Bordeaux 2014: Like no other


Ch. Pichon Lalande

Ch. Pichon Longueville Comtesse de Lalande

At the end of his third day in Bordeaux Jonathan White praises the quality of the 2014 vintage and its truly unusual character.

I have mentioned in other posts about the weather during the growing season, but I wanted to emphasise just how extraordinary it was in Pauillac: records were broken for the wettest January and February and then again for the length of the Indian summer. Vineyard management was extremely important in 2014, especially during April, when many vines were ahead of their usual vegetal cycle.

We began tasting at some of the most charming and classic estates in Pauillac today and it is becoming clear that experienced winemakers, who understand their terroir, their vineyard and their micro-climates, have been able to make the most successful wines in 2014.

There is real elegance in classic red Bordeaux this year and two of our favourites, which we have been buying from for many years, Ch. Grand-Puy-Lacoste and Ch. Batailley, have created wines of real balance and freshness. Interestingly both include 82 percent Cabernet Sauvignon in the blend this year.

Ch. Pichon Lalande and Ch. Pichon Baron are two very, very good wines this year and they split our team as we sought to find a favourite. Both are delicious and the Lalande has the silkiest and finest tannins I think I can ever recall tasting. Along with Ch. Ducru-Beaucaillou, they showcase that the Super Seconds are in good health in 2014.

Bruno Borie of Ducru told us that they didn’t experience a generous budburst, so their clusters were very small. Their team worked very hard in the vineyard during the summer, especially since the early-season bad weather affected the Merlot to an extent that they needed to be cleaned (but no green harvesting took place). The 2014 Ducru-Beaucaillou is 90 percent Cabernet Sauvignon, and an exceptional expression of the purity you can achieve with this grape, if you work hard enough, and with sufficient knowledge and expertise.

The weather brightened up as we set off towards Pessac-Léognan for the afternoon and it wasn’t just seeing the sun that brightened up our day. The appellation’s gravelly soils have really helped to create some complex wines with multiple layers and an energetic lift. Ch. les Carmes Haut-Brion was quite tight, but we predict that this could be a really super wine in the years to come; it’s showing wonderful aromatics, a tempting savoury edge, mouth-watering acidity and fresh fruit.

Ch. Haut-Bailly, Ch. Haut-Brion and Domaine de Chevalier Rouge are all lovely and soft; and it is this character that makes this vintage rather unusual. The wines are so open and approachable; but they’re not missing anything, as this remark may suggest. Acidity; tannin; fresh, ripe and juicy fruit; layered complexity; cool, long finishes are aplenty, so we are certain many of the wines have aging potential. None of the component parts are wrong: it is just not like anything we have tasted en primeur before.

It is still very hard to find a comparable vintage for 2014. We are all agreed that the wines are very good, almost exceptional in some cases, and, on the whole, there is much to enjoy. We are enthused by the quality; it is not a blockbuster, but is a significant improvement on 2013.

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