There are some things that are certain. The sun will rise in the east and set in the west, the taxman will cometh, and the weather will be a challenge in New York City for the annual walk- around tasting held by the Union des Grand Crus de Bordeaux.
We have covered this tasting for three years now, and the 2014 vintage is by far the best that we have reviewed.
Bordeaux has had a difficult few years but beginning in 2014, the weather gods have blessed the region and the vintages appear to be improving year after year after year.
Learn the Terms
While the specific term grand cru is only an official wine classification that designates a vineyard known for its favorable reputation in producing wine in Burgundy or Alsace it is an informal classification in other areas including Bordeaux.
The terms Premiers Crus or first growth, Deuxièmes Crus (second growth), Troisièmes Crus, etc. prevail, the wineries that are members of the Union des Grands Crus de Bordeaux represent some of the finest wineries in the region. The 134 wineries that are members of the Union are a very small selection of the nearly 10,000 producers in Bordeaux.
The 134 wineries that are members of the Union are a very small selection of the nearly 10,000 producers in Bordeaux.
Weather Makes the Grapes, Great
Weather is really the key ingredient in a good Bordeaux vintage as the soils, varietals, and techniques are hundreds if not thousands of years old.
The 2014 vintage began with warmer temperatures and good rainfall, a welcome sight after a few years of drought. This helped lead to an early budding in March.
Temperatures continued to be warm throughout the spring and while the summer weather was mixed, harvest time was warm and dry.
According to many followers of the Bordeaux harvest, the Cabernet rich left bank of the river performed slightly better than the merlot dominant right bank suggesting that there might be some particularly good bargains to be had in the less exclusive regions of the Medoc and the Haut-Medoc.
So, this is where we concentrated during the walk around tasting at Manhattan’s Cipriani exhibition space.
2014: The Value Year for Bordeaux
The producers in the region agreed with the assessment that 2014 was the value year for Bordeaux, as the 2015 and 2016 vintages were even better and might be comparable to the great vintages of 2009-2010.
Vineyards have been located at Chateau La Tour De By since at least the 15th century, and production is tilted 60 percent toward Cabernet Sauvignon. The 2014 Bordeaux ($20) was dark ruby in color with a nose featuring red berries and cherry with a hint of spiciness. On the
The 2014 Bordeaux ($20) was dark ruby in color with a nose featuring red berries and cherry with a hint of spiciness. On the palate it was light with the tannins coming out in the finish. There were good cherry and vanilla notes, making this a good fruit forward wine that can be drunk early.
There were good cherry and vanilla notes, making this a good fruit forward wine that can be drunk early.
Moving to the larger Haut-Medoc region, we found 7 producers represented at the Union Des Grand Crus tasting, two of which were featuring very new world, fruit forward style wines.
Chateau Citran ($15) features a peacock on its label, as the birds roam throughout the grounds of the estate.
The wine is 50 percent Merlot and has a dark red color. The nose was reminiscent of cherry vanilla ice cream which carried through to the palate.
The wine was well structured featuring soft tannins and a creamy feel with vanilla, violet, plum and blackfruit notes.
The pre-release price is difficult to beat on this wine, which is a great choice for those who like fruity, friendly Bordeaux blends.
The other fruit forward wine, this one from Chateau Cantemerle ($26) was one of our picks from the tasting. This is a 60 percent Cabernet Sauvignon blend, with a dark red color and black cherries and some strawberry on the nose.
The wine was sweet up from with sugar plum notes as well as some tobacco notes on the finish.
The tannins were light making this a good wine for drinking young.
Chateau Cantemerle was designated as a Cinquiemes Crus in the 1855 classification suggesting that the $26 price tag on this wine is an excellent value.
The opposite of the fruit forward wines was Chateau La Tour Carnet ($25) a blend of 59 percent Merlot and 37 percent Cabernet Sauvignon with the remainder Petit Verdot and Cabernet Franc.
This light garnet colored wine has a black fruit and black cherry nose that was a bit tainted by some strong alcohol notes in our tasting.
The wine itself is very tight, almost astringent, which overpowered the blueberry, blackberry and chocolate flavors.
This is a wine to cellar for some time to see if it softens and mellows.
In the middle, we found a range of good Bordeaux character wines. Chateau Beaumont ($20) was garnet in color with a nose featuring cherry, dark fruits and a hint of woodiness.
The wine is split between Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot with 8 percent Petit Verdot grapes, and was quite light up front with soft cherry and black fruit flavors.
There was a decent structure to the wine suggesting that it will hold up to cellaring for some time.
Chateau De Camensac, is a family winery bordering on the Ste Julien appellation. The 2014 Bordeaux ($22) is made from 60 percent Cabernet Sauvignon and 40 percent Merlot.
The wine had a dark purple-y red color and a nose heavy in black fruit with vanilla and licorice notes. It was light and fruity with a good underlying structure.
The palate featured black cherry and red berry notes.
Chateau Coufran ($16) is a Merlot dominant blend (85%). Dark red to garnet in color the nose was dominated by Merlot plum notes.
On the palate there were plum and black fruits dominant, with some sour lingonberry notes.
The structure was soft and light suggesting that this is an early drinking wine.
Finally, the surprise of the tasting for us was the Chateau La Lagune ($41) which though higher priced than most of the wines we tasted was a true winner.
Made from 60 percent Cabernet Sauvignon, 30 percent Merlot and 10 percent Petit Verdot, this wine us dark red in color.
The nose was scary at first, with grass and tar notes, but the wine itself was very pleasant with a great structure and good lingering mouthfeel. Super sweet up front the wine flowed across the palate with a range of berry layers ending in a spicy finish.
This is a wine with excellent aging potential that should bring out a range of characteristics.
Pairing Bordeaux and Food
Wines from Bordeaux are traditionally paired with hearty foods, generally beef, lamb, and game. This is because red meats have proteins which attach to the tannins in the wine and make it less astringent and bring out the fruit and spicy notes.
These wines can be extremely expensive, particularly those that were lucky enough to be classified back in 1855. However, the Union des Grand Crus De Bordeaux has done a great job identifying producers that bring both great quality and value to the market.
The wines from the 2014 vintage should offer everyone a chance to enjoy excellent Bordeaux selections at reasonable prices.
About the Union des Grands Crus de Bordeaux
Established in 1973, the Union des Grands Crus de Bordeaux includes 134 properties located solely on the prestigious appellations of Bordeaux. Learn more about the region and its wineries from the Union des Grands Crus de Bordeaux, and look for a tasting at your favorite wine store.
*this report was filed by our wine and spirits columnist, John Dunham