We are now nearing the end of 2015 and many of us who are wine enthusiasts have probably had an opportunity to taste at least a few of the wines of the new vintage 2014. The countries located in the southern hemisphere have, obviously, an advantage and it is far from unusual that a Riesling or a sauvignon blanc finds its way to the north before the year is over. It is not even excluded that some red wines starts arriving. However, most wines that are released so early meant to be drunk young. That is why at first glance it may look strange that Bordeaux wines of the 2014 vintage are already out there for evaluation.
Bordeaux are almost the archetype of wines that it is worth waiting for; 10 years is just a beginning and fine wines continue the development in decades after that.
How is it then that one chooses to release wines from 2014 already? Wines that have not even been given a year to develop! The answer is “en primeur“, meaning that the wine is sold to the consumer long before it’s finished. This gives the winemaker some immediate cash-flow and after about two years the buyer can take delivery of the wine. With the hope that the value has risen!
It is obviously difficult to get people to buy your wine without having any idea of how good it might be. Therefore tastings are organised where producers show the new vintage and compares it with an earlier reference vintage. This year in Stockholm some 30 chateaux were present and displayed their latest vintage at a tasting organised by the online wine merchant Winefinder.
Unpredictability of the weather
They preceding vintages, from 2011 to 2013, have all been considered to be “minor” vintages. The latest vintage considered of high quality was 2010. There have thus been a number of difficult years for Bordeaux lovers. This has also resulted in wines has not increased in value in the way many had hoped for, which prompted some British importers to write an open letter to Bordeaux producers with a request that prices should be adjusted downwards.
The new vintage, 2014, was a very “exciting” year for winemakers in Bordeaux. For a long time it looked rather sombre because of the cold and rainy summer. Many feared that it would be a bad year. One more in a series of bad years. But in September luck changed and a much needed Indian summer with unusually warm weather swept across Bordeaux. The time up to the harvest was so hot that during the autumn some of the hottest days of the last 20 years were recorded. It was also the end of the rain and September was a dry month which gave the soil a chance to dry up.
The overall picture I got when I talked to the producers was that they either saw this as the best year of the past 4 years, or those that were more positive, the first really good year since 2010. A common hope was that this would be the first of a long series of good and hopefully even better vintages.
An exciting vintage
Personally I think that 2014 is a very exciting vintage. It is clear that the various chateaux have chosen different paths. Some push forward with high extraction which gives full-bodied wines that approaches what can be found in the New World. Other chateaux focus on lighter and more elegant wines. Below follows a review of the various chateaux sorted per appellation.
As you can see, it is not only the region that determines what style of wine is made but it is clear that different parts of Bordeaux can produce wines of similar style. It is also clear that wines made in one appellation can differ tremendously in style. How these wines will be when you get them home is, of course, very difficult to know. It is not possible to predict how a particular wine will mature and how much it will (hopefully) improve with age. But I think that Karim Nasser of Château Malartic Lagravière expressed it well when he said that a wine that is good already at a primeur tasting is very likely only going to get better. It’s the wines that initially do not make an immediate success that are more difficult to predict. In the best case, they can over time grow and become harmonious, sometimes it goes the other way and the little harmony that there were may disappear completely. However, it is often in this group that you can find real bargain.
Chateau Phélan Ségur
2014: The wine starts with green notes of grass / bell-pepper. There were also a lot of berries, but they were not very dark. The tannins on the other hand were intense. This is a wine that in the current situation is not completely in balance and does not feel completely ripe. It will be interesting to see what happens over time.
2006: The first thing that struck me was a clear hint of mineral and wet stone. In stage two I found a lot of ripe tones reminiscent of leather and mushrooms. The wine was very well balanced and has a long and smooth aftertaste. A very nice wine.
Chateau Lafon Rochet
2014: This is a good example of a wine that is made in a cooler style. It certainly does not lack fruit and there are a lot of black currants but the volume is much less than in many other wines. Tannins are on an intermediate level and the same goes for the acidity.
