This coming Sunday (March 29th) the BI team will be heading to Bordeaux to taste the 2014 vintage. In order to give us an advanced idea about a) what we can expect from the wines and b) whether there is a comparable vintage currently in the market which might give us an indication on prices, we have looked at some expert opinions – notably from Professor Denis Dubordieu, scientist, vigneron, Chateau owner and Oenology Professor at Bordeaux University - and Bill Blatch, a notable, long-standing Bordeaux commentator.
Put simply, until late August, the vintage for reds was looking like a disaster. After a positive, warm April came a cool, wet early summer and an unseasonably cool August which left vignerons with very heavy hearts indeed. Then – cynics, cover your ears now – came ‘the miracle’ in the form of an Indian Summer the likes of which has not been seen since 1985, 1961 and 1929.
September’s phenomenal summer weather carried on well into October; this not only saved the vintage, but gave it the potential to be very good indeed. Grapes were given extra hang-time in utterly perfect conditions, meaning there was no threat of disease or weather damage and picking could happen, quite literally, at will and in pleasant, unhurried circumstances. This was particularly beneficial for the later-harvesting Cabernets which, according to reports from the area, are excellent (especially the Right Bank Cabernet Franc).
The resulting grapes are reported to have all the necessary ingredients for a mid-to-long term life – high acidity, upper-mid to high alcohol levels, and great concentration and structure with ripe tannins. The physiological profile certainly suggests ripe fruit characters, power and the essential claret freshness.
We won’t second guess before tasting but combined reports suggest that the later-ripening Cabernet Sauvignons and Cabernet Francs will have gained the most from the vintage conditions, so it is reasonable to expect that this will be a predominantly Left Bank year. That said, true quality usually shows through and there will doubtless be successes on both sides of the river.
On the white side, things were much more straightforward: the summer conditions were actually very suitable for the white grapes, and come the climatic shift into September, growers could pick their grapes at their leisure as deep into September as they desired. The grapes are high in both acid and sugars, and should deliver the unique Bordeaux style of florality and power.
Sauternes too looks to be exceptional, thanks to ideal white grape growing conditions followed by showers in early October that allowed the perfect development of noble rot. Picking was done calmly and thoroughly in ideal conditions.
Finding a comparable vintage is difficult, but we hear talk of the fruit delivering wines of a similar profile to 2001, 2006, and even 1996. Considering that until the end of August the wines were in structurally worse shape than at the same point in 2013, one can see how the use of the word ‘miracle’ could be justified. We will give our considered view during, and after, the week’s tastings.