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Bordeaux En Primeur 2014

The week before Easter saw the planes of British Airways & Easyjet packed with British wine merchants bound for Bordeaux to taste and evaluate the new vintage of both the red and white wines of the region. This is crucial work ahead of the release of the ‘En Primeur’ prices from each Château.

I, along with Clare & Gavin from The Vintner, tasted hundreds of wines from the region at numerous appellation tastings. Below are my thoughts on what to look out for and my favourite, most promising wines of the vintage.

As has been widely reported, the Right Bank appellations are less preferred in 2014 to the Left Bank so we started our tasting in St-Émilion in the hope of finding some Merlot-based diamonds in the rough. Ch. Clos Fourtet, Ch. Pavie Macquin & Ch. Troplong-Mondot stood out for me and whilst Pomerol seems to have had a comparative struggle in relation to other areas, there were some lovely wines to be had, namely, Ch. Beauregard & Ch. Gazin.

Next, we ventured to the very south-west corners of the region. Pessac Leognan had me excited by the quality of both the dry white and red wines – Ch. Pape Clément and Ch. Smith Haut Lafite continue to make truly magical wines. The whites in particular show great power with broad fruit whilst retaining a element of poise and elegance that makes them effortlessly alluring. Ch.Smith Haut Lafite, was a favourite of our Bordeaux virgin, Clare. and a tremendous lunch in the cellars of Smith Haut Lafite ensued – the 2012 Blanc is opening up rather nicely!

smith haut lafite

Opinion in our ranks was divided with regards to the sweet wines of Sauternes in this vintage. Whilst I was excited by the energy and life in lots of these wines, others were left wanting for richness and breadth. The jury is out but I’d be interested in sampling GuiraudDoisy-Védrines & Doisy-Daene over years to come.

A cold lager at the end of a day’s wine tasting is hard to beat but dinner that evening certainly gave it a run for its money. Ch. Mouton Rothschild 1997 was followed by Ch. Léoville Poyferre 2005 & Ch. Climens 1994. A welcome break from 2014.

dinner wines

Up with the lark the next day for a tour of the Left Bank. The architecture and luxurious splendour of the Médoc are unrivalled and a top-notch day was had by all. First, to Margaux, where the wines gave us our first glimpse of the superb quality of Cabernet Sauvignon fruit harvested in 2014. There is great depth and complexity to much of the wines here with a real drive throughout which is encouraging for long-term cellaring. Many of the wines here were very good so singling out a few bottles is perhaps unfair. I’ll do so anyway though! Ch. Brane-Cantenac, Ch. Durfort-Vivens & Ch. Rauzan-Segla win my praise.

Next, a dream experience for all of us on the trip as we tasted the wines of Ch. Margaux  with Paul Pontallier at the property. This is a mecca for all Bordeaux lovers and it was indeed a great privilege.  All three wines; Pavillon Rouge, Pavillon Blanc and Château Margaux were simply outstanding. Of particular interest was another remarkable step up in quality with the Pavillon Blanc. Made from 100% Sauvignon Blanc, we got the impression that Pontallier was particularly proud of this wine and his writing since cements our thoughts as the Château are considering labelling it under the Grand Vin label.

margaux

A brief tasting of a few wines of the Haut-Médoc followed before lunch, which was very much my focus after a couple of hours of Margaux tasting. My favourite? Ch. Poujeaux – a wine that will serve you well. Three courses of classic French fayre set us up for a demanding afternoon and there were boom-shankas all round for the various caffeine addicts on our table.

On next to Pauillac & St-Estèphe. Although these wines are perhaps the most tannic and difficult to approach when young, the level of quality was clear to see. Old favourites such as Ch. Batailley and Ch. Grand-Puy-Lacoste were tasting well whilst Ch. Clerc Milon showed excellent balance and body of fruit.

I feel we left the best until last with our tasting and I find myself agreeing with many in the wine-trade with their opinion that St-Julien is the appellation of the vintage. The wines are consistently excellent here with incredible depth and power yet a very real sense of poise and balance. I found Ch. Beychevelle, Ch. Gruaud Larose and Ch. Léoville Barton to be outstanding wines and certainly worth exploring.

We rounded off a terrific trip with a real blast of a party at Château Gruaud Larose. Vintages served up included 1983, 1988, 1993, 2003 and the icing on the cake? Jeroboams of the 1955. A magical wine and one that, amongst others,  I won’t be forgetting anytime soon.

gruaud larose

Lacoste BorieWhile some people reserve Sunday for worshipping Christ or Morpheus, others of us are hard at work trying to please Bacchus. This Sunday saw a flight of Bordeaux arrive in the shop for a client tasting.  The wine that really stood out was the Lacoste-Borie 2009 – the second wine from the highly-reputable 5th growth Chateau Grand Puy Lacoste. And whilst some wines might buckle under the pressure of coming from such impressive pedigree, this bottle certainly did not disappoint!

The Chateau Grand Puy Lacoste estate is located in Pauillac – the jewel  in the crown of the Médoc (just north of Bordeaux), and home to many famous Chateaux including Lafite-Rothschild, Mouton-Rothschild and Latour. Coming from a chateau on the left-bank of the Gironde, the Lacoste-Borie is a Cabernet Sauvignon dominant blend and boasts a pronounced, perfumed nose with notes of cedar and blackcurrant. With firm yet refined tannins and delicate balance the wine is drinking well now but will easily last for 6-8 years.

Origin: Pauillac – Bordeaux

Dominant Grape: Cabernet Merlot

Alcohol: 13.5%

Drinking window: 2014- 2020

Drink with: Steak, Venison

Price: Around £24