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2014 Ten Years On

Monday, 19th February 2024 by Thomas Parker MW

The 2014 Ten Years On group met in early February, hot on the heels of 2020 Southwold. I had high hopes for this tasting, expecting it to unearth gems – particularly from the northern Médoc – that have been underappreciated and undervalued since their release. The structured wines of this vintage were hard to get into from barrel, and came at a low ebb of interest in primeurs after the high prices and quality of 2009 & 2010, the over-priced 2011s and two vintages that struggled to see much interest in 2012 and 2013. Despite this the classically-styled vintage had admirers, particularly in Saint Estèphe, Pauillac and Saint Julien, where Cabernet Sauvignon was able to get ripe but retain its cooler climate edge. At ten years old, the hope was that the tannins and fruit had now started to knit together, offering throwback wines that had strong bones and enough fruit flesh. We tasted over 100 of the top names, spread across the red appellations of Bordeaux, together with highlights from Sauternes. Critics Neal Martin, Julia Harding MW and Lisa Perrotti-Brown MW were in attendance, together with buyers from the UK trade. As usual the room was roughly half Masters of Wine.

Saint Emilion

This was our re-introduction to the vintage and unfortunately it was a tough start. At the time 2014 felt like a progressive vintage for this appellation as the wines showed signs of a pull back from their most extracted and over-oaked selves, but now they feel old fashioned, clunky and lacking finesse. They are certainly closer to the old style than the new, highlighting just how much further several producers have come recently. Angélus took first place, with Figeac close behind. Cheval Blanc was my top wine, the wild and complex aromatics very enticing and the structure more integrated and fine-grained than most. In a series of dry wines this has some sense of luxury and sophistication. Cabernet Franc was clearly important to bringing some harmony and finesse to the wines, most of the successes had a healthy proportion of the variety in their blends.


There were some hits at the very top in Pomerol, Vieux Château Certan won in a photo finish with Le Pin and Pétrus. Generally, however, the appellation struggled more than expected. The wines often lacked the plush power and supple joy synonymous with the region. Between these two appellations and given the price of many wines here, it was hard to really pick any must-buys. Though there will be wines that will make fair old bones and likely drink better as they age and start to soften, 2014 is clearly not a right bank vintage.


One of the tasting’s biggest shocks was the brilliant performance of de Fieuzal Rouge. It was the top performing wine outside the Dillon wines, and represents terrific value for money. Old school structure meets cool and classy fruit in this typical gravel-inflected wine. It tastes of where it's from yet has a distinct aromatic personality, and remains devoid of the make-up that coated a few of the more famous names here. La Mission Haut Brion was the standout wine, beating Haut Brion and, in fact, tying the lead for wine of the vintage. The warmer site seemed to allow a fuller fruit expression and more cashmere texture to the fruit. This is very seductive for the vintage, though it should still be cellared for another five years before opening.


As we moved up into the Médoc, there was a serious hope for improvement, but in Margaux the results were mixed. Château Margaux itself took first place and is a fine effort, chiselled with quite zesty acidity, it is a cool, focused wine. Acid was the marker for the appellation more widely, but the other wines were quite variable, carrying more grip than might typically be expected from these fragrant wines. Brane Cantenac showed well, a quintessential Margaux with floral complexity, nervy drive and fine, sinewy fruit. Siran is comfortably the value pick, it came third to beat many more expensive wines. The fruit is seductive and ripe, with a fuller, smokier array of flavours than most – you could also drink it today. A wine that offered joy where many fell short.

Saint Julien

Beychevelle seems to have found its feet with this tasting group, coming joint top with Léoville Poyferré after a strong performance in the 2020 Southwold tasting. A peppery, spicy wine, I found it a little easy and simple, but perhaps that drinkability swayed many to prefer its balance in what was a very firm, tannic flight. Léoville Poyferré itself was comfortably my wine of the appellation, with much more stuffing, layering dense fruit and rich tannic structure. Persistent and complex, it would need a decant and rich food to drink now, but it is chock full of potential, the riper profile typical of this Léoville chiming with the more austere nature of the vintage. Lagrange was also a strong performer and offers terrific value – this is crunchy, spicy and approachable nature.

It was clear that many tasters were overwhelmed by the structure of these wines, finding the bones overbearing and dominating the fruit. The recent tastings have largely been blessed with high fruit and/or low tannin vintages. 2012 & 2013 at Ten Years On, 2017, 2018 & 2019 at Southwold were all very easy on the palate. 2020 has the structure, but in purer form and with more fruit. The 2014s were hard to assess en masse due to the volume and quality of their tannins versus their fruit. Saint Julien will offer serious wines for cellaring that will be much enjoyed with food, but there were fewer clear winners in this format than we expected. I suspect many would show better on their own.


The story was much the same in Pauillac. Mouton Rothschild was the winner, a magnificent wine that is very serious but equally managed to bring joy, fruit and spice into the mix. It was the joint highest scoring wine overall in 2014, and I imagine in another decade it may overtake La Mission Haut Brion to become wine of the vintage in its own right as its structure really integrates and the wood spice mellows. The other strong contender for my wine of the vintage was Latour. Putting the château's natural muscle together with such a structured vintage made this ten year old wine nascent. Still laden with primary fruit and chewy, mouth-coating tannins, it is a backward wine that needs at least another decade before opening. The balance and potential, however, make it a very exciting prospect – perhaps the modern equivalent of the greatly underrated 2002 at this address. There were several excellent performances; Pichon Baron was the pick of the non first growths for the group, but my two favourites were Lynch Bages, a structured wine for laying down that leans into the powerful structure of the vintage, and Forts de Latour, which is closer to a second growth than second wine and a more affordable way to experience this château's prowess in the modern era.

