On his return from his first week tasting at Bordeaux en Primeur week, George Stewart – Fine Wine Sales – reports on the on the wines to watch.
We arrived in Bordeaux last week with a cautious amount of excitement for the UGC’s en Primeur tasting week ahead. The overwhelming feedback of the 2014 vintage was that the quality is very good, easily the best it’s been since 2010, and we are delighted to share these sentiments. The vintage was a solid one saved at the last moment by the arrival of warm, sunny weather in September, avoiding the potential disaster of the preceding wet, cold August. Chateaux that have embraced the character of the vintage have done particularly well, and this is a year that is all about terroir. Moving on from the fruit bombs of the 2000’s we have arrived at an elegant vintage that is less concerned about concentration and power, and more about wines that age well and offer a truly pleasurable drinking experience. This approach is what made Bordeaux the world's premier fine wine region and the 2014’s show that it is still very much alive.
It is difficult to single out a Chateau or appellation which outperformed its peers. Some have said that the Left Bank achieved superior quality over the Right Bank, and while this is considered a Cabernet-friendly vintage, there are still plenty of triumphs in Pomerol and Saint-Emilion, which show that we must paint with a much finer brush.
Starting with the Left Bank, in the Medoc, the traditional powerhouses showed that they are very much at home in more complex vintages, with Ducru-Beaucaillou, Leoville-Las-Cases and Leoville-Barton producing sterling wines from Saint Julien. These wines show great precision and mineral character and are definitely wines to watch, along with neighbours Beychevelle, Saint-Pierre and Branaire-Ducru.
In Pauillac, Lynch Bages and Pontet-Canet both produced fantastic, age worthy wines which offer both the muscle and power we expect from the region, but also a certain soft touch which offers elegance alongside the intensity.
Margaux also produced some true exemplars of the vintage. Chateau Margaux heads up the field, while Rauzan-Segla , Labegorce and d'Issan all made elegant, aromatic wines with remarkable poise and clarity.
Saint-Estephe, with it’s penchant for showcasing terroir has emerged as a source of remarkably characterful wines, offering great power delivered with superb finesse. Lafon-Rochet and Calon-Ségur are both exceptional, while Phélan-Ségur figures to offer great value. As usual, however, Montrose has excelled, producing a fabulous wine, as has Cos d’Estournel.
On the Right Bank each major commune produced at least one viable contender for wine of the year and many offered a selection of truly exceptional wines. From Pomerol, look to Vieux Chateau Certan for a classic claret that will age marvellously while maintaining the sensuous charm that has gained it so many loyal followers. Nearby L'Eglise Clinet and La Conseillante have also made some of the finest in the region.
Saint-Emilion follows it’s traditional lines, with Cheval Blanc making excellent wines, though it is challenged by Figeac which, embracing the strength of it’s Cabernets, has made a convincing case for itself. Not to be excluded from the conversation, Ausone has made a vibrant, spirited wine that will impress for many years to come.
Pessac-Leognan and the rest of Graves is a bit more complex with quality dependent upon the producer. Some made truly excellent wines - Haut Bailly and it’s new stable-mate La Pape are particularly strong, while Domaine de Chevalier and Pape Clement also made some superlative reds and elegant whites.
Coming up with a winner of wine-of-the-vintage is a difficult proposition in such a complex year, but put to it, it comes down to who embraced the vintage. Margaux, Haut Bailly and Vieux Chateau Certan may have ever so slightly edged out the competition, though Figeac, Lynch Bages and Leoville-Las-Cases deserve honourable mentions. Overall, good wineries made good wines while many made something spectacular. Considering the success of those focussing on terroir and elegance, this is a vintage that truly celebrates Bordeaux.