Bordeaux 2014 in barrel: Pauillac peaks

By Panos Kakaviatos for


From cru bourgeois to first growth, Pauillac kicked ass in 2014. Fans of steely tannic towers such as Pichon Baron and fans of more sumptuous styles at Pichon Comtesse will find happiness, based on the barrel samples. OK, some wines were a touch hard, with the high tannin and acidity combining to form perhaps too much steeliness. My absolute favorites managed the “velvet glove” in the mix.

Wines in bold I liked particularly, when red and bold even more and when underlined, too, wine nirvana.

Château Lafite-Rothschild: Breed and elegance define Lafite in 2014. And that should surprise no one. I still recall tasting the 2005 from barrel, which was so much more subtle than many other wines tasted. I remarked that to director Charles Chevalier who said that marathon runners do not reveal their energy so early in the race. Indeed, 2014 is quite an accomplishment at this estate. While the second wine is somewhat disappointing, what matters – the first wine – is supreme. And subtle. It will be interesting to see which Rothschild will come out on top, but they are neck in neck, with their respective styles showing well. 93-95+

The top of the first growths, the top of Pauillac, a top 2014 barrel sample

Carruades de Lafite: Brambly red fruit, with touches of pencil lead. A junior in every sense of the word. But lacks the lift and verve of such wines as Haut Batailley. Why pay for this when you can get fine first wines for less? 88-91

Château Duhart Milon: Love the cedar and tobacco nose! Very Cabernet. And yet, I feel some extraction, coming from higher alcohol Merlots perhaps – a whopping 45% Merlot in the blend. Not my favorite classified growth Pauillac in 2014… 88-90

Château Latour: Start of month of June was marked by soaring temperatures of over 30 degrees Celsius. It was a late harvesting season, and so precocious terroirs like that at Latour were favored in 2014. Perhaps that accounts for the exceptional quality of the wine – both in terms of the second as well as the first wine. Interestingly the vintage cycle can be remembered first for its premature departure – a generally mild winter with no frost in February. A warm start to March favored early bud break so the vintage began like 2008 and 2011. The Latour representative at the tasting compared the vintage a bit to 1996, which readers may recall, also featured a fine Indian Summer after a cool August. And yet, numbers indicate riper fruit in 2014 as compared to 1996. What I got was a cornucopia of cranberry freshness, dark cassis and a touch of blackberry, ripe and powerful with tannic backbone and grip with briskness on the long finish coming from a high acidity. A tour de force in 2014! 94-96+

Château Mouton Rothschild: Tobacco and cassis on the nose. Rich powerful and ample – as a first growth Pauillac should be! Here we have some differences of opinion when I tasted it along with merchants and fellow wine hacks. While some are not that excited about Mouton in 2014, I find it excellent. It seems to combine the foreboding tannin of a vintage like 1986 but with more evident ripeness, somewhat like 1996, but larger scaled – and coming from a more selective process than from the 90s era. While not as impressive as Latour, or perhaps as complex and sumptuous as Haut Brion, maybe Mouton is third best of the five first growths at this prenatal stage, but give it time in barrel. Something special is afoot. Made with 81% Cabernet Sauvignon, 16% Merlot and 3% Cabernet Franc. 93-95+


Something special is afoot.

Le Petit Mouton de Mouton Rothschild: A successful second wine, with red fruit freshness, slightly toasted notes coming from the oak, and an overall tension that makes it downright exciting. Lacking the brooding power of the first wine, it nonetheless has a ripe Cabernet aspect, given the 93% Cabernet and only 7% Merlot. If the price is right, this could be worth your hard earned money for a special occasion. 90-93

Château d’Armailhac: Tasted at Mouton Rothschild, it reminded me of the bright and red fruit driven 2004, with a high tone aspect that was not quite as balanced as more successful Pauillacs by ripe tannin. I did notice just a bit the alcohol and the acidity, as it came across as just slightly disjointed. But I am sure that barrel aging will do its duty – and make this into a fine Pauillac. Tasted blind, the initial nose is closed but there is red and dark fruit on the attack. Iodine freshness. Medium plus body, with high tannin and high acidity and medium alcohol. High toned and bright. Medium plus finish. 89-91+

Château Clerc Milon: Tasted at Mouton Rothschild. With a bit more Cabernet Sauvignon in the blend than the d’Armailhac, the Clerc Milon has a deeper and richer aspect and yet comes across as a touch austere on the finish. I still think that the substance of the wine will be accentuated with barrel aging and will taste fine. Tasted again, blind, my notes were comparable: Black tea like tannin on the nose. Dark ripe fruit – even sumptuous like blackberry and cassis – on the attack. Mid palate is juicy. Finish is not as strong as the mid palate suggested, but this is flavorful and bright, yet again. High acidity and high tannin. Medium plus body. Barrel aging – keep in mind! 90-92+


Château Pontet Canet: The nose engages you with an opulent sense of brambly red fruit and notions of cedar elegance. The attack is brisk, followed by a full bodied palate with high tannin and high acidity that turns more austere on the medium plus finish. 50% new oak, 13.5% alcohol. 90-93