2011: A bit anonymous at this time; can perhaps be in “the tunnel”. Some berries but on a low to medium level allowing the tannins stand out and be very present. The aftertaste feels a bit sweet and fruity.
Château Pichon Baron (formerly Pichon Longueville Baron)
2014: This was a very well-balanced wine, where the flavour is initially came with red berries. With some aeration it moves to darker berries and a lovely black currant tone coming forward. The wine has a cooler feel than many other wines. It shows very elegant now.
2011: Although this wine starts with red berries it then goes to black currants. The nose is light and elegant, and the same is true of the flavour. The acidity is perhaps a little on the low side while the tannins are still strong.
Château Léoville Poyferré
2014: Cool fruit. The nose has a lot of black currants, there is certainly no shortage of grape maturation. Instead the concentration is a bit on the low side, which makes the wine more elegant. The wine is already balanced with good tannins and very fine and mineral acid. There are some notes of mature berries, plums, in the finish.
2011: The wine starts with a smoky tone. This is followed by lots of black currant. This is a very concentrated wine, fortunately, combined it with a fine and long acidity. The wine feels very young and will surely keep well for many more years.
Château Léoville Barton
2014: A very powerful and concentrated wine with distinct aromas of dark berries. These black currants are almost dipped in chocolate. The wine has a very nice and mineral acidity and tight tannins. A very interesting wine.
2006: This wine is also a very powerful wine with strong tannins and high fruit concentration. The wine has just started to develop and will probably require several more years before it reaches its peak.
The Barton family also owns Chateau Langoa also in Saint Julien. They use the same wine making methods but Léoville has a clearer focus on cabernet sauvignon, while Lagoa has more Merlot. Cabernet Sauvignon are still the majority of both cases albeit only barely for the Langoa.
Chateau Langoa Barton
2014: A much lighter wine than Léoville Barton and the berries are clearly more on the red side in the direction of raspberry / strawberry. Tannins are medium, and the same applies to the acidity.
2006: This wine is already quite mature and I get some barn-yard notes in the beginning. The fruit is still on the red side. A honest and good wine which unfortunately is not very exciting.
2014: Very blackcurrant and even some clear notes of lead pencil (cedar-wood). Lots of nice fruit and a good fresh acidity. An exciting wine.
2009: This wine also have a distinct tones of lead pencil (cedar-wood) and leather notes start showing. The tannins are very strong and the berries are somewhere between black currants and raspberries.
2014: A powerful wine with plenty of black currant. The tannins are relatively light and the acidity was elegant. Long aftertaste.
2010: This was a very good year and it really shows in the wine. You start to notice a hint of maturity. Still a lot of fruit but also some tertiary aromas begin to show. The wine has a very good balance and a long and very nice finish. Excellent.
They also brought Les Fiefs de Lagrange, their second wine.
Les Fiefs the Lagrange
2014: Much more approachable today than le grand vin. Fruity and young, but with a nice balance. This wine is drinking with great pleasure today.
2007: The wine has herbaceous tones and a quite mature bouquet. Very round and nice finish. Very nice wine.
Château Cantenac Brown
2014: A very full-bodied wine with complex aromas. What struck me the most was a very intense attack when you first tasted it. Despite the aggressive start the wine finished calmer and had overall a rather elegant balance. This wine is a good example of how difficult it can be to assess the wines when they are this young. It is very possible that in the rather to intense start that it has today will calm down a bit and that we will get a very elegant and pleasant wine. If, however, the acidity is reduced too quickly then the wine could become a bit flat. Thus, it is a bit of a gamble but I would lean toward that this wine will develop very well.
2005: A wine that clearly has reached some maturity, with a bouquet that makes me think of fungus and more specifically Portobello mushrooms. This is a character that I really like and this wine feels clearly ready to drink now. The fruit is quite low and I think it will be too low in the not too distant future.
2014: A very interesting wine that starts off flowery. The wine also has lots of berries giving it a pleasant balance. The aftertaste lingers for quite a while and the wine is balanced by a fine acidity and well-rounded tannins.
