We all know that Cabernet Sauvignon is the king of the Médoc blends, but since 2005, it’s becoming increasingly dominant, leaving Merlot less and less room in the bottle.
It’s not that Merlot isn’t producing results—it’s that Médoc Cab is better for wines designed to age.
“The terroir of Pauillac and the north of the Médoc, that’s Cabernet terroir,” said Charles Chevalier, director of Château Lafite-Rothschild in Pauillac. “Every year we know better how to handle the grape and the terroir, and get great results, so we can use more in the blend.”
Indeed, my ratings from today’s barrel tastings reflect just how successful 2014’s Cabernet Sauvignon is. Saint-Julien’s samples are quietly elegant and balanced, and Pauillac produced blockbusters rich in concentration and tannin, yet light in alcohol (Lafite itself is only 12.5%).
Many en primeur attendees are buzzing about similarities between the 2014 and 2010—a vintage that produced the powerful, structured wines that left an impression on many drinker’s palates and wallets.
“2014 has the same tannins and fruit; it’s just that it misses out on the concentration and intensity,” said Chevalier. “Instead, 2014 has its own freshness and delicious fruit.”
According to chateau owners, they would also like to mirror 2010 on price. The 2010 vintage was the most expensive Bordeaux has ever produced to date. There are still bottles of this highly priced vintage sitting in merchant cellars. Yet that may not stop chateau owners from jacking up the prices to match the 2010s.
Jean-Eugene Borie, whose family owns Château Ducru-Beaucaillou in Saint-Julien, said he’ll likely increase his prices compared to last year.
“I understand the need for a good primeur campaign [the period after the tastings when prices come out and wines are sold], but I have to be realistic. I don’t make the market however much I charge. That’s made after I have sold the wine when it changes hands in the outside world.”
In other words, it’s not his price that’s necessarily high, it’s the final price declared after it lands in the merchant’s hands that’s potentially the problem.
The first of several price releases are likely to start by the end of this week and then continue for a month or so. Chateau owners will start low to test the market, then raise prices as demands increase. It’s an annual game between the producers and the buyers.
The market players are likely to be U.S. and U.K. importers. We’ll hear from them about whether they’ll buy or bow out.
Click through for links to full tasting notes, ratings and reviews. Keep in mind barrel tastings are scored in a three-point range. When released in 2016, the wines are will be tasted again and given for a final score.
Top 10 Wines from Saint-Julien, Pauillac and Saint-Estèphe
97–99 Château Lafite-Rothschild 2014 Barrel Sample (Pauillac).
96–98 Château Cos d’Estournel 2014 Barrel Sample (Saint-Estèphe).
96–98 Château Léoville las Cases 2014 Barrel Sample (Saint-Julien).
96–98 Château Mouton Rothschild 2014 Barrel Sample (Pauillac).
95–97 Château Ducru Beaucaillou 2014 Barrel Sample (Saint-Julien).
95–97 Château Léoville Barton 2014 Barrel Sample (Saint-Julien).
95–97 Château Montrose 2014 Barrel Sample (Saint-Estèphe).
94–96 Château Branaire-Ducru 2014 Barrel Sample (Saint-Julien).
94–96 Château Calon Ségur 2014 Barrel Sample (Saint-Estèphe).
94–96 Château Lynch-Bages 2014 Barrel Sample (Pauillac).