You have to be a real expert to project how the wines will finally drink in the years to come since in most cases the wines at the “primeurs” are unformed and unfinished. Karin Maxwell is just such an expert having owned and operated a wine importing company for over 15 years before turning her attention to Bordeaux vineyards for sale in recent years.
The Vineyards-Bordeaux vineyard specialist team (Karin Maxwell, Michael Baynes and Li Lijuan) ventured out last week to sample some of the “en primeur “tastings around the right bank region of Bordeaux vineyards.
John Stumpfig writing in Decanter.com said “That, of course, depends on who you talk to and which part of Bordeaux is under discussion. For the Sauternais, 2011 was a wonderful vintage. But many winemakers there argue Bordeaux 2014 is even better. Perhaps even on a par with 2001. The problem in 2014 is not quality but quantity.”
2014 was a year that gave the wine growers cause for concern with a wet spring and a cool summer. Although better for the Cabernet grape varietals, the weather last year would not be considered ideal for the most common grape varieties in Bordeaux such as Merlot. It was the fabulous “Indian summer” which brought both warmth and lots of sunshine that saved the vintage and which has underwritten the confidence that the 2014 will be a fine if not good vintage across the Bordeaux region.
According to Chris Mercer writing in Decanter.com last week “success on the Right Bank in the Bordeaux 2014 vintage depended on a vineyard’s specific soil type and an estate’s attention to detail ahead of harvest amid a cool and rainy summer.”
James Lawther MW being quoted in Decanter.com added that “it doesn’t mean that there aren’t some decent wines, but it’s a little bit more of an up and down vintage on the Right Bank.” He went on to say that “The limestone plateau in St Emilion probably helped a lot. What you didn’t want was to have too much of the sandy silty soils. There are some very good wines but they tend to be on the best sites. In Pomerol it’s on the plateau, 30m above everything else, which is not a great height but it probably made the difference this year.”
Frederic Engerer the managing director of Chateau Latour (owned by Francois Pinault, the owner of Christie’s also) said “2014 is good but not in the same league as 2010.” Engerer has made some incredible wines at Latour which of course won’t be available to buy for some time due to the way that the Chateau distributes its wine these days.
Our other (Bordeaux) Christie’s colleague Bill Blatch presented a video on his Bordeaux Gold (wwwBordeauxgold.com) blog heralding 2014 Sauternes as one of the best vintages in memory. From his point of view the climate of 2014 was perfect for white grapes since the cool summer created more acidity while the warm autumn brought lots of ripeness and sugar before harvest. Bill has been a great supporter of Sauternes for many years and certainly from our point of view as we consider the Sauternes vineyard market it seems very good value for money these days. We have speculated that with a great vintage such as this 2014 perhaps Sauternes will return from its slump in the way that the wider Bordeaux region did for reds in 2009/2010. There is no reason why it should not, the wines are fabulous and with the Chinese increasingly interested in sweet wine, there seems every reason to believe that it will return to being a Bordeaux favourite again as it has been in years past.
We felt that Stephanie de Bouard at Chateau Angelus (Michael Baynes pictured here in her barrel cellar) summed the vintage up best for the red wines. With the climate giving what it did earlier in the year she was fearful of another 2013 vintage. She said however “…by October, I felt we could make something great from this vintage. The result is nice delicate wine with good fruit, freshness, structure and density. It’s not a blockbuster like nine and ten. On the right bank, the closest I can compare it to is 98 and 2001.