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Thursday, 9 April 2015

Private Cellar on Bordeaux 2014

A review of Bordeaux 2014 from Nicola Arcedeckne-Butler MW, Buying Director of Private Cellar

Bordeaux 2014 - the CWB view

A few weeks ago, I attended the Grand Cercle Bordeaux Primeurs in London and concluded that winemaker judgement would be the key factor  in distinguishing the best from the rest. Not all the wines I tasted were good and, without the across-the-board generosity of top years like 2009 and 2010, those that lack balance in their youth will never gain it with age.

The Grand Cercle characterises the vintage as a early developer turned bad pupil who aced the resits - a magnificent vintage miraculously saved; Private Cellar call it "The vintage that nearly wasn't" and also highlight the role of the winemaker in making or breaking the vintage.

The Private Cellar View

More authoritatively, Nicola Arcedeckne-Butler MW, Buying Director of Private Cellar, has this to say:

I don’t think I remember a year when each side of the river was so polarised in its opinion: the Cabernets of the Left Bank are spectacular, ripened to perfection with no pressure on harvest date; ditto the Merlots on the Right.

Yet Merlot on the Left Bank? Disaster, according to some; ditto Cabernets Franc and Sauvignon on the Right. But equally Philippe Dhalluin of Mouton Rothschild described his principal plot of Merlot as its most successful ever result.

But just how good are the wines? The answer is that they are very varied, with some spectacularly good wines on both sides of the river, as well as howlers to be avoided at all costs. Taking the howlers first, these were properties who either believed that they had the ripe succulence of, say, 2009 or 2005, and tried to extract every last tannin until the pips squeaked, or who were not particularly selective about the grapes going into the vats.

They were wrong, these wines were horrid, and in several cases we couldn’t even see their exit strategy, where they might come out on the flavour spectrum in years to come. Some wines also had exaggerated acidity levels, which made it hard to judge whether they would soften in the longer term.

We won’t be offering any of these wines, needless to say, which did not come from any particular region and reflect the cellar management rather than an appellation or the quality of the vintage itself.

And the most successful wines? These have astonishing purity of fruit, are succulent and juicy with lovely, supple tannins and racy balancing acidity. They came from across the region, but, as a sweeping generalisation, St Julien, Pauillac, St Estèphe and Pomerol were very good, with notable successes in Margaux, St Emilion and Pessac-Léognan.

In terms of absolute quality, this is a good to very good vintage which will drink beautifully in the early to mid-plus term. Selection is the key – the role of the winemaker in making or breaking the fruit in 2014 cannot be underestimated, and we had some very pleasant surprises in our long tasting days at the beginning of April.

Without a shadow of a doubt the victor ludorum must go to the white wines of the region, both dry and sweet. These are absolutely stunning and are a must-buy. The two day heatwave in July scorched some Sauvignon Blanc grapes changing their flavour profile, but not the Sémillon and therefore many of the wines have more Sémillon in their blend than normal; all have exquisite freshness, with lovely lemony, grapefruity notes, rich with racy acidity, complex and pure.

The sweet wines are also on the lemony scale – no marmalade or confit oranges this year – with delicious sweetness scarcely noticeable behind the balancing acidity. The dry whites appear drinkable now but will improve for many years to come; the sweet whites are equally, madly, approachable but will make serious old bones.

The final part of the equation, the one that seals the deal on what sort of vintage 2014 is, will come from the Châteaux themselves: pricing. We very much believe, and told the Châteaux as often as we could, that the market is soft for primeurs, given the previous few vintages, and in order to have success they should be keep their prices reasonable, if possible at or below those of the 2013s.

With a better vintage in the bag, they are looking to increase their prices, citing the weakness of the euro as a mitigating factor, whilst buyers are working hard to convince them to retain the loyalty of their customers by keeping prices steady.

We can only hope that the greater quantity produced in 2014 will offset the financial pressure of the small 2013 harvest and that prices will, in the main, be reasonable. As always, at Private Cellar we will only be recommending wines where we believe that the quality and value equation is in balance.

Private Cellar's Bordeaux pages can be found here: http://www.privatecellar.co.uk/page/special-offers/bordeaux-2014-en-primeur

Other related articles
Grand Cercle 2014 Primeurs‏
Bordeaux 2013 reviewed (and not by me)

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