Bordeaux 2014: Superb siblings for the Grands Vins


Ch. du Tertre

Ch. du Tertre

In his penultimate post from Bordeaux Jonathan White recounts the team’s fourth day tasting the 2014 wines and reflects on the quality of the vintage.

As we made our way to Northern Pauillac and St Estèphe on Thursday morning, I couldn’t help but marvel at how tidy the vineyards were and consider the amount of hard work that it takes to make these famous wines from Bordeaux: the subterranean root system for the inconceivable number of vines which I could see across the horizon must be incredibly impressive.

Each individual vine was tied to a stake to train the growth of the plant and to ensure that, when flowering commences, it is in the optimum position to protect the grape bunches and obtain all the necessary nutrients to help itself grow. During our en primeur tasting trip we don’t have much time to spend with each winemaker and certainly not enough time to visit the vineyards themselves. An incredible amount of hard work takes place not just through the growing season but the entire vegetal cycle. Making top wines, where the overwhelming majority of vineyard work takes place by hand, is a year-round project. The cost of this work is high, the effort put in is huge, and the occupation is all-encompassing, so it is understandable that the winemakers and proprietors of these estates are incredibly passionate about their product. I can appreciate why many find it hard to justify price reductions when their costs remain high – sometimes the highest of all during challenging vintages, when even more work is required in the vineyard and winery.

Of the wines we tasted on Thursday Pagodes de Cos, Echo de Lynch Bages and La Dame de Montrose displayed all the usual stylistic characteristics one would expect from the prestigious properties’ Grands Vins. They are very much baby brothers and sisters this year. All three are really exceptional wines, as are the main wines themselves. Ch. Montrose was a personal favourite of the day; more refined than usual, pure and fine it is a perfect expression of modern Ch. Montrose. Ch. Calon-Ségur was universally acclaimed by our team to be one of the stars of 2014. They have around 10 percent more Cabernet Sauvignon in the blend this year and we really, really enjoyed tasting it. Pricing should be accessible here as well.

Another stable of wines in very rude health were found at Ch. Lynch Bages: possessing a savoury complexity, huge acidity, fine-boned tannins and many layers of fresh, juicy fruit which has energetic lift, it was very exciting, and one of the best for many years. It really was a very strong flight of wines with 2014 Ormes de Pez being one of the best we have tasted en primeur.

We have concluded that finding a comparable vintage for 2014 just isn’t possible across the board. It had been a topic of discussion with each of the winemakers we met and they have all said different things, even those next door to one another. This is certainly not a bad thing though; granted it is nice to have a reference point, but wine is a subjective product. We know that all vintages are different, each winemaker has their own style and the vineyards of Bordeaux cover more hectares than most other wine-producing nations, or regions across the world. They are therefore unlikely to produce wholly uniform wine.

A recurring theme this week is that these wines, where particularly successful, have been pretty, rich, elegant, soft, approachable and beautifully balanced with fresh fruit, cooling acidity and wonderful silky tannins.

We are, of course, beginning to develop a selection of our team’s favourites wines from this vintage, which is certainly a good one. We will share these with you along with our scores, tasting notes and vintage report early next week. Aymeric de Gironde from Cos d’Estournel told us that it is imperative that the Bordelais get their prices right this year. In fact many people have said this to us. It is very welcome, but we will have to wait and see the outcome over the next two to three months.

Follow the final days of our team’s week in Bordeaux: they will be posting updates on our blogInstagramTwitter and Facebook.