Saint Estèphe

Saint Estèphe was supposed to be the shining beacon of 2014, but the group again found the overbearing tannins hard to overlook in some wines. Structural refinement is clearly one of the biggest steps forward wineries have made over the last decade, as the failures of this flight would not see the gritty, angular tannins in anything like this volume today. There are some stars here, however, that elevate this appellation. Calon Ségur was the flight winner, the opulent edge to this property's fruit profile a boon in a series of wines that could seem dry and undernourished. This is still a chewy, dense wine that should be decanted and ideally matured further in the cellar before approaching. I found Montrose the equal of Calon Ségur qualitatively, though very different stylistically. It came second in the flight but I expect would perform much better in isolation. It is very sturdy structurally, with mouth-coating but ripe tannins. It needs another decade before opening, but the quality of fruit is extremely fine, with great depth; it unfurls wonderfully in the glass and will only improve with time. Tronquoy Lalande was once again the big over-performer, coming third. An outstanding wine, it packs serious quality and a mini-Montrose style into a more approachable guise. It represents terrific value for money, and hits all the notes we had hoped for in this vintage. It is bold, with a chalky texture but is loaded with cool, dark fruit. If you want to buy one wine under £500 a case in 2014, this is it. I will be adding it to my cellar.


The sweet whites were something of a respite from the tannic reds and very enjoyable for that reason. Not a particularly famed vintage, there is still plenty to like here for the mid-term. These wines are succulent, but have enough acidity and for the most part good botrytis - spicy and full of marmalade. Yquem did well, finishing second, though it was a little too butterscotch-rich for my taste. Suduiraut was superb and won the flight, this is a smoky, chewy and dense wine with a waxy texture. My personal favourite was La Tour Blanche - a full bodied wine without being too sweet, it remains primary in fruit but is rich, honeyed, dense and above all finely balanced with measured acidity. I would happily drink any of the wines we tasted now, and they will doubtless age well.


The overarching reaction to this tasting from the group was one of disappointment, and I can't help but feel the same, though with some caveats. We hoped 2014 would reveal several hidden gems, and confirm the vintage's underrated quality in the northern Médoc. In truth, no appellation displayed the consistency, nor the dizzying heights that we hoped for, albeit with a few exceptions from individual wines. Tackling the right bank first, I would say that in the decade to 2020, there is no clearly weaker vintage than 2014 other than 2013. 2011 might be slightly below due to the lingering extracted style of some wines, but 2017 is less coarse and finer-boned, and all other vintages are quite clearly ahead. The left bank is more complex. Each appellation had wines to consider, though often in terms of value rather than the outright quality of the biggest names – de Fieuzal, Tronquoy Lalande and Siran are such examples. There are several quite expensive wines that simply did not deliver, their structure pervasive and diminishing quality.

There are two significant caveats worth considering. Firstly, it has been some time since we tasted a vintage like this, tannic first with the fruit coming second, and doing so at a rate of over 100 wines in a day inevitably leads to fatigue. I have no doubt the wines from 2014 will perform much better in isolation, with food, as intended. I, and others at Farr, have really enjoyed drinking 2014s over the last year - Léoville Poyferré, Grand Puy Lacoste, Ségla, Langoa Barton and Tronquoy Lalande are all delicious - but many wines I expected to like based on these did not perform well in this punishing format. Secondly, the timing of tasting these wines is difficult for this style. The most structured and often best wines are still far too young, the tannins firm and the fruit still somewhat closed – Latour, Mouton Rothschild, Montrose and so on will all be much better and more accessible with another decade in bottle. There are of course wines that will become shells of dry tannin in that time, and that is the major disappointment of this vintage and the reason why 2014 is not as good as we might have wished.

This is, therefore, a vintage that can be navigated with success and which is very good in parts, but it pays to be selective. The style is much as we expected – these are wines for drinkers who like Bordeaux to taste like Bordeaux, with bite and muscle integral to the style. Cabernet is king, and I would suggest leaning on wines with a high percentage of it in the blend. I had expected this tasting to cement 2014’s superiority over 2015 in the northern Médoc, and though wines like Montrose and Calon Ségur in Saint Estèphe are better in this vintage, I'm not so sure this is the case for some in Saint Julien and Pauillac - we will find out next year. The flight winners and value picks are named below, as well as a slightly reconfigured ranking of vintages in the decade to 2020. 


Personal Wines of the vintage (a-z):
Cheval Blanc, Latour, Léoville Poyferré, La Mission Haut Brion, Montrose, Mouton Rothschild

Wines to buy (a-z):
Calon Ségur, de Fieuzal Rouge, Lagrange, Léoville Poyferré, Montrose, Siran, Tronquoy Lalande

Top Wines by Appellation:
Saint Emilion - Angélus
Pomerol - Vieux Château Certan
Pessac-Léognan - La Mission Haut Brion
Margaux - Margaux
Saint Julien - Léoville Poyferré / Beychevelle
Pauillac - Mouton Rothschild
Saint Estèphe - Calon Ségur
Sauternes - Suduiraut

Vintage ranking, decade to 2020 :
Top tier: 2016, 2019, 2020 (at its peak)
Second tier: 2018, 2015
Third tier: 2017, 2014, 2012, 2011
Bringing up the rear: 2013

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