see the wines
In theory red Bordeaux should deepen and take on weight over the period of barrel ageing. If there were concerns over extraction levels, overly obvious oak or any other components of the wine, now is the moment to see if they were simply the result of a young blend that needed to settle down, or a basic structural issue. And doing it while you have the memory of en primeur fresh in your mind makes it particularly illuminating.
Newly-bottled wines can have their own ‘dumb’ period, but at this point most 2014s have seen six months in bottle, so this is a great moment to re-taste as I did a few weeks ago on the Left Bank, tasting both at individual châteaux and at group tastings of different appellations.
By and large, the results absolutely confirmed my impressions during Bordeaux 2014 en primeur that there are some excellent wines in 2014, particularly in that northern Médoc triumvirate of St Julien, Pauillac and St Estèphe. Where 2015 performed exceptionally well on the Right Bank and the Southern Médoc, 2014 really belonged to those three appellations, that had the best of the glorious late Autumn weather (and most crucially suffered less from rain that fell in other parts of the region both during the summer months – 82mm in Margaux compared to 56mm in St Julien in August – and again around October 10 during harvest). This was a late harvest, which almost invariably means reasonable alcohol levels and relatively high acidity because ripening takes place when the nights are cool. Anecdotally, late vintages are also often tricky en primeur, because the wines have had less time to settle after malolactic fermentation and blending.
Certainly 2014 is not in the same league as 2005, 2009 or 2010 from the past decade or so, and there is almost invariably a clear difference between first and second wines, always an indication that grapes were not consistently good and selection was needed.
But that is what makes this year so interesting for consumers in the areas that over-performed. As 2014 was not deemed a superlative vintage, there is value for money, particularly when placed against 2015.
If you now skip en primeur and buy when in bottle, you can really take advantage of this, because the two years make a perfect example of how châteaux sometimes price for perception not reality. Several estates in the northern Médoc priced their 2015s more highly because the general vintage reputation was stronger, but in my opinion produced better bottles in 2014.
I’m going to pick here 10 wines I consider particularly successful. I’m not including reviews of the First Growths, although all were tasting excellent, simply because of space, but it’s worth noting that the two that have improved most over ageing are Mouton Rothschild and Latour. Both have evolved into really spectacular wines. And this is also a vintage where the Super Seconds shine.
Ten of Jane Anson’s favourite Bordeaux 2014 wines from this tasting:
Tasting held by UGC in Bordeaux
Updated 03/03/2017: Stockist details on Marquis d’Alesme.