A fine glass of Claret
Author: Tom Cave
It was a true credit to our customers’ enduring enthusiasm to taste Bordeaux en primeur which meant, in spite of travel disruption, we were pretty much a full complement to taste the 2014 vintage in the bright and airy Royal Horticultural Society’s Lindley Hall.
By the by, a few of our French guests took the strike with a typical Gallic shrug. They are all too familiar with “la grève” and seemed almost relieved that we’re not exempt from them this side of the Channel.
Over 40 suppliers showed a 2014 cask sample alongside another vintage, mainly either 2005 or 2006. Here are just a few of my picks of the 2014s from last night:
Ever-dependable Ch. Batailley showed very well, displaying plenty of punchy, Pauillac fruit that makes this one of our recurrent favourites. Ch. Clerc Milon’s class and polish meant it outshone its sibling Ch. d’Armailhac. St Julien neighbours Ch. Beychevelle and Ch. Branaire-Ducru sparred for attention – the Beychevelle winning on the night by just being that little bit more nimble on its feet.
Ch. Calon Ségur stood out with its newfound depth and intensity. This is a grand château, and one to follow for sure. Another St Estèphe, albeit at a more modest grade, that had real appeal and requires renewed attention was fresh, juicy Ch. Lafon-Rochet.
Ch. Cantemerle gave plenty of bang for the modest amount of money, continuing a fine run of form. Then Ch. la Conseillante vs Ch. Figeac: the Pomerol’s deeply intense fruit vied with the St Emilion’s more reticent, earthy qualities; fascinating to taste and recall they are only a mile or so apart.
To Margaux for the next pair, in joint ownership; feisty Fifth Growth Ch. du Tertre tasted very well but it was Third Growth Ch. Giscours which displayed extra richness, class and a very fine, long, deep finish. Ch. Pichon-Lalande stood out, there are few 2014s close to her and it is great to see the Comtesse back to her finest. Her more flamboyant neighbour, Ch. Pichon Baron, showed himself well too but she’s the belle of the ball this vintage.
Moving further south and on to a trio from the Graves; Domaine de Chevalier was as understated as ever, the 2014 sees this delightful property continue to reap high praise. Not so far away, Ch. Haut-Bailly was as elegant and high-toned as always, while Ch. Smith Haut Lafitte oozed contemporary flair.
That venerable brace of Bartons, Ch. Langoa and Ch. Léoville lived up to expectations; the Ch. Langoa packed with fruit and promising early pleasure, the more earnest Ch. Léoville commanding more time before revealing its colours.
There were many more from this, ample, fruit-laden vintage which, with few exceptions, will provide delicious wines for the mid-term (and longer if needed). It is a vintage for drinking, and revelling in the charm and sheer satisfaction that a fine glass of Claret provides.