Weather is one of the three main factors behind a successful Bordeaux En Primeur campaign (the others are the integrity and skill of the château making the wine and the price at which the wine is released onto the market). And by the middle of summer last year, the 2014 campaign was shaping up to be a write-off.
A gloomy spring kicked the season off. Apart from a decent flowering, the weather was then dull, cool, occasionally stormy and with outbreaks of hail throughout the summer – conditions that are obviously not conducive to making decent wine.
But in early September, the longest Indian summer on record began and the grapes were picked in late September and mid-October in epic conditions. This turnaround prompted the Bordelais to describe the year’s wines as a miracle.
Certainly, the resulting flavours in the wines are unique, to my mind, with the long and sunny (but not necessarily hot) ripening period being the key to this vintage. If you had looked after your bunches during the grim summer, you had the potential to make a very exciting wine. Alcohol levels, particularly on the Left Bank, are discreet (in the high 12% to low 13% region) and this makes for gripping tension in the wines.
The acidity is refreshing, because there are no overripe wines. The fruit character, particularly in the wines with a high percentage of cabernet sauvignon on the Left Bank, is as pure and clean as it gets. So the finest wines are long, lithe, focused, fruity, refreshing and precise. They are precocious and juicy, but also fine and will reward good cellaring.
On the Right Bank, the wines are typically richer and fuller. Some have over-oaked the fruit, but many wines, especially in Pomerol, are successful. Dry whites are keen and raspy. Sweet wines are split into two camps – lighter and more refreshing for the earlier picked wines and sweeter and lusher for those picked later.
On the whole this is a very smart vintage. It is not as rich and powerful as 2005 and 2009, nor does it have the firmness of tannin and regal air of the best 2010s. But aside from this, the 2014s are going to please a lot of people. I can tell you my favourite wines, although not yet what their prices will be.
Below I’ve listed ten top scorers and also ten that I expect to offer good value. As always, this article appears before my full report on matthewjukes.com, which has comprehensive notes on some 300 wines. Keep your eyes peeled for this very soon.
My advice is not to think of this as a vintage to invest in just yet, but as one to enjoy. If a wine is released at £200 in bond (ib) per case, it will cost you around £22.50 by the time you get your hands on it – the price of a cheap bottle of champagne.
At £400ib, it’s the price of a half bottle of NV Krug Rosé; at £1,000ib, the price of a bottle of 2006 Perrier-Jouët Belle Epoque. Don’t get hung up on whether this is more or less than previous Bordeaux vintages, but think of the relative prices of these superb, suave clarets compared to other renowned styles of wine. If they seem fair, get in there and secure your stock.
|A selection of ten high-scoring red wines (scores out of 20)|
|Château Pontet-Canet (5ème Cru Pauillac) 19|
|Vieux Château Certan (Pomerol) 18.5|
|Château Cos d’Estournel (2ème Cru Saint-Estèphe) 18.5|
|Château Angélus (Saint-Emilion 1er Grand Cru Classé) 18.5|
|Château Haut-Brion (1er Cru Pessac-Léognan) 18.5|
|Château La Conseillante (Pomerol) 18.5|
|Château Troplong Mondot (Saint-Emilion 1er Grand Cru Classé) 18.5|
|Château Grand-Puy-Lacoste (5ème Cru Pauillac) 18.5|
|Château Pétrus (Pomerol) 18.5|
|Château Léoville-Las Cases (2ème Cru Saint-Julien) 18.5|
|A selection of “best value”* red wines across all regions (scores out of 20)|
|Château Haut-Batailley (5ème Cru Pauillac) 17.5|
|Château La Lagune (3ème Cru Ludon, Haut-Médoc) 17.5|
|Château Langoa-Barton (3ème Cru Saint-Julien) 17.5|
|Pensées de Lafleur (2nd wine of Château Lafleur) 17.5|
|Château Tronquoy-Lalande (Saint-Estèphe) 17|
|Château Angludet (Margaux) 17|
|Château Lacoste-Borie (2nd wine of Grand-Puy-Lacoste) 17|
|Château Belgrave (5ème Cru St.-Laurent, Haut-Médoc) 17|
|Amiral de Beychevelle (2nd wine of Château Beychevelle) 16.5|
|Château Capbern (Saint-Estèphe) 16.5|
*assuming prices are fair