The 2014 vintage by

Bordeaux 2014: Right Bank Satellite

During my two and a half weeks in Bordeaux tasting en primeur, I drove out to Bergerac for a tasting at Château Thénac. Initially, I was a little peeved at having to drive an hour or so east of Saint Emilion, but actually it served as a pertinent reminder that Bordeaux stretches a long way beyond the boundaries of its most famous appellation. And so, these tasting notes cover the likes of Fronsac, Lalande-de-Pomerol, Lussac Saint Emilion and Montagne Saint Emilion. They enjoy some cachet among cognoscenti and indeed, their best examples are habitually superior to the less desirable names in either Saint Emilion or Pomerol. Like the wines of Moulis/Listrac or the Médocs on the Left Bank, they suffered the difficulties of a summer in absentia, but here the odds were even more stacked against them because of the propensity toward early-ripening Merlot. Essentially, they just ran out of time, forced to pick before the grapes had achieved full ripeness. To make matters worse, here there are some estates that futilely attempted to remedy this by a bit of winemaking trickery: extracting too hard, using concentrators or lacquering some cosmetic new wood over the top. As a consequence there were some quite dismal, almost unpalatable samples that do not bode well for when they are in bottle.

On the other hand, there are also a number of properties that successfully overcame the hurdles set before them. In Fronsac there is Château Fontenil and Moulin-Haut-Laroque and in Lalande-de-Pomerol a beautiful Château Tournefeuille and a delectable Château de Chambrun, not to mention Denis Durantou’s own La Chenade. If we travel to Lussac Saint Emilion there is the delightful Château Busquet or in Puisseguin Saint Emilion, Hannibal Lector’s favorite, the Château Clarisse Vieilles Vignes. These wines all deserve a round of applause for surpassing the difficulties of the growing season and turning out respectable wines that should give pleasure over the next decade or so.