As en primeur comes to a close, I reflect on my tastings over the past seven days. I sipped 300 barrel samples of the 2014 Bordeaux vintage, featuring great dry whites that rank among the best of the century, magnificent sweet whites and wonderfully structured and fresh red wines.
But, if you ask me if this vintage is ultimately as good as 2005, 2009 and 2010, I’d have to say no. While it’s strong and represents the best dollar-to-euro value since 2002, it doesn’t have quite the consistency of these excellent vintages.
Still, there are some standout wines. The quality and consistency of Margaux blew me away—something that hasn’t happened since 2005. Meanwhile, Saint-Julien impressed me its very fine Cabernet Sauvignon, Saint-Émilion’s Cabernet Franc (not Merlot) was its saving grace, and Pessac-Léognan produced some splendid whites.
Today, I had my final sampling of 2014’s sweet wines of Sauternes and Barsac, and both featured a magnificent combination of richness and intense freshness.
Indeed, 2014 is the comeback vintage due to the dry, sunny days and cool nights in September and October following a miserable summer in Bordeaux.
“It is without question the best vintage since 2010,” said John Kolasa, négociant and managing director of Château Rauzan-Ségla in Margaux and Château Canon in Saint-Émilion. Pauline Vauthier, of Château Ausone in Saint-Émilion, expressed that Cabernets are responsible for the vintage’s greatness.
But does this greatness warrant a purchase of expensive wines out of sight and taste, with delivery 18 months away?
It’s the annual en primeur question, and the word on the street is yes because the price-quality ratio could work in a buyer’s favor this year. The key is to check out the prices of the top 50 red wines, which according to importers on the scene, will be significantly lower than 2009 and 2010.
“ is the consumer’s dream of great quality at reasonable prices, thanks to the combination of market forces and exchange rates,” said Daniel Greathouse, chief marketing officer at Heidelberg Distributing in Ohio.
Anthony Hanson, M.W., senior consultant at Christie’s wine department in London, agrees.
“I will buy if the price is right,” he said. “Don’t forget most Bordeaux producers charge a fair price. It’s only the stupid stuff at the top that messes up the market.”
So what’s my advice this year?
Buy if you want to take advantage of the good dollar-to-euro ratio, if there’s a particular wine you love, or if you like the concept of owning wine that’s still in barrel (I admit, I do!).
Prices may or may not increase as the wines hit the market, but true wine enthusiasts will want to buy and drink these. For the first time since 2010, I certainly do.
Wine of the Vintage
After great deliberation, I have decided to grant Château Palmer in Margaux the Wine of the Vintage. It is outstanding, and the vineyard is now 100 percent biodynamic, which is true of only one other classed growth in the Médoc.
95–97 Château Palmer 2014 Barrel Sample (Margaux).This is a beautiful, structured wine, with great fruit. Blackberries and currants lie on a bed of structured tannins and firm wood. It is rich, while still presenting ample freshness and acidity. This will age very well.
Sauternes: The golden harvest
For blind tastings, the producers in Sauternes and Barsac wrap their bottles in gold foil. As I tasted through the classed growths from these two appellations today, that color seemed especially appropriate.
This is a golden vintage for Sauternes. It may not have the depth or weight of 2010, but it has some of the richness. What has set 2014 apart is the intense lime and lemon flavors that cut into any overblown cloying character and allow both the fruit and the honeyed noble rot to sing. They are wonderful wines, and everybody should buy some.
Top 10 Sauternes and Barsac
97–99 Château d’Yquem 2014 Barrel Sample (Sauternes).
96–98 Château Coutet 2014 Barrel Sample (Barsac).
95–97 Château la Tour Blanche 2014 Barrel Sample (Sauternes).
95–97 Château Rabaud-Promis 2014 Barrel Sample (Sauternes).
95–97 Château Rieussec 2014 Barrel Sample (Sauternes).
95–97 Château Suduiraut 2014 Barrel Sample (Sauternes).
94–96 Château de Rayne Vigneau 2014 Barrel Sample (Sauternes).
94–96 Château Doisy-Védrines 2014 Barrel Sample (Barsac).
94–96 Château Lafaurie Peyraguey 2014 Barrel Sample (Sauternes).
93–95 Château Doisy Daëne 2014 Barrel Sample (Barsac).