Bordeaux’s Middle Ground
The 2014 vintage is a Goldilocks year for the region
Bordeaux has traveled a bumpy road in recent years. Following the classic duo of 2009 and 2010, the region saw a run of three vintages that trended downward in quality, culminating with 2013, an especially difficult harvest. But now comes 2014, which delivers outstanding wines—and at prices that look to be very attractive for U.S. buyers.
Overall the 2014 reds are more than solid, showing pure expressions of fruit and terroir. In addition, the dry whites and the sweet wines of Barsac and Sauternes are exceptional. When it comes to 2014 Bordeaux, it’s the right vintage at the right time.
My initial report on 2014 (“A Goldilocks Vintage,” June 30, 2015), based on my barrel tastings, recognized the year’s outstanding potential. Having now reviewed more than 675 bottled 2014s in blind tastings—conducted in Wine Spectator’s New York office and in Bordeaux—I rate the vintage 93 points for Left Bank reds and 91 points for Right Bank reds. (A free alphabetical list of scores and prices for all 2014 Bordeaux tasted is available.)
The reds show a profile that plays right down the middle, neither too hot nor too cold, neither too big nor too lean. Though not a classic vins de garde year, the best wines will certainly develop well over the next two decades. The whites, often overshadowed, deserve close attention as well, in both dry and late-harvest versions. I give the vintage an overall rating of 96 points for the sweet wines of Barsac and Sauternes.
BARSAC & SAUTERNES
The 2014 sweet wines of Barsac and Sauternes show exceptional quality.
After the beneficial spring gave producers a good start, the humidity of the midseason helped lay the groundwork for the growth of botrytis, the beneficial mold that attacks the region’s Sémillon and Sauvignon Blanc grapes, resulting in fruit with less juice and higher sugars. With the dry Indian summer, however, there were not as many waves of botrytis to give producers the chance to make multiple passes through the vineyards, picking fruit at differing stages of development.
Consequently there’s just a shade less complexity than in benchmark years such as 2001 and 2011. But 2014 is excellent nonetheless, with 21 of the 22 sweet wines in this report earning outstanding ratings or higher. The fruit profile of the wines is pure and vibrant, relying more on floral and orchard fruit notes, rather than a tropical profile, and showing more of a racy edge.
The top-scoring wine is the Château d’Yquem Sauternes 2014 (98, $359), which displays stunning mango and papaya notes along with heather honey, pineapple chutney and toasted coconut, all allied to an amazing mouthfeel that’s creamy yet tense. Also of note are the Château Climens Barsac 2014 (97, $66), a rare 100 percent Sémillon bottling, and the Château Doisy Daëne Barsac L’Extravagant 2014 (97, $175/375ml), a blend of nearly two-thirds Sauvignon Blanc and the rest Sémillon. (There are still some potentially classic wines that are yet to be bottled, including Château de Fargues and Château Rieussec.)
“The 2014 vintage has the concentration and the power of a very great vintage, but it also has a very high level of natural acidity,” says Eric Larramona, technical director of Château Lafaurie-Peyraguey, whose Sauternes 2014 (94, $49) marks the first release from a vintage entirely under the control of new owner Silvio Denz. “This gives the crisp mineral tones while still young, and then I think the vintage will also age very well.”
When the 2014 vintage was released en primeur (for sale as futures while the wines are still in barrel), the dollar was running at about 1.14 to the euro. In addition, prices on the ’14s generally saw only modest increases over the ’13 and ’12 vintages, both years decidedly lower in quality.
Since then, the remaining stocks of wines have typically seen increases of 10 percent to 20 percent from négociants, yet today the dollar stands at 1.06:1 to the euro, helping to offset any rise in prices. The result is that 2014 is a buyer’s vintage. Yields did run lower in 2014, however, so some alacrity is needed on the part of consumers who wish to secure any remaining bottles of the top wines.
With the excellent 2015 and 2016 vintages lining up behind 2014, Bordeaux is primed for an excellent run. Expect demand for the two more recent vintages to exceed that of 2014, which will likely lead to higher prices. All the more reason why 2014 should not be overlooked. The quality is there, and the price is still square.
Senior editor James Molesworth is Wine Spectator’s lead taster on the wines of Bordeaux.