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Bordeaux 2014 Primeurs overview

Written by JW. Posted in Bordeaux

IMG_6728Now the dust has settled on primeurs week my verdict would be that 2014 Bordeaux is a good to very good vintage for red wines, a vintage which favours the Left Bank especially, but there are also many successes on the Right Bank too. Without doubt it is the best and most consistent vintage since 2010, though it is not up to the quality of that vintage nor its predecessor 2009, with a couple of possible exceptions. 2014 is another excellent vintage for the dry white wines of Bordeaux and there are a number of stylish sweet wines from Sauternes and Barsac. Given the overall quality of the reds, 2014 is definitely a vintage worthy of purchasing en primeur, assuming the price is right. Early indications are that prices will remain stable or increase a little from 2013 for the top estates [an altogether inferior vintage for the reds]. Still given exchange rates, this will still be a reduction of between 10-20% if you are a GBP or USD customer – so if that’s your currency 2014 is potentially interesting. The litmus test usually is that chateaux must release cheaper than any physically available vintage otherwise an en primeur purchase makes no financial sense. So, even if by default, 2014 may be the first vintage since 2008 to offer decent prospects for the consumer. Fingers crossed!

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Stylistically it’s difficult to compare 2014 with that of any other recent Bordeaux vintage. It’s perhaps a lusher, riper version of 2012 with the acidity and freshness of 2001 or 2008. That said some of the very top wines in St Estèphe [Calon Ségur and Montrose in my book] are magnificent and rival 2010. Overall what is genuinely exciting is the homogeneity and the style. 2014 has produced aromatic wines with fresh blackcurrant, black cherry and plum aromas. The wines have nice definition and texture on the palate and ripe tannins on the finish. Underpinning all this is a wonderful freshness. It gives the wines vitality and vigor. Moreover they don’t feel as dense and dry as 2010 did early on [because of the greater overall concentration of that vintage].

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If 2014 can be considered a success, it was only because of the Indian Summer that lasted for the months of September and October [and continued into November]. While the vegetative cycle started with an early bud-break and flowering was generally good, the months of July and August were grey with very little sunshine. There was more rain on the right bank than the left, so there was some variation, but by the end of August all of Bordeaux was facing the prospect of another dismal vintage, if not quite in the manner of 2013, then not far from it. But then the sun came out…and stayed out for six weeks straight almost.

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It was not just sunny but hot during the day too with temperatures up in the 30s and some claim September was the hottest since 1921. These sustained conditions favoured the later ripening Cabernets – Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc – as well as Petit Verdot. This explains the particular successes in the Left Bank. St Estèphe, Pauillac and St Julien are especially impressive, but also in the Médoc and Haut-Médoc appellations too there are lots of good cru bourgeois to consider in 2014. Margaux also performed well too, and the appellation was less heterogeneous than usual. Pessac-Léognan has also done well with the reds. If the Left Bank has it overall, many Right Bank properties have still produced excellent wines on the better terroirs. Pomerol is consistent and St Emilion has a number of successes, especially amongst the St Emilion Grand Crus Classés and the Premier Grand Crus Classés. I was also impressed with the wines from Castillon.

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Amongst the dry whites wines there are a number of outstanding wines from Pessac-Léognan. La Mission and Haut-Brion are magnificent, but there are wonderful efforts too from Smith Haut Lafitte and Pape Clément and properties like Bouscaut, Carbonnieux and Olivier have produced delicious whites. In Graves, Château Rahoul is worthy of a special mention. In the north, Cos d’Estournel Blanc is outstanding as is Pavillion Blanc from Château Margaux.

Tasting the wines in Sauternes and Barsac, there was undoubtedly freshness and elegance on display, a fine quality with good aromatic profiles. There was not the weight of the best years [2009, 2010] with the wines more akin to 2007, 2011 or 2013 [with less botrytis tones than that previous humid harvest]. Still with so much Sauternes and Barsac in bottle [at low prices] around it’s difficult to see the argument for ordering any of these en primeur to be honest.

I’ll post in more detail on 2014 by appellation and property in the coming days and weeks, starting with the right bank.

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