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The Bordeaux 2014 Vintage Report: 10 Years On - Fresh, classically proportioned and athletic in build

Robert Mathias, Bordeaux Specialist

6 February 2024

Tasting Bordeaux's 2014 Vintage

A 10 years on tasting is always a fascinating moment in a wine’s history, especially classed growth Bordeaux. Having shaken off any awkwardness of adolescence, these wines are now in their stride. Bordeaux Index’s 10 Years On retrospective shines a light on Bordeaux’s 2014 vintage, which many consider to be a ‘good’ to ‘very good’ vintage but equally one that hides in the shadows of the more highly lauded, powerful vintages of recent years.

What stood out from last week’s tasting and was most enjoyable about the 2014 wines was the sense of restraint running through the best wines. These are most definitely ‘pull wines’ drawing you into their universe and on their terms. The mould of riper, more robust vintages that has become the norm over the past decade does not fit the 2014 wines. They are not heavyweight wines, but rather more classically proportioned, and athletic in build. These also aren’t tiring wines – freshness and energy is a real marker of the best of this vintage.

Bordeaux Index 10 Years On

For drinkers who enjoy a more prominent, seductive fruit profile, this might not be the vintage for them. Instead, what this vintage offers, if we make a musicological analogy, is more akin to a fugue – a polyphony which evolves on the palate to create tension and harmony. Bach is probably the right thing to be listening to when drinking the best of this vintage. With these wines, the primary subject may be fruit, or it may be mineral. The countersubject may be savoury or it may be floral. Over the course of the palate though, these elements interweave in various permutations and become more complex. These sensations are held together by a firm sense of structure and direction. This structure – the tannins and also acidity – help guide and focus the explorations of flavour across the palate and in the best cases, elevate them. However, where the structure gets in the way of this expression, we notice gaps, or lumps, in the flow of the melody.

This is very much true of the 2014 wines. While there are some extraordinary successes, full of detail and surprises, there were a number of wines where there was some hollowness or leanness on the mid-palate, and others where tannin was a touch pervasive or burly. This was a fine line to tread with this vintage. There is really no sense of excess on these wines. For the most successful, the terroir really seems to emerge with a sense of transparency – a tension between mineral and fruit, with the mineral and saline often winning the fight.

For the most part, these wines are entering their prime drinking window. Only a small handful of wines showed prominent tertiary notes, with the majority having the structure – both in terms of acidity and tannin – to last and develop over the coming two decades. At the top end, there were a few wines, such as Montrose, Figeac, or Las Cases which will clearly need more time, and will have a long life ahead of them.

Bordeaux 2014 Vintage Conditions

In terms of weather, the winter was wet but mild, so budburst began about a week to two weeks ahead of normal. March and April were warm which led to a good amount of vegetative growth. Flowering in May was successful with no real issues, and also complete well ahead of normal. By June the weather was getting hot, and with the mix of moisture and heat there was some real disease pressure. This also led to some tropical thunderstorms which impacted the very north of the Médoc in particular. After such a warm and early start to the season this slowed down dramatically in the summer months. July and August were cool and a bit damp – in July there were only 3 days above 30 degrees, while no days were over 30 degrees in August – which delayed veraison. This all required a lot of vineyard work, both in the treatment of the vines against disease, in deleafing to ensure enough air flow, and also regulating the final crop. It wasn’t until the last week of August that the weather turned and September was a wonderful sunny month, with just a couple of well-timed showers which were useful for the Merlot, which meant grapes could finally get ripe.

October was a continuation of warm weather and harvest could begin in ideal conditions. A couple of showers impacted the Cabernet harvest in certain areas, but the last few sunny weeks were key to the vintage’s success. Many have made comparisons to the 2001 or 2002 vintage for the reds. It was the long growing season that seemed to favour Cabernet in particular, giving a lot of aromatic complexity to the wines. At the same time, temperatures never reached an excess, so alcohol remains moderate between 12.5-14%. One of the factors that influenced the success of the appellation was the amount of rain that fell in August. St Estèphe had around 61mm of rainfall in August, compared to 82mm in Margaux. It was generally the northern Médoc that had the most success in this vintage, along with Pessac-Léognan.

Bordeaux 2014 Vintage Market Context

Just as the vines have a way of remembering what has come before, so do customers. After the less than successful 2011, 2012, and 2013 campaigns, the 2014 en primeur was a welcome reminder that well-priced and well-made claret will always find an enthusiastic audience. Release prices fell between 0-10% amongst the top names which made the wines look good value, after the various market corrections following the frenzy of the 2009 and 2010 campaigns.

Price history of the vintage shows an out-performance versus the broader Bordeaux market reflecting the attractive entry point and the relative strength of the ‘off-prime’ focused trade during the period. As ever, price performance has not been consistent but the likes of Mouton Rothschild, Pichon Lalande and Lafite values are up an impressive 85-105% since release.

Bordeaux Index 10 Years On

Despite the softening of prices across the broader market over the past 12 months, Bordeaux 2014s still seem like strong value against their peers. Indeed, in a market that increasingly esteems ‘value’ or ‘bang for the buck’, it’s perhaps unsurprising that the 2014s have held their value relatively well. Whilst the most celebrated vintages will always command a premium, the average 40% discount that leading 2014s enjoy against 2010s for example, will make them a natural target for both drinkers and collectors alike.