2012: This wine is a bit more spicy and herbaceous than the 2014 and also has some smokiness. The black currants are more prominent than in 2014 but there are also more red berries, which may indicate slightly less mature fruit. The tannins are very strong and slightly overpowering the fruit.
2014: This wine has lots of fruit and above all berries, filled with young and ripe fruit. What is most dominant is black currants, but despite all this fruit the wine is still elegant and it is balanced with strong tannins and a fine acidity.
2011: As comparison they had chosen a 2011 and unlike the 2014, which was dominated by Cabernet Sauvignon, this wine is close to a 50/50 blend of Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot with some Cabernet Franc. This wine felt more jammy than the 2014 and also had a lot plums. Although it only has a few years of age I found some maturation notes, mostly in the form of leather. The acidity was still very healthy and was nicely integrated.
Château Smith Haut Lafitte
2014: This was a very interesting wine. It starts very full bodied with ripe fruit. Above all, black currants but also some more red berries and a hint of cranberry. The wine had intense tannins that were still very smooth. This is a wine that I think will age very well.
2011: This wine was quite peppery and a little bit herbaceous. The fruit was still very present but a bit in the background, and there was a strong touch of pepper and a slight smokiness.
2014: Lots of fruit, young fruit. The most dominant characteristic is black currants but with a fruit that does not feel quite as mature as in some other wines. There are also quite a few other fruits and berries. Big, powerful tannins.
2011: This wine is already starting to feel mature. But it still has all the fruit and berries and blackcurrants dominate. Still very fruity and I think it can develop into a very fine wine.
2014: Concentrated fruit. Lots of blackcurrant and very strong tannins. The wine feels very young and will need some time to really have all pieces fall into place. There are also some herbs in the wine that could ultimately be very exciting. The end feels a bit sweet, and overall this the fruit dominates somewhat over the acidity and the tannins.
2012: A very fruity wine, but with a more pronounced spiciness and more herbs than in the 2014. The tannins are incredibly strong. Too dominant at present for me.
Château Haut-Brion Larrivet
2014: A cool wine with a nice round fruit, not really dark blackcurrants, but rather a bit lighter. The acidity is good and tannins are well-rounded and feel well-balanced.
2009: The wine has some herbs and above all red fruit. The acidity is good and well-balanced and the wine has a very nice length.
2014: Quite peppery and spicy initially. The wine is very full-bodied, the tannins are quite big, which is a good counter-weight to the acidity. A very nice wine.
2009: This wine was a bit anonymous and may well be inside the infamous “tunnel” right now. The wine had a nice balance and if it comes back a bit on the palate it will be probably a very nice wine.
Château Petit Village
2014: A wine that feels very young, filled with red fruit. The wine has a lot of flavour but the red fruit also gives the wine a lightness that is elegant. The wine is balanced by fairly solid tannins that I think many people would like to see smoothed off a bit. In other words, a wine that will benefit a lot from some ageing.
2009: If the 2014 was filled with young red fruit then the 2009 is almost the opposite. This wine has had the time to get a lot of maturity with some mushroomy very pleasant tones. The colour of the wine already indicates a certain age and you could easily believe that this wine was significantly older. The tannins are still strong and there are a lot of fruit left. I think this is a wine that has just started to climb towards its peak.
2014: A very dark, full-bodied wine. When you look at it you almost the impression of a syrup. The wine is very full bodied with fruit that tends more to the red direction but there are also some darker tones. The wine is, in spite of all this fruit, very well balanced.
2006: Despite a certain age, this wine is very fruity. The fruit has lots of volume and it has very fine-grained tannins. Clearly a very fine wine that is excellent now, that is not at all showing any signs of old age.
The tasting was organised by the Scandinavian internet wine shop Winefinder.
Read also about the selection that another of BKWine Magazine’s reporters, Roland Eriksson, made at the tasting.
Tobias Karlsson writes on BKWine Magazine on wine tastings with wine merchants and importers.
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