Bordeaux 2011-2014 - Tasted 29th April 2015

30th April 2015

Each spring a bunch of top Grand Cru Classe Chateaux come to London to present their wines from a sequence of vintages: the vintages showcased yesterday were 2011 to 2014 inclusive, making this a great chance to taste a wide range of left and right bank wines from a series of vintages of distinctly variable quality. There were real glories (it was the first time I have ever tasted three vintages of La Mondotte, a boutique property on the plateau of St Emilion), but my real purpose was to try to ascertain the specific qualities of each vintage, following a trip to Bordeaux earlier in the spring. Now it's always hard to generalise, especially when the Chateaux being tasted are so grand and rich as to be able to iron out the differences between the years by fantastic vineyard management, strict selection and the most technologically advanced wine-making techniques on the planet (sorry, have I spoiled your illusions?). Nevertheless what's the point of writing a blog unless one is going to be opinionated...

So, in  summary, here goes... 

2011    Here's a non-opinion. The 2011s are hard to judge right now. Many are surly adolescents: often closed on the nose, and with disparate chunks of fruit, acid and tannin swirling around in disharmony. Many are grippy right now. They definitely need a lot more time. I do have some concerns that some folk tried a bit too hard in 2011 (trying to match 2009 and 2010?) and as a result some wines are a bit over-extracted. But there are certanly some fine examples around, for example in the von Neipperg right bank stable. 

2012    I like this vintage. Almost all my favourite wines were 2012s. There's very pretty red fruit in a lot of the wines, and not just in the earlier-maturing right bank Merlots either. OK, it's not a blockbuster year, but I think 2012s will give a lot of pleasure, unlike...

2013    Don't. Don't buy anything from 2013. There is SO MUCH wine in Bordeaux that you just don't have to. Don't listen to merchants who have had to buy the wines in order to keep their allocations for better years. Don't believe oleaginous sommeliers who will sing its praises (because they will be buying it cheap in a few years time). The wines are like 2007, often superficially pleasant - with tarty noses and upfront fruit - but hollow, flabby and insubstantial behind. One expensive 2013 Pomerol I tried tasted almost corked (remember that off flavour in cheap Bordeaux of old?). Remember, just don't.

2014    Very promising. But how anyone in all seriousness can take buying decisions on wines worth £1,000 a case or more on the basis of a mocked up sample prepared the moment a wine has ceased fermenting, I just don't understand. This is one of the most absurd features of the Bordeaux en primeur market - a market which is basically irrelevant until the next great vintage comes along - and then the prices will go up 20-40% again, making wines from the top Chateaux an exclusive game for the global vinoriche. 

A final word, as who wants to end crabbily?  Some highlights: Smith Haut Lafitte 2012 and 2014, d'Aiguilhe 2012, Clos de L'Oratoire 2011, Canon 2014, Rauzan-Segla 2012, and Leoville Poyferre 2011 and 2012.

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