2014 Bordeaux: A September Surprise


Two thousand fourteen was one of the most dramatic growing seasons ever witnessed in Bordeaux. It may be hard to believe today, but well into August, 2014 was shaping up to be a repeat of 2013, a vintage most would like to forget. Then something remarkable happened. Freakishly warm, dry conditions arrived with a vengeance in September and saved the harvest. By all accounts, it was one of the warmest and driest Septembers ever recorded. 

It is, of course, a little more complicated than that. While the Indian summer was an unexpected and a positive surprise, there was some rain during harvest, while the blisteringly hot conditions caused issues with dehydration and shriveling in some areas. For the most part, however, September and October benefited from a glorious Indian summer that led to a late harvest. One of the hallmarks of 2014 is very long hang time, which in the finest wines manifests itself in very silky, polished tannins. For more on the 2014 growing season, readers might enjoy taking a look back at my article on the 2014s tasted as barrel samples in Spring 2015.

The cellar at Mouton Rothschild, Pauillac

The Bottled 2014s

The 2014s are generally mid-weight wines with expressive aromatics, medium-bodied structures and finessed, silky tannins. Relative to the widely accepted model of what constitutes a great vintage in Bordeaux today, the 2014s are a bit slender and lacking in both breadth and power. On the Left Bank, the late-ripening conditions favored Cabernet Sauvignon over Merlot, which manifests itself in a far greater reliance on Cabernet in many of the blends. Over on the Right Bank, quality seems to be much more tied to the characteristics of individual sites, in particular with regards to drainage. Médoc, Haut-Médoc and Fronsac are fertile hunting grounds for readers focused on value.

As a whole, 2014 is not consistently exceptional, rather it is an above average vintage with many exceptional wines. I tasted more than a few wines that showed less depth and freshness than they did from barrel. Naturally, nearly two years have passed since these wines were presented en primeur, so some degree of evolution is normal. Even so, I wonder if some of the 2014s perhaps spent too long in barrel or saw too much new oak given the mid-weight structure of the vintage as a whole. Time will be the ultimate judge of that. The best 2014s, however, point to a vintage characterized by elegance and freshness as opposed to power. We will see plenty of richness with the 2015s and likely the 2016s as well. That said, the finest 2014s are not lacking in concentration or depth, but they will need time to be at their best. These are the kind of wines that often start out slow and then gain in bottle. But a number of wines, especially in Saint-Estèphe and Pessac-Léognan, are notable for their combination of ripeness and vibrant acidity. Simply put, the finest 2014s are utterly magnificent and well worth seeking out.

Most importantly, 2014 is a very consumer friendly year. The market for Bordeaux tends to divide between those vintages that are considered ‘great’ and are therefore subject to massive price speculation, and those that are ‘average’, which are seen as much less desirable by many marker constituents. This market dynamic creates a significant opportunity for savvy consumers to pick up any number of gorgeous wines at fair prices. Two thousand fourteen is an ideal vintage for consumers who buy wines to actually drink them (because prices should mostly be favorable) and members of the wine trade who have a commitment to serving those consumers. The 2015s, and most likely also the 2016s, will be surrounded by much more market hype. Some of that enthusiasm will be warranted, some not, but what is almost certain is that both vintages will be more expensive in bottle than the 2014s.

A view of Saint-Emilion from the Pavie plateau

Saint-Estèphe and Pessac-Léognan Star

Saint-Estèphe and Pessac-Léognan are the stars in 2014. Both appellations received less rain than neighboring areas. The warm, dry September weather produced rich, sumptuous wines that often stand in stark contrast to the wines of the vintage more broadly. Much the same is true for various pockets within Northern Médoc as well, most notably some sectors in Pauillac. Although there are plenty of striking wines to be found in both the Left and Right Banks, along with the satellite appellations, quality is less consistent across the board. 

Dry Whites

When the 2014s were young, I thought they might be close in quality to the 2013s. Time has shown otherwise.  With few exceptions, the 2014 whites do not have the sizzling tension and crystalline purity of the 2013s. In exchange, though, the 2014s are more ample and generous in texture. I would prefer to drink the vast majority of 2014s sooner rather than later, as many wines are also starting to show the early signs of maturity.

