The feeling was that 2014 was a Cabernet vintage due to the long hangtime that Cabernets Sauvignon and Franc love, and this certainly favoured the Left Bank. However, looking at the proportion of Merlot now planted in the Médoc, this was not the sole cause for quality. Words like ‘clarity’, ‘precision’, ‘fragrance’ and ‘freshness’ abounded in my notes and in the leaflets produced by the châteaux, and while Merlot’s ripe black fruits were present, blending perfectly with the firmer Cabernets, words like ‘plummy’, ‘rich’ and ‘robust’ were hardly mentioned.
The wines in general have lovely fruit, a natural density and tannins that support but do not overwhelm, creating wines that express their origins and impress by so doing. In the Médoc, the elegance of Margaux came through, but fewer great wines than expected; St-Julien was as homogenous as ever as a commune, while the three Léovilles were as different as usual with some lesser crus coming on strong. Further north, there were some great successes in Pauillac, a vast improvement on an uneven 2013, while the variety on offer in St-Estèphe made this, for me, the commune of the vintage.
The generic Médocs will make good bottles for the turn of the decade, as will the interestingly varied Haut-Médocs with more depth and length. Finally , Listrac and Moulis, the former firm, the latter supple, were more than reliable. The three rare whites I tasted from Margaux, Mouton Rothschild and Cos d’Estournel were remarkably good. All in all, 2014 on the Left Bank left a very good impression.
Spread over 15 communes from south of Margaux to north of St-Estèphe, Haut-Médoc is an appelation rather than a style. Here more than 120 crus bourgeois compete for attention in financial circumstances that are not easy, due to their modest prices compared to the neighbouring classed growths. Thos that succeeded and in 2014 there were many do so with a blend of good terroir and attention to detail. Long autumn ripening has brought out the best to show character of fruit that will hold for a decade or more.