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Bordeaux 2014 Vintage Report

The 2014 vintage in Bordeaux represents potentially a wonderful opportunity.

At Bancroft Wines we shall be looking for wines that can “make the cut”. Bancroft’s highly selective Châteauwatch 2014 will be offering only wines that, in our view, represent an attractive proposition in terms of quality and price.

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2014 is potentially a high quality vintage in Bordeaux- particularly on the left bank in the more northerly appellations of the Medoc. Late-ripening Cabernets and Petit Verdot did particularly well thanks to very stable and sunny weather conditions in September and October. Quality and style might be varied but when tasting at the end of March our team found many excellent wines across the appellations and at all levels of quality. From modest châteaux to the most celebrated super stars. So with plenty of exciting wines around, the success of the 2014 vintage will once again all depend on prices.

The 2014 vintage in Bordeaux represents potentially a wonderful opportunity. After a few disappointing and average vintages, the Bordelais finally have many exciting wines in their hands and the châteaux have a chance to offer attractive prices and make this very good vintage interesting to both consumers and investors.

At Bancroft Wines we shall be looking for wines that can “make the cut”. Bancroft’s highly selective Châteauwatch 2014 (call our fine wine team on 0207 232 5450 to receive these updates) will be offering only wines that, in our view, represent an attractive proposition in terms of quality and price. Early signs are positive. The likes of Château Sénéjac and Château Capbern, both highly rated by our team in 2014, have released their wines at attractive prices. Let’s hope that the others, especially the big guns, will follow suit.

Wines

2014 is an excellent vintage for Bordeaux white and sweet wines. They have benefited from the cool summer and warm, sunny weather conditions in autumn. The best white wines combine wonderful upfront, cool citrus fruit with underlying minerals and superb acidity. There is a delicious, irresistible energy and forward charm found in most 2014 whites and barrel samples suggest that only a few will require long cellaring before reaching equilibrium. The sweet wines are equally successful. There were three episodes of light rain, followed by weeks of dry and sunny weather in September and October, which has encouraged timely development of noble rot. The unhurried, long harvest over a period of nine weeks has resulted in excellent sugar ripeness that combines with the high acidity and concentrated yet elegant, restrained fruit to form a really attractive balance. For both white and sweet wines, high quality is consistent and generally well spread across the appellations.

2014 is also potentially an excellent year for red wines. But, the reds are more varied in quality. Well drained soils did better in the wet weather conditions during the spring and summer months. Hard work was needed in the vineyards to ensure a healthy crop and as ever. The final result much depended on the grower’s dedication and know-how. Warm and sunny weather arrived very late and this favoured late-ripening varieties to achieve optimum ripeness. There are exceptions, but most of the successful wines have a good proportion of Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc in the blend. Left Bank had perhaps a better chance for success in 2014 but quality is varied in all appellations. Still, unusually stable conditions with high temperatures in September and October offered all growers the rare opportunity to pick grapes very late and at leisure. As a result the best 2014 reds are exhibiting well defined, ripe fruit. Complex aromatics are wide in spectrum exhibiting, cool red and blue berries, as well as mineral and floral notes. The cool summer has ensured good levels of acidity and the wines have nervy freshness and excellent tension. Tannins are prominent but ripe and finely textured. Early impression, based on barrel samples, is that the best 2014 reds have all the components to form excellent balance. Many will be forward and charming when young but with sufficient concentration and structure to promise graceful ageing. One should pick carefully, but this might be a perfect year to stock up on drinking wines as well as on top performing Châteaux.

Growing Season

What a difference a few months of great weather can make. In mid-August most of the growers were gravely concerned. The grapes were undeveloped, in need of sunlight, weather was poor and time was quickly running out. The prospect of a high quality vintage looked very grim indeed. Yet in October, as fermentations were going on, spirits were high and it was clear that 2014 was a surprisingly successful and potentially high quality vintage.

The 2014 season started with a mild and wet winter that enabled the soils to build significant water reserves. Temperatures were higher than usual and in the months of January and February the region received twice the rainfall than usual. Bud-break took place relatively early. At Lynch Bages, Pauillac, it occurred on 20th March for Merlot and 31st March for Cabernets, two weeks ahead of the usual dates. The vegetative growth was further encouraged by mild and sunny weather in April with temperatures at Ducru-Beaucaillou, Saint Julien observed as 2.4°C higher than average.

