It is the end of April and the Bordeaux En Primeur circus is back in town. Following a disastrous 2013 vintage (both in quality and pricing), the 2014 was going to be a “make or break” vintage for the future of Bordeaux En Primeur.
And, it did not start well. I will not bore you with the gory climatic details. But, it was cold and rainy for the most of the year, especially in July and August when vines need the sun in order to produce the goodies. By the end of August it looked as if it was going to be another disaster year.
And then, just as everyone was about to give up, the glorious Indian Summer descended on the region. Okay, it was too late to produce exceptional wines but, it is far from disaster. It was too late for Merlot, which struggled to reach full, balanced ripeness, but Cabernets and Petit Verdot were more than saved. Thanks to beautiful September and October, the grapes had extra few weeks to continue ripening – September was the hottest on record since 1961. The growing season from flowering to ripening, which is normally 100 days, was extended to 120-125 days allowing good producers to spread the selected harvesting till the end of October.
As a result, the wines have bright, deep, intense purple colour with very fine balance of elegant tannins and a great, fresh, crisp acidity. The best of them ooze finesse and elegance that I do not recall in any other vintage since my first En Primeur week in 1996. They are not better than the 2005 or 2010 in terms of complexity and intensity but, the vintage is as good as the best of the 2001, 2006 and 2008 only with a bit more finesse and certainly best since 2010.
So, there is no doubt that it is a very fine vintage, especially for the Cabernet based wines of the Left Bank but, the question on everyone’s lips and minds was, how badly will the chateau owners misprice it? Yes, we all expected them to misprice it, and we all told them that. And, also, if they do not offer the wines at price below market prices for vintages like 2011, 2008 and 2006, there will be no campaign.
And so, it all started a couple of weeks ago with few shy releases, with one or two well known properties overpricing it (Gazin comes to mind) and there were no takers. Then Prieure Lichine and Duhart Milon came out at very sensible prices; some 15-20% below the cheapest on the market, and still there were no takers. I spoke to a few brokers in Bordeaux last week and there was a palpable sense of despair, no one was buying, even at these discounts. Merchants around the world unite!!! Ball is now in our court and we will play a hard one.
However, it finally looks like the message has gone through. This morning, while I was on the train to Gatwick, the first of sensible releases came out. Domains Mouton Rothschild have released their wines: Armailhac at £230.00 per case ib is some 30% below the cheapest on the market, and about as good a price for a decent Grand Cru Classe Pauillac that one can hope to get. Also Mouton Rothschild is out at £2,350.00 – that is also well below any other physical vintage on the market.
No doubt there will be more releases, whilst writing to you on the plane to Bordeaux, but I decided at the last moment to go and re-taste some 20-30 properties that I thought made very decent wines in 2014 (Armailhac included). I will email you an update with more detailed recommendations next week when I get back.
For the moment all I can say is that 2014 is Claret drinkers vintage with some beautifully crafted wines and, if this morning’s release is the sign of the things to come, those savvy enough will be able to pick up some serious bargains. We are, of course, very much helped by the € weakness and overall state of the market; and, dare I say, Mouton looks like a decent investment as well!
Tastings for today finished (Cheval Blanc, Troplong Mondot and Fleur Cardinale look extremely well as they did a month ago) and so, this is just a quick mail before I head out into a Bordeaux night in search of a decent dinner and a glass or 3 of vino.
For the moment I have divided the wines in to 3 groups: see them here:
Wishing you all the best
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