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.
I always look back at my En Primeur notes a few days before the Southwold Group tasting to reacquaint myself with the vintage and my early impressions. Spring 2021 was beset by more restricted travel due to COVID and we tasted samples in London, keeping to the socially distanced regulations of the time. The novelty had worn off from the experience with 2019 and I ended up with hundreds of open samples in my garage, wading through and tasting twice or three times where possible to get a full impression. Perhaps it was a combination of tasting away from the region and the manner in which the samples had to be drawn and shipped, but the 2020s were a little awkward to taste. The quality was clearly there but many wines were stubborn, firm or struggling to knit together, much in the mould of 2010s from barrel, though not quite as powerful in fruit or structure, high in alcohol or dark in colour. The wines were often profound, deep and vertical with great length and very measured ripeness. The vintage clearly had the potential to be great, though could it reach the heights of the stellar 2016 and 2019?
2023 is drawing to a close, so the team at Farr Vintners have once again looked back on some of our favourite wines this year.
The vintages 2019 to 2022 offer some stellar wines in Bordeaux. Though I have tasted the wines extensively, it is normally either at a horizontal tasting of one vintage, such as the Southwold Group tasting, or vertically at a château, where it is possible to taste multiple vintages at once. However, once a year several of the region's top names converge on London to offer a four vintage vertical in one room. This opportunity to taste in three dimensions offers context on the performances of wines against their peers in different vintages at one time. Tasting the likes of Montrose, Leoville Poyferré, Rauzan Ségla and Canon in these vintages has given an eye-opening update on the wines. Below is a summary of some of the most notable takeaways of the tasting, followed by a handful of tasting notes for wines that particularly impressed.
Nine years ago I attended a dinner that shifted my perception of how good wines could be. Over a long evening at Medlar in London, we drank several wines that in isolation could have been my greatest ever, and ones that I would gladly have said were perfect - or 100 point - wines. The problem with drinking so many outstanding wines with their qualitative peers is that it immediately becomes a ranking game, and someone has to come out on top. On the night, that was easy for me; a bottle of Pétrus 1959 served blind absolutely blew me away. I had never tasted anything like it and no one in the room was close to considering it a then 55-year-old wine.
The greatness of 2009 Bordeaux has been written about at length. From Robert Parker's huge barrel and bottle scores, to praise from critic and merchant alike since the first tastings from barrel in 2010. The vintage has widely, and appropriately, been judged as one of the region's greats. Now, with over a decade in bottle and several other recent contenders for "Vintage of the Century", just how good are the top wines in this celebrated, warm year?
After 25 years in this business I remain fascinated by the product that we buy and sell. I’m lucky enough to taste a great deal of wine and, whilst I’m probably the most cynical member of the team, and likely the most conservative in my tastes, at least once a month I taste something that bowls me over, or something that has me questioning what the whole thing is about. It still amazes me that the simple concept of growing some grapes, harvesting, vinifying and bottling the juice, can create something that gives so much pleasure.
The annual “Ten Years On” blind tasting took place in February this year, three weeks after the magnificent 2019 Southwold tasting. The two tastings could not have been more different, and we arguably went from the very best of Bordeaux to the worst.
The Southwold Group has tasted the top wines of Bordeaux from the latest physically available vintage together for over 40 years. This used to take place – as the group’s name suggests – in Southwold in Suffolk, but it has now moved to Farr Vintners where we taste in a purpose-built modern tasting room. This is now my seventh Southwold Group tasting, with 2019 my tenth vintage tasted En Primeur (albeit in strange circumstances due to COVID restrictions).
The team at Farr Vintners have enjoyed some spectacular wines in 2022. Here, you can see some of their favourites.