A hailstorm on 19th May caused some damage to the leaves in Pauillac and Saint Estèphe with storms bringing 69mm of rain in four days. This wet and cold weather in May slowed down development and brought the cycle closer to average. Flowering, therefore started just slightly ahead of the norm and in unstable weather conditions. This has resulted in coulure affecting early flowering Merlot plots. For Merlot, mid-flowering was recorded on 30th May in Pauillac, 2nd June in Saint Emilion and 5th June in Saint Estèphe with Cabernets following three to ten days later. The weather in June improved significantly so Cabernet flowering was faster, complete and homogenous. This was one of the major factors to the success of the 2014 vintage.

However, the weather changed again and the months of July and August were cool and rainy with July temperatures 2°C lower than average. There were a few occasional hot and sunny days. Haut- Brion in Pessac reported some grape damage caused by sunburn on 16th and 17th July. Further to this, wet conditions combined with the occasional warm days throughout spring and summer, increased disease pressure. Hard work in the vineyards was needed to protect plants from Oidium and mildew. Unusually bad weather conditions in August were slowing fruit development even further. Crop thinning and de-leafing was taking place in the first two weeks of August at châteaux like Vieux Château Certan in Pomerol and Palmer in Margaux to enhance quality of the fruit. Mid-veraison was recorded on 6th August for Cabernet Franc at Cheval Blanc in Saint Emilion and on 13th August in Léoville Poyferré Saint Julien. This was eight days behind the ten year average. Colour change was late, prolonged and uneven. So the fruit development was falling significantly behind. It was at this point that growers started to become very concerned.

Yet the weather improved dramatically in the last week of August and what was to follow was a true Indian summer. There was an incredible 265 hours of sunshine recorded in Saint Julien in September. The high amount of sunlight helped grapes to ripen evenly and to recover for lost time. Only 20mm of rainfall was recorded in the same period in Saint Estèphe and only a further 40mm in October. The temperature was 3.8°C higher than average and sunny, warm weather extended into October favouring late ripening varieties. Dry conditions were slightly worrying in Barsac and Sauternes since development of Botrytis was delayed. But at d’Yquem three, well timed episodes of rain were reported in the last week of August, mid- September and second week of October, finally resulting in a good spread of noble rot. Each episode was followed by weeks of sunny weather providing growers with the opportunity to harvest in two or three waves from 5th September to 30th October with superb results. For white wines, Sauvignon Blanc and Semillon were picked from 3rd to 12th September in Haut-Brion Graves, 15th – 19th September in Château Margaux and 22nd – 9th October in Cos d’Estournel in Saint Estèphe. Picked grapes were healthy with high sugar ripeness and displaying exceptional acidity levels with pH levels ranging from 3.1 – 3.21.

The harvest for red grape varieties was just as long and in most cases more than 115 days after mid-flowering. Merlot was picked at Latour in Pauillac from 18th – 26th September, Cheval Blanc, Saint Emilion from 19th September – 5th October and the last picking wave at Vieux Château Certan in Pomerol was on 8th October. On the Right Bank Cabernet Franc was harvested in two waves at L’Evangile on 3rd and 7th October and at Ausone from 9th-11th October. Cabernet Sauvignon was also picked in wide intervals and the harvest was finished by 10th October in Mission Haut Brion and Pontet Canet and by 16th October at Montrose. In search for optimum ripeness pickers could pick each plot at leisure, often returning to the same location several times.

In the end the harvested grapes were very healthy. Merlot berries were slightly larger than average while the Cabernet crop was characterised by small bunches with a high skin to juice ratio and was reduced in size by up to 15%. It is perhaps too early for 2014 to be compared with another high quality vintage. But the high sugar ripeness found in the best wines combined with a total anthocyanin content higher than in 2009, as well as prominent acidity with pH levels between 3.49 and 3.77, assures wines with excellent balance and a long future ahead.

Neb Gusic

Director

Bancroft Wines  

aan@bancroftwines.com