There are two clear stylistic camps for the Bordeaux 2014 vintage in Pessac-Leognan and Graves, writes Jane Anson, who offers her first general impression of the wines before rating them for Decanter.
To be honest, I was pretty sceptical about whether the quality potential for 2014 would extend across the more southerly parts of the Graves, or even out of the biggest Pessac-Leognan estates that have the money, time and staff to have protected the vines during the summer rains and made the necessary adjustments for bringing the grapes in at full maturity.
But after tasting through more than 120 wines from these two appellations, my first impressions are that, by and large, there really is a lot of successful winemaking on display here, and plenty of drinking pleasure ahead.
There are a few clear features to the vintage – firstly that even with the beautiful September and October sunshine, the quality of the fruit has remained on the fresh scale. Most typically you get rich ripeness but not over-ripe, so very little figs and prunes on display in either Pessac or Graves, much more plums, damsons and raspberries.
At the same time the sunshine was prolonged enough that in the best properties the tannins are surprisingly soft and approachable – there are some excellently enjoyable drinking wines here even within the ‘value’ category. The best of the reds are fruit-forward with well-extracted firm but silky tannins and will provide excellent medium term drinking – a clear step up from the last three years, even the (under-rated in my opinion) 2012. For the best of the whites, this is a vintage with huge appeal to lovers of fresh, classic whites in the mould of 2001 or 2011.
There are however two clear stylistic camps; those who have had a controlled and confident approach to the Indian summer and those who seem to have got over-excited with the possibilities of all that unexpected sunshine and extracted for all they are worth, or gone for further plumping up of the fruit structure by drowning everything in oak, new or otherwise.
At the same time, high acidity is also a feature in both the reds and whites. The malic acid was a particular problem (or feature, depending on your point of view) in 2014 because the rainy August meant that by the end of the month the malic levels were still very high.
Producers who were on dry gravelly soils seem to have escaped with liltingly fresh rather than biting wines, as did those who green harvested to reduce yields, so leaving the rest of the crop to concentrate and ripen fully. Some cooler clay soils, or those who left yields high seem to have fairly meagre wines where the acidity hasn’t dropped low enough to be palatable.
Inevitably it means that cabernet-dominated wines have the edge, but overall it again leaves the wines falling into two camps – those with a gorgeous freshness and minerality to them, that will age beautifully, and those where the mid palate is lean and the finish is tart.