Returning from Bordeaux following a week’s tasting at the UGC, there is a real feeling of confidence regarding the quality of the vintage. I arrived slightly cautious last Sunday wondering whether it was just the châteaux owners’ PR and hype, but I have returned fully converted…
Nobody is suggesting that it is a vintage in the mould of 2009 or 2010 where failure to make a good wine was almost a cardinal sin. In 2014 the weather conditions up to the middle of August were testing to say the least, but what followed was 6 weeks of truly superb weather conditions in September and early October which unquestionably not only saved the vintage, but also led to some good, and in some cases, outstanding wines. The good wines really do excite and have a layer of complexity that will allow them to compete with some of the very best in years to come; they balance freshness, strong fruit flavours and a fine tannic structure.
Travelling around the Médoc the consensus was that this was Cabernet vintage and that the right bank estates in Pomerol and St Emilion had had it more difficult, with the earlier ripening Merlot unable to make the most of the autumnal Indian summer. Whilst it is fair to say the successful right bank châteaux have used large proportions of Cabernet Franc, and in the instance of Figeac Cabernet Sauvignon as well, they also give the finest Médoc châteaux a serious run for their money.
The secret to the success of the vintage were the superb weather conditions in September and October. Lovely warm days and crisp cool nights, ripening the grapes but also preserving their acidity. A hot September day has shorter daylight hours than an August day, and therefore is never quite the same and the wines can lack the exuberance of a hotter vintage but the best have a real drive and a freshness that will allow them to age superbly. In some instances – and particularly in Pauillac – I found an almost “˜96 character in the very best wines.