Bordeaux 2014: ‘The best of the rest’


The tasting room at Ch. Rauzan-Ségla

The tasting room at Ch. Rauzan-Ségla

Geordie Willis – eighth-generation family member and Berry Bros. & Rudd Creative Director – recounts his first week tasting Bordeaux en primeur and the prospects of the 2014 vintage.

The Marathon du Médoc celebrated its 30th anniversary in 2014 and as I sit now, some 2,000 kilometres from the great châteaux, I feel a sense of exhausted euphoria at having yesterday crossed the finishing line of our own version of ‘le marathon le plus long du monde’.

A couple of weeks ago I attended a debate pitching two of the world’s most revered wine regions against each other – Bordeaux versus Burgundy. Two luminaries of the wine-writing world, Jancis Robinson and Hugh Johnson, fought their respective corners with great aplomb (Burgundy was deemed the winner on the night). It was an entertaining evening, but one comment in particular stayed with me: a young man at the back of the room asked for advice on how best to handle what was to be his first week tasting en primeur. Hugh Johnson paused for a second before responding with a knowing smile, ‘Don’t expect to enjoy it.’

It is indeed a tough week tasting over 200 wines from over 40 châteaux; but the experience was both enjoyable and rewarding, helped perhaps by some wonderfully approachable wines, characterised by fleshy fruit, structure and poise. The best examples (which for me included Ch. Calon Ségur, Ch. Montrose and Ch. Palmer) could well go down in history as great wines, however I do think that we need to reflect on what is meant by a ‘miracle’ vintage, a phrase I have heard countless times over the past few days. In this instance the miracle refers to one of the longest and most exceptional Indian summers in wine-growing history, which allowed the grapes to reach full maturity and for the harvest to take place in near-perfect conditions after a year marked by contrasts.

This late miracle can be thanked for providing us with the best wines we’ve seen since 2010, wines that are already generous and will provide great drinking pleasure in 10 to 20 years’ time. Perhaps Paul Pontallier (of Ch. Margaux) summed it up best, saying, ‘There is no outstanding vintage without an outstanding August. Two-thousand-and-fourteen does not have the magic touch of 2009 or 2010 and shouldn’t be considered one of the best vintages; however it is undoubtedly the best of the rest.’

Now we must just wait to see how the wines will be priced. Perhaps it’s just my euphoric state but at this stage I remain optimistic.

Read the rest of our coverage of the team’s week tasting Bordeaux 2014 en primeur.