Oct 02, 2017
I've been sitting down with European wine buyer and Master of Wine, Barb Philip, to taste the upcoming Bordeaux releases for several years now.
I'll admit, after three difficult vintages I was happy to approach the 2014s.
Dubbed the "Best vintage since 2010" by Wine Spectator magazine (not hard to claim after the previous three), the 2014s are, overall, much friendlier.
Philip admits 2014 is, "Not a magnificent year, but a good one," And, that there are a few great wines.
She anticipates the 2015 and 2016 vintage releases will be outstanding.
Philip explains the 2014 vintage in Bordeaux was cool and wet to start; rain came early in the spring. Then April and May were lovely and warm, which presented early rapid growth. At the end of June there was a huge heat spike (grapes shut down in too much heat) then stormy grey skies rolled in for the next month, which slowed the growth. These pendulum swings of heat and rain looked like it might turn into another troublesome vintage like 2013, but a miracle occurred in September: beautiful weather sailed in and grapes were able to ripen and still maintain live-giving acidity.
Due to a significant amount of moisture in the vintage, there was some rot, so producers had to be selective.
I'm by no means an expert on Bordeaux, quite the opposite in fact. I have been selectively collecting over the years, but have never visited the region.
Saying that, neither have many of you, so these are my tasting notes, based only on what is in the glass.
Blanc de Lynch-Bages: Philip believes 2014 is a solid year for Bordeaux whites. Notes here are chalky mineral and beeswax, lanolin and nutty undertones. It is tangy and racy with a slight oilyness on the palate and a mouthwatering, pithy finish character. Overall, great roundness and concentration, and length is impressive.
60% Sauvignon Blanc, which spent 6-8 months in barrel.
Chateau de Fieuzal Blanc, Pessac~Leognan:
An interesting dried floral nose (think patchouli and cedar chips) with oak nuances, grille and lemon. Palate is similar toasty and oily with sharp citrus and some oak bitterness. Very precise acidity. Made from 75% Sauvignon Blanc (remainder Semillon), which saw half barrel and half tank ferment.
Buy: not this vintage, it's awkward.
Chateau Haut Bailly, Pessac~Leognan: 66% Cabernet Sauvignon 33% Merlot.
Fleshy nose of sweet pipe tobacco and cedar and floral notes and stony minerality.
Palate is spicy; it has good intensity and weight and slightly bitter woody and cocoa finish. Bigger style and still tightly woven.
Buy: If you like classic Bordeaux and have a cellar.
Chateau Smith Haut Lafitte, Pessac~Leognan: Mostly cabernet Sauvignon with Merlot, Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot.
Expect aromas of cocoa nibs and red fruits; it is smokey, a bit sweaty, and herbal. Palate weight and texture and fruit is all good. Notable concentration, lengthy with good finesse. Textural powdery tannins. This is a very popular wine at the BCLDB as the house shows consistency (good and bad vintages) and it's been in BC for years.
Buy: Like not love.
Chateau d'Issan, Margaux
A nose of tart fruits, tomato leaf, and green bell pepper with bitter chocolate and tobacco. Powerful, structured and muscular. Needs time.
Buy: It's a pass for me.
Chateau Beychevelle, St. Julien: Earthy and smoky notes lead to patchouli, dried flowers and cedary tones atop pretty cassis and plummy aromas. Luscious and ripe; and a bit boozy with powdery tannins. The consulting winemaker for this chateau leans toward reductive styles of wine, with lees stirring. I found it modern and delicious. Made from 51% Merlot.
Buy: If you love Napa Cabernet...
Chateau Leoville-Poyferre, St.Julien:
A voluptuous floral nose with rich purple fruits and some dried grapey notes. Plush and modern, weighty and supple. A Cabernet Sauvignon dominant red with Merlot and a delightful lifting splash of Cabernet Franc. Spot on ripeness. Drinking well now.
Buy: Definitely one for New World wine lovers.
Chateau Mouton Rothschild, Pauillac:
Classic Bordeaux nose with opulent aromas of chocolate, cassis, warm plummy notes, and ripe but lifted notes of bell pepper. The most thoughtful and complete wine of the lineup; delicious and stylish with notable balance.
Buy: My top scoring wine. I would, if only I could.
$880 +734913 (also in magnum for $1800)
Chateau Lafon-Rochet, St. Estephe:
In the world of Bordeaux, this is good value. Pleasing fruit expression (notably plums) with some attractive green notes, licorice and dark chocolate. The house philosophy is to raise prices and little as possible, which means it offers high quality first growth wines at good value. Textural mineral powdery tannins. A classic Bordeaux.
Buy: At $70 I will indulge.
Chateau Pavie-Macquin, St. Emillion:
Earthy and reductive aged in 70% new oak. It starts off ripe and sweet, then drops off into tobacco and licorice aromas. A hot finish at 14.5%; the tannins are textual and fine and it has a notably bitter and dusty finish.
Right Bank; Merlot dominant.
Buy: I'll wait to discover the 2015 vintage on this one.
Les Pensees de Lafleur, Pomerol:
A favourite among some of my peers, this wine pushed all my negative buttons. Notes of wet hay, wet dog, then sweet fruit (think cooking strawberry jam). Aggressive acidity on the palate, but texture and weight are good. The sweet fragrant fruit on this wine battles with its combative funky character, which leaves me confused...
Buy: Not a chance. Not my cuppa.
Vieux Chateau Certan, Pomerol:
Also Merlot dominant this wine, after the previous Pomerol, the Certan rang all the bells for me (ding, ding, ding). Balanced and bright, cherries and sweet berry fruit roll into cedar and purple flowers and aromatic botanicals. A dose of Cabernet Franc adds delightful levity to this wine.
Buy: This is the number two wine on my list, but at three bills, it is doubtful I'd indulge.
~Daenna Van Mulligen