Château Pichon Comtesse de Lalande: One of the most successful wines of the vintage, exuding orange rind like freshness, cassis and lots of crackling red fruit. It conveys an overall sense of purity and elegance with loads of juiciness on the full- bodied palate, as very well managed high tannin and high acidity lend structure and lift on the long finish. 93-95+

GPL tasting

Positive reflections at Grand Puy Lacoste

Château Haut Batailley: Elegant, high toned but smooth, with more red than black fruit. And yet the 78% Cabernet Sauvignon is very ripe and shows fine grip. Medium plus body and finish, which is not as long as, say, Pontet Canet tasted just before, but the texture is smooth. 13.3% alcohol. Producers say it stands as one of the best Haut Batailleys that they have produced. Very good indeed. 89-92+

Château Grand Puy Lacoste: Tasted at the estate. Lovely ruby color, with cedar and cassis on the nose – very Pauillac – and a tannic grain almost silky. Very bright with a mix of red and black fruits on the full bodied palate. Full but not thick. The finish is long and refined even if a touch mouth puckering – a sign of 2014 high acidity levels. Then, tasted blind the next day, I sensed tonicity and focus. Bright red fruit characteristics. This is not a modernist delight for modernist palates. High acidity, high tannin and medium alcohol. What makes this special is its utter smoothness and tonicity. Overall a delicious GPL and what makes me underline this is the price which should no doubt be nice. I would buy it. 92-94

Lacoste Borie: While good, not one of the top second wines of the vintage. The 10% Cabernet Franc shining in this barrel sample, with a green leaf type freshness combined with very red cherry fruit flavors that please the palate: a great restaurant wine. 87-90

Château Pibran: Ripe and sap-filled joy here, this constitutes one of the bargains among cru bourgeois level Pauillacs. Its 70% Cabernet and 30% Merlot conveys power and sumptuousness. Aging in 50% new oak. 13.3% alcohol. 90-92+

Les Griffons de Pichon Baron: I like the cool black label. “This is more a second wine, closer in style to the grand vin,” explained director Jean-Rene Matignon. This wine is a recent creation at the AXA estate that exists since 2012, and seems a bit confusing, given the fact that the Les Tourelles de Longueville is also being made… Les Griffons comes as a result of more careful selection in the vineyard (about 5,000 cases for 2014, 1,500 in 2012 and 3,000 in 2012). In any case, it comes across as very tasty, with a powerful tannic thrust that dominates the full-bodied palate. It is a bit massive in style, even if alcohol is 13.3%, but barrel aging will tame that. It has 55% Cabernet and 45% Merlot and is aging in 60% new oak. 90-92

Les Tourelles de Longueville: About 10,000 cases expected for 2014, this wine comes across as a bit more fresh yet just as substantial. The 13.7% alcohol is well integrated, coming from 65% Merlot in the blend. Not as much new oak – 30% – and although I could feel a touch of heat, there is elegance too. Nice job. 89-91+


Pichon Baron’s Mini Me

Château Pichon Baron: I love the pure aromatics here. Then on the palate: Woah Nelly! Very powerful Pauillac style. Very massive and a high concentration of fruit and tannin (the 91 tannin index is very high). This resembles a Latour in style in that it conveys such power in a full bodied aspect with a long finish, that is nonetheless steely and just a touch austere. This is a wine to put aside in your cellar for at least 10 years. So higher end of score after cellaring, as I am sure it will be nothing short of marvelous. 92-95

Tasted blind at UGCB 

In this next series, tasted blind at Chateau Phelan Segur during en primeur week, I do not include Clerc Milon, d’Armailhac and Grand Puy Lacoste as my reflections from the blind tasting are included in the above notes.

Château Haut Bages Liberal: Red and black fruit. Bright. Reflected on the palate. This has sustain. Like a note that keeps going. Medium plus body, high tannin, high acidity and medium alcohol. Medium plus body. Quite savory. Barrel age will flesh things out. Promising. Haut Bages Liberal. 90-92+

Château Grand Puy Ducasse: This has lift and elegance with fine mid palate weight. Medium plus. High acidity and tannin. Medium alcohol. Medium plus finish with lift yet some oak derived tannins detract making it somewhat raw… 88-91

Château Batailley: Here we have more ripeness than average on the nose and palate – there is an almost lush feel (in the context of the vintage) but acidity and grip that keep it focused and I would say rather exciting! Tonicity on the finish. Very nice job. Smooth. Not far behind Lynch Bages. 91-93

Château Lynch Moussas: Quite rich and substantial. Somewhat darker hue than Batailley. Grip and medium plus body with a finish that is not quite as long as the mid palate presaged. And yet, decent mid palate sap, and medium plus to full body overall. Ripe fruit indeed, high acidity and high tannin. An impressive showing! 90-92

Château Croizet Bages: A touch vegetal on the nose? Freshness and elegance actually with tonicity and structure and grip. This – yet again – is an example of barrel aging needed to mellow out the wine, slow oxidation. Eric Boissenot called the wines lovely and he is correct. The freshness is evident and a fine showing from this estate even if the aromatics are not tops. 88-90

Château Lynch Bages: Pure aromatics. Here we have a special wine that manages to be almost 2009 like in its ripeness. It conveys ripeness yet verve and freshness. The palate is full bodied with a lingering finish. The last in a series of Pauillacs tasted blind. A wine to buy! 92-95



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