Bordeaux 2014: A promising start


Photograph: Jason Lowe

Photograph: Jason Lowe

As the first day of our team’s week-long tasting trip to Bordeaux draws to a close, Jonathan White sees true potential in the 2014 vintage and asks if things are finally looking up for the region.

Compared to previous vintages – not least 2013 – relatively little has been written about 2014 Bordeaux prior to this week’s Union des Grands Crus de Bordeaux tasting; aside, of course, from the open letter sent by UK merchants to the Bordelais urging some consideration when planning their pricing strategy.

Amid the noise generated in response to this letter, it does seem to have been missed that the merchants (including ourselves) are not calling for a blanket reduction in prices across the board; rather, we are urging individual châteaux to price their wines in accordance with the market. What are previous vintages of their wines trading for? Can they offer customers an incentive to buy en primeur again?

It has been many years since the majority of wines purchased en primeur from Bordeaux actually returned a positive result for the consumer. The 2013 vintage was a disappointing year for everyone in the trade, and the fact that there are hardly any 2013s available on the open market suggests that customers and merchants simply didn’t buy them. We all want that situation to change this year.

Monday marked the first day of our week-long tasting and Ch. Branaire-Ducru was an excellent start to the day. Patrick Maroteaux informed us that they try to make fresh, pure and elegant wines in every vintage and we think they have succeeded in 2014. He told us that the good weather in September helped them yield 40 hectolitres per hectare, up from 33 hectolitres per hectare in 2013.

Ben Sichel gave us a familiar story at Ch. d’Angludet, which produced approximately 35 percent more wine in 2014 compared to 2013. Their yields were back up to 45 hectolitres per hectare – the sort of levels they would expect from their terroir. Charlie Sichel is keen to release the wine early again this year to get the campaign started and, assuming the price is right, Ch. d’Angludet is certainly a wine to add to the wish-list this year.

It appears that a burst of favourable weather in September and October was critical to the success of the vintage. We have heard the term ‘Indian Summer’ used a lot today: August’s temperatures were lower than average, although a particularly mild yet wet winter created ideal conditions for an early budburst.

Henri Lurton at Ch. Brane-Cantenac thinks that the 2014s could be similar in style to the 2000s, but he points out that this particular year was very different in terms of weather, so on the whole it is hard to find a comparable vintage. In fact, as a group we are also struggling to find a vintage comparison that we all agree upon. Perhaps tomorrow’s tastings will help us decide.

I don’t wish to draw too many firm conclusions after spending just one day sampling the wines of 2014. However, it seems that this vintage is notably delicate whilst still retaining a steely backbone. There has been a genuine consistency in terms of quality and tasting characteristics throughout the day, and red fruit is certainly dominating the taste buds. Some of the wines have been so delicious that one might consider them approachable already. Long may that continue.

Follow our team in Bordeaux as they walk the vineyards, taste the 2014 wines and talk to the people who made them: they will be posting their progress on our blog, InstagramTwitter and Facebook.