2014 Bordeaux – the Union des Grands Crus

The whole point of the UGC tasting this year was thrown out, missed, lost – everything – by the organisers.  The whole point of the UGC tasting in London, the tasting of the most recently-bottled vintage, is for the wine trade to go out and socialize with their peers.  It’s not about the wines; it’s about booking in for the morning session, tasting the Pauillacs, most of the St Juliens and a short hitlist of the rest, then getting to the pub for noon then into a proper lunch for the rest of the afternoon.  Olivier Bernard, when he stood up to speak, acknowledged this.  Even before he had proclaimed 2014 as a great vintage, and 2015 likewise (and, bien sur, 2016 a great vintage in the making), he acknowledged the clear displeasure of his audience at having to taste some wine instead of going out and getting lashed on the company plastic.

This precedent had some advantages.  For the first time in ages, perhaps the first time ever, I tasted all the wines that I wanted to taste.   And I liked them.

2014 Bordeaux is a vintage that I am attached to.  I liked it from the start and was happy to say so.  I ignored prices – in that I didn’t do any of the commodity talk (in terms of value compared to a similar vintage, etc) – and told people what I liked, and what I thought they should buy.  A couple of years on things have changed, I have a much smaller audience and next to no commercial clout, but tasting the wines and confirming that this was a vintage that I was right about, was very satisfying.

I can catch the drift of a vintage with five random wines.  2009: ripe.  2005: perfect.  2010: pump up the volume.  2015: mixed (and a bit of a swizz).  2014 is a claret vintage – one for those that refer to Bordeaux as claret.  You will take your 2014 claret in the drawing room.  2014 is Savile Row.  Not flashy; just very well-cut.  My top three from barrel were Latour, Lafleur and Pichon-Lalande, which is a bit useless really as you can’t buy Latour and most of us can’t buy Lafleur.

From the bottle, Pichon-Lalande remains excellent, and I love the saline style that Nicolas Glumineau appears to be going for.  Pichon-Baron was also excellent in a totally different guise, which is as it should be.  Léoville-Poyferre is the wine that is going to come away with the points on account of its flashiness, though Léoville-Barton is the wine that I would buy.  Canon and Rauzan-Ségla, tipped heavily a couple of years back, are both excellent.

2014 is a very good vintage.  If sterling wasn’t in the toilet there would be some no-brainers.  As it is, herewith some picks of what I tasted last week:

2014 Ch. Pichon-Baron, Pauillac

“Reserved, but there is a purity of fruit here and some clear substance.  In the mouth this is very punchy, very Pauillac, and very Pichon-Baron.  Quite remarkable length.  This is grand vin.”

2014 Ch. Pichon-Lalande, Pauillac

“This is very quiet on the nose.  Some pure lift here.  And again – very lifted and very classy in the mouth.  Saline.  Length.  This is less obvious than the Baron, as it should be.”

2014 Ch. Batailley, Pauillac

“Angular and austere on the nose, with some lift and a hint of promise.  All here in the mouth.  Balanced fruit, and the austerity is classy, not cold.  Very good.”

2014 Ch. Léoville-Barton, St Julien

“More reserved than the Langoa; a little closed on the nose.  Clean fruit and a hint of depth.  This follows in the mouth.  Round.  This is very good.  All in place.”

2014 Ch. Haut-Bailly, Graves

“Very fresh, and very lifted on the nose.  Proper wine.  Cool.  Very classy, and that inimitable Haut-Bailly character.  And again in the mouth.  This has poise.  Lift and freshness.  Excellent.”

Other wines that easily make it into the winners’ enclosure are: Conseillante, Clinet, Figeac, Giscours, Gruaud-Larose, Lagrange, and Grand-Puy-Lacoste.

Oh: the whites.  2014 Domaine de Chevalier Blanc is outstanding.  2014 Malartic-Lagraviere will set you back just over half as much and isn’t that far behind.  And Smith-Haut-Lafitte is lovely; I can’t think of a white wine that is so inimitable in its character.

Who’s up for lunch next year?