Bordeaux's 2014 Vintage in Summary:

The phrase ‘drinking vintages’ has almost become a polite way of saying an ‘off-vintage’, or one that doesn’t deliver power, or blockbusters. These wines are not blockbusters, but they are not trying to be. The best examples are beautiful – and honest - in their restraint. While the 2014s do not deliver the high points of vintages such as 2016, 2019 or 2020, there is a lot to enjoy for collectors who prefer more classically proportioned wines, without big alcohol, yet with freshness and aromatic complexity. Indeed, there is a real charm to so many of these wines. Refreshing still, these wines are affordable within the context of Bordeaux’s Grands Crus and indeed, there is great success and enjoyment to be found across a broad range of price points.

What to Add to your Cellar: 2014 Bordeaux

St Émilion: Château Angélus & Château Figeac

Château Angélus 96+pts

The perfume here is so detailed and defined. Crushed rocks, cherry blossom, raspberry, cherry and some green peppercorn. There is a great deal of complexity here. It delivers real poise and elegance on the palate, with a seamless intensity which flows and keeps flowing. Spiced notes of cocoa and incense mingle with the fruit and there is a lot of energy on the graphite tinged finish.

Château Figeac

The 2014 Figeac is a class act. Something beautiful about the sense of restraint behind the wine which makes me love it even more. It gives a little dried herbs, fresh green pepper and a Cabernet Franc lift. There is real direction and movement to the wine running through the palate - it's a journey I want to go on too. Bright red cherry fruit, fresh raspberry, sinewy tannin and graphite edge as well. This is one to follow for the coming years.

Pomerol: Vieux Château Certan & Château L’Eglise Clinet

Vieux Château Certan 97pts

This is a gorgeous wine - where to start? Poised and elegant with a quiet confidence. It gives truffle, fresh earth, a ferrous note of iron and some fresh blood. The texture is seamless and floats across the palate building gradually as more layers glide into focus. A wine of real quiet beauty.

Château L’Eglise Clinet

Beautifully poised and restrained nose, that bounces between delicate savoury and floral notes: dried red flowers, earth, truffle, black tea, and bay leaf. Poised strawberry and red currant fruit, this is seamless and utterly charming. Flows gently and gracefully across the palate with a little will thyme, and fresh pepper. There's also tension from the tannin which is still fine textured, finishing saline with a wonderful sense of transparency.

Pessac Léognon: Château Haut Brion

Château Haut Brion 96pts

There is a real class to the 2014 Haut Brion, which is more dramatic than the Mission. Grilled thyme, nutmeg, pepper, graphite, and warm rocks lift from the glass. There is a constant energy while on the palate. It really flows with a fine gravelley texture and real graphite finish. Hints of bay leaf and incense mingle on the finish. This keeps giving more with more air - one to watch from this vintage.

Bordeaux Index Fine Wine 10 Years On

Margaux: Château Palmer

Château Palmer 95pts

Many layers here, this gives more and more with some air. A definite mineral element of nori, iodine, pencil shavings, as well as a delicate floral note of dried cherry blossom. Hints of spice like nutmeg, rosemary, flirt with the well defined red berry fruit. The texture here is silky with super fine-grained tannin. The energy here is impressive and ends with hints of truffle on the finish.

St Julien: Château Ducru-Beaucaillou

Château Ducru-Beaucaillou 95pts

The nose takes a little coaxing, but this is pure elegance - dried violets, tobacco, cigar box, pencil shavings, also gentle cassis and plum fruit. The palate quitely builds with a firmness and compelling tension. Hints of grilled herbs, a little truffle, and gravel develop with time.This turns out to be quite a dramatic wine despite its restraint.

Pauillac: Château Lynch Bages & Château Lafite-Rothschild

Château Lynch Bages 95pts

The 2014 Lynch Bages is an overachiever - quite assertive in style while retaining its classicism. Some cocoa, pepper, green tobacco on the nose with brooding cassis and plum fruit. The palate gives a lot of intensity, with excellent definition. A strong sense of salinity, and tension here underpinned with a tight stony mineral core, and firm, supple tannins.

Château Lafite-Rothschild

An elegeant, seductive Lafite, which has a wonderfully fine frame. Fresh earth, truffle, graphite, subtle hints of grilled herbs, and bay leaf too. Very fine latticework of tannin on the palate but a lot of tension from the acidity - a real directinal feel, which focuses to a point on the finish. A fine graphite core caresses the palate - super elegant.

St Estèphe: Château Montrose & Château Cos d’Estournel

Château Montrose 96+ pts

Very sophisticated, the Montrose 2014 is a undisputed classic. Black tea, consommé, violets, wet rocks, bay leaf and some liquorice root spiral from the glass. Train track focus to the tannins here, this is firm and focused but with no start or end. It has a lot of mineral intensity, with a gravelly note that builds on the palate. Pure class.

Château Cos d’Estournel
96 pts

e Cos 2014 is a real success. A spicy nose of warm stones, pink pepper, incense and embers. This is an athletic wine with a real sense of focus. Supple tannins twist and turn across the palate, plum and bramble fruit and iron ore mesh together too. Gravelly texture with a drive that builds on the palate with great persistence.

Bordeaux Index 10 Years On