Sauternes & Barsac

As is the case with the dry whites, the 2014 Sauternes and Barsacs are quite pretty today, but also appear to have less energy and brightness than the 2013s. Overall, 2014 is a high quality vintage with wines that should peak earlier than the 2013s. 

Don’t Miss…

Readers looking for the best of the best will find that and more in this short list of the most impressive wines of 2014.

2014 Beauséjour Héritiers Duffau-Lagarrosse   2014 La Mission Haut-Brion
2014 Bélair-Monange 2014 Lafleur
2014 Calon Ségur 2014 Lafleur-Pétrus
2014 Canon La Gaffelière 2014 Léoville-las-Cases
2014 Cheval Blanc 2014 Les Carmes Haut-Brion
2014 Clos Fourtet 2014 Montrose
2014 Doisy-Daëne L'Extravagant 2014 Mouton-Rothschild
2014 Domaine de Chevalier 2014 Pavie
2014 Ducru-Beaucaillou 2014 Pavie Macquin
2014 d'Yquem 2014 Pavillon Blanc
2014 Figeac 2014 Pichon-Longueville Comtesse de Lalande
2014 Haut-Bailly 2014 Pontet-Canet
2014 Haut-Brion 2014 Rieussec
2014 Haut-Brion Blanc 2014 Suduiraut
2014 La Gaffelière 2014 Vieux Château Certan

Sleepers & Under the Radar Gems

These are some of my favorite sleepers and under the radar wines. Many of them are from lesser-known appellations, but a few are resurgent estates in more prestigious appellations. Most, if not all, wines in this list offer superb quality for the money.

2014 Alter Ego 2014 Haut-Segottes
2014 Beaumont 2014 Jean Faure
2014 Belgrave 2014 Joanin Bécot
2014 Belle-Vue 2014 La Dame de Montrose
2014 Berliquet 2014 La Dominique
2014 Bernadotte 2014 La Fleur de Boüard
2014 Cantemerle 2014 La Gurgue
2014 Capbern 2014 La Marzelle
2014 Charmail 2014 La Parde de Haut-Bailly
2014 Clauzet 2014 La Tour Carnet
2014 Clos Floridène 2014 Le Boscq
2014 Clos Puy Arnaud 2014 Le Pape
2014 Dalem 2014 Le Rival
2014 D'Arcins 2014 Le Thil
2014 d'Armailhac 2014 Les Cerisiers
2014 de Fieuzal 2014 Les Grands Maréchaux
2014 de Malleret 2014 Lilian Ladouys
2014 de Pez 2014 Malescasse
2014 de Pressac 2014 Marquis de Calon Ségur
2014 des Fougères - Clos Montesquieu    2014 Maucaillou
2014 du Parc 2014 Paloumey
2014 Faurie de Souchard 2014 Petit Gravet Aîné
2014 Gloria 2014 Petit-Figeac
2014 Graveyron Poujeaux 2014 Peyrat-Fourthon
2014 Greysac 2014 Potensac
2014 Guadet 2014 Quinault L'Enclos
2014 Haut Coulon 2014 Reserve de La Comtesse
2014 Haut Lagrange 2014 Saint-Pierre de Corbian
2014 Haut Nouchet 2014 Sociando Mallet
2014 Haut-Carles 2014 Tour Perey Malbec
2014 Haut-Condissas 2014 Tour Seran
2014 Haut-Marbuzet 2014 Tronquoy-Lalande

I tasted all the wines in this article during a trip to Bordeaux in January 2017. Because of scheduling, I was not able to visit a handful of estates I typically cover. I will taste those wines this spring.

You Might Also Enjoy

Mouton Rothschild: 2003-2015, Antonio Galloni, May 2016

Bordeaux’s Radiant 2015s, Antonio Galloni, April 2016

2005 Bordeaux with Tanzer & Galloni, Antonio Galloni, November 2015

2014 Bordeaux – Vintage Highlights, Antonio Galloni, May 2015

2014 Bordeaux – Les Découvertes: Under the Radar Gems and Sleepers, Antonio Galloni, May 2015

2014 Bordeaux: It Ain't Over Till It’s Over, Antonio Galloni, April 2015