Through my tastings of the 2014 Bordeaux barrels at various châteaus, I haven't been able to peg the vintage in comparison to another. 2010, 2005 and 2000 are muscular, structured vintages; 2001 and 2004 rounder, charming, earlier-maturing vintages, etc. But 2014 doesn't come across as having a profile of a warm vintage, nor of a cool vintage. It's neither tannic nor soft. It's balanced, pure and ripe but has no particular "hook" to link it to another year.
When I mentioned that to Christian Moueix, he took his customary pause before answering. "We had something like this in 1978," he said. "We had a rainy summer and then a beautiful September and October, picking late into October. The wines were very charming and flattering. And we overestimated the vintage back then because it followed '77 [a weak year]," he added as a note of caution, as 2014 follows the difficult 2013.
"Of course today we are better than '78 because viticulture has improved so much. When I was young, we always plowed before the harvest. But if it rained, the water would go right to the roots. Today, with some cover crop, a small, late rain gets absorbed on the surface, which is why we don't plow automatically."
"Also, I prefer an early crop thinning. But this year we did it later because of the cool August pushing the veraison back a little and leaving some uneven bunches. We also did extra leaf pulling this year, on both the sunny and shady sides, when we saw the lack of sun in August. And then a refined crop thinning on the sunny side in late August, perhaps not significant in amount, but it was a necessary fine tuning in a vintage that was looking to have a lack of sun."
All that experience and fine tuning has resulted in another excellent set of wines here from the estates which Moueix owns. In Pomerol, Moueix noted, "The clay sites gave denser wines, but were a bit monolithic as there was a slight blockage in the maturity. The gravel soils were better-drained and the ripening a bit more even."
The 2014 Château Hosanna Pomerol is dense, with legit grip, but this is very pure, with a rather polished beam of raspberry and plum fruit that courses along, inlaid with mouthwatering anise, incense and dried blood orange notes. There's serious depth and length already but it could move up if it stretches out even more during the élevage. The 2014 Château La Fleur-Pétrus Pomerol is serious juice. It's packed with raspberry, blackberry and boysenberry confiture notes, dense but perfectly rounded grip, and a long, authoritative finish that ripples with charcoal and smoldering tobacco leaf. The 2014 Château Trotanoy Pomerol is reserved today, with red currant, raspberry and blackberry fruit that is pure and racy, buttressed by charcoal and bramble notes. The finish really picks up steam though, with added ganache, tobacco and smoldering iron notes and a great sanguine echo too.
Lastly, the 2014 Château Bélair-Monange St.-Emilion, as the newer plantings atop the limestone plateau continue to come on line for this reborn estate. It's a beauty in the making, with gorgeously pure red currant and raspberry fruit, laced with bergamot and incense. There's a very, very fine chalky thread that knits everything beautifully. Its a wine of pristene balance and gorgeous minerality.
Moueix is also the exclusive distributor of a number of other Right Bank estates, many of which send ample supplies to the U.S. market. Look for my notes on the '14s from châteaus Puy-Blanquet, La Serre, Plince, Lafleur-Gazin, Bourgneuf and Certan de May when they are released in the coming days.
Of particular note, the 2014 Château La Grave à Pomerol Pomerol is rock-solid as usual, with dark red and black currant fruit, raspberry pâte de fruit and plum sauce notes all carried by lightly tarry grip. At the very end, there's a nice tug of earth here to match the dense fruit. The 2014 Château Latour à Pomerol Pomerol is a really nice wine in the making, with velvety layers of raspberry, plum and boysenberry fruit lined with subtle charcoal, warm ganache and tar notes. It has a bass line for sure, but manages to stay suave and elegant through the dark finish. There's pretty serious buried grip too. Both of these are often among my favorites in the Moueix portfolio.
Gravel soils, like these at Château Trotanoy, drained faster after a cool, wet August and were the favored sites in 2014.
You can follow James Molesworth on Twitter, at twitter.com/jmolesworth1, and Instagram, at instagram.com/jmolesworth1.