[Above: the Left Bank performed well in 2014, including Ch. Palmer and Alter Ego de Palmer]
In the most general terms, 2014 is a Left Bank vintage that favours Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc. The Indian summer perhaps arrived too late for Merlot, but the later-ripening Cabernets were able to benefit. It doesn’t reach the heights of great vintages such as 2000, 2005, 2009 or 2010; the splendid Autumnal weather could not compensate entirely for the deficiencies of Summer. After all, one day of sunshine in August is worth the approximate equivalent of two days sunshine in September.
2014 is, however, a much better vintage than the three previous ones, and also better than 2002, 2004 and 2007. In our En Primeur expectations blog, we called for a good but not great vintage, and 2014 appears to be the best of the vintages that don’t quite reach greatness. It’s the best vintage since 2010, but the wines lack the structure and ‘completeness’ of that year. There are echoes of 1996 in the Cabernets of the Medoc and we felt that the wines show similarities to 2006 and 2008, albeit in a riper style.
[Above: tasting the offerings from Ch. Haut-Brion and Ch. La Mission Haut-Brion]
The dry whites, particularly those of Pessac and Graves are very successful; the cool summer that was so worrying for the reds actually benefitted the whites by helping to retain freshness and acidity. These wines are always a difficult sell in a crowded marketplace, but 2014 could be the vintage to fall in love with white Bordeaux again, particularly given the pricing and allocation pressures of top white Burgundy.
It must be remembered that the embryonic 2014s we tasted are a snapshot of a wine at a particular point in its evolution, and there is also the on-going debate regarding how representative samples are of the final wine.
The stage is now set: the wines are charming and are destined to give the wine drinker much pleasure in their relative youth and over the medium term. The question remains that of pricing and whether it is a necessity for negociants in Bordeaux, merchants in the UK and ultimately the end consumer to finance these wines two years in advance of their physical release.
[Above: arriving at Ch. Ducru-Beaucaillou]
A return to 2008 pricing across the board is doubtful, and many Château owners we spoke with said that they were unlikely to reduce pricing below that of the 2013 vintage. It’s difficult to generalise for Bordeaux as a whole, there are some Château owners who have released recent vintages at sensible prices and it is unadvisable to tar the whole region with the same brush.
What the Bordeaux En Primeur market has lacked in recent years is the emotional appeal of positive sentiment towards the wines and the practical necessity of a return on investment. Customers need a good reason to invest in these wines, and pricing and provenance are the two key arguments for the continued existence of the system. We’re pleased with the quality of the wines, and cautiously optimistic regarding their place within the wider fine wine market. If the pricing is right then we may have a campaign on our hands.