Tag Archives: primeurs

No one wants a great vintage

by Aymeric de Clouet

(This article was originally published in French.)

Every year the Primeurs campaign in Bordeaux is the opportunity for a nuptial parade from the producers in front of critics and journalists. Every year is an opportunity to explain why the vintage is even better than the previous one, which was already fantastic, the opportunity to widen one’s vocabulary in order to express it all. But the truth is, the last thing that producers, journalists and professionals want is a great vintage.

The good old times are past, when people knew how to handle a great wine, cellar it for 30 or 40 years with infinite patience. The times when it did not matter if a wine was completely undrinkable for 10 to 15 years. There are fewer old cellars, because of new buildings, robberies, and lack of finance.

The times are over when a small vintage was an economical nightmare for the producer and a long punishment for the consumer. All grands crus are at least drinkable and the last horrible vintage in Bordeaux dates back to 1992. Even 2007, a wine with little future, can be enjoyed in 2017.

The times are over when producers forced the vineyard to produces huge quantities of red, and with smaller yield came a better quality, steady demand and better margin.

The more you look into it, the more the wine industry is moving towards Champagne’s strategy: the same taste every year, to the utmost joy of restaurants, while even investors and owners are happy, because the speculation and price variations are limited but safe. Even producers are happier with a good vintage rather than a great one: it means steady price increase, instead of up and downs. 2010 was a difficult vintage to sell, to explain, and in the end made a loss for investors, despite the quality. In times of mediocrity, one needs to adapt.

We have to thank our predecessors who made 1928, 1947, 1959 and 1961 that we enjoy so much today, wines with genius instead of wine with skills. And even if I only mentioned reds here, I could say as much about whites, when 1964s are fresher than 2002s.

Value lies in aesthetics, whether it is with food or wine, not in the product quality. Patience lacks, and education, to appreciate great vintages. Will 2005 be the last real one? We can only hope that new trends will help to make great wines again, with the return of concrete vats, the end of overheated casks or excessive macerations, etc. The hope in balance between tannins, acidity and alcohol in wine.

2015: year of the decade, but only because it started in 2011!

12 bordeaux

Unfortunately, my numerous activities did not allow me to spend more than three days tasting the Primeurs, and there are a lot of important wines that I would have liked to taste. Still, I can share some hints about the harvest past and the bottling to come.

Despite difficult conditions with an extra dry summer and a rainy august, everyone seems enthusiastic about the end result. I am not. There are some very good wines, but some failures too. With my five-star ranking system (since I still refuse to score on a hundred point scale and will continue to do so), five meaning exceptional, there is no wine with them. Although Petrus was close.

Without further delay, here are my recommendations:

-Best areas : Graves (Pessac-Léognan) and Saint-Emilion

– Disappointments : Saint-Estèphe and Pauillac

I could not taste the Premiers (including Haut-Brion, Lafite, Latour, Margaux and Mouton) and the “Super-Seconds” which prefer to have tasters at their place. So my selection cannot include them! It is unfortunate that not more châteaux bring their wines to the common tasting, although some still do. So here my selection of my year’s favourites:

Léoville Poyferré
Quinault L’Enclos

And my greatest disappointments:

Les Carmes Haut-Brion

Why those three? Because I love them (usually), and you cannot be disappointed by something you do not like! But I was also not happy about other wines, the list you can find on my spreadsheet.

Nevertheless, it is a very good year in general, and I especially recommend you to buy the following very good value wines:

Gruaud-Larose, Quinault L’Enclos, Lafon-Rochet, Bouscaut (white & red), Olivier (red), La Tour Martillac (white & red), Petit-Village, Dassault, Cap de Mourlin, Balestard-La-Tonnelle, Siran, Dauzac, Brane-Cantenac, Kirwan, Branaire-Ducru, Clerc-Milon.

Domaine de Chevalier and Château Malescot-St-Exupéry, Léoville-Poyferré, Pichon-Lalande, Petrus, Cheval-Blanc are also very good, but the price might be a little bit steeper!

In the end, it is a vintage with exceptionnally smooth tannins, which might combine everyone’s dream: easy to drink in its youth, with a good ageing potential. The right bank is far above the left, with Saint-Emilion outstanding. Go for good prices, avoid gold diggers!






The 2014 vintage in Bordeaux

Bordeaux 2014

The 2014 vintage in Bordeaux : a fair vintage, in the end

This week was held the “En primeurs” tasting in Bordeaux. The general impression is a pleasant one, although not impressive. Tannins are soft, acidity good but not too high, average to good length on the palate, one can say that 2014 is a fine classic Bordeaux vintage.

It all comes down to this : if prices are kept low, it is a good vintage to buy, if not, it will be a disaster for Bordeaux and all players in the industry. The wine does not justify a price increase, it is better than 2011, 2012 and 2013 but those vintages did not sell ! For example, this year, in my rating system, I put no wine with five stars, and only a handful with four.

Basically, as all visitors of the Atlantic coast could see last year, the weather was terrible until august 15. Then : dry & sunny until late october ! therefore the quality went to the late harvesters.

Let us get to business : the right bank was said to have very poor wines, because of the Merlot grape variety, in fact I was rather pleasantly surprised with some very good wines, but not a lot : Ausone stands out, but also Troplong-Mondot, exceptional, and a few others like La Couspaude, Clos Fourtet. Big disappointment with Figeac. The Pomerol are more difficult, but Gazin is excellent and Beauregard impressive.

The left bank, with the Cabernet-Sauvignon, is considered to be more successful this year : it is perfectly true for Saint-Julien, with the best average grades in Médoc, no wine standing out but none left aside ! As for the Pauillac area, with the great Pichon Baron and Pontet Canet (****), and the very good Clerc-Milon and Grand-Puy-Lacoste, it is rather good but not fantastic. Then comes Saint-Estèphe, some very good wines fairly priced (in general): Château de Pez, Les Ormes de Pez, Lafon-Rochet (***) etc… And Margaux, the worst area, few wines worth saving : Brane-Cantenac, Dauzac and the only 3 stars wine, Malescot-St-Exupéry…

Last, this time, the Graves area : whites are ok but some too soft; so I recommend the usual selection : La Louvière, La Tour-Martillac, Olivier. As for the reds, big recommendation on Picque-Caillou (***), a well-priced Pessac with a fantastic terroir. Domaine de Chevalier and La Louvière are good (***), Smith Haut Lafitte and La Tour Martillac rather good (**), Pape-Clément catastrophic.
So, an interesting tasting, good wines which will be easy to drink young, a few very good, not always the most expensive ones ! Go for it if prices are stable.

All ratings and individual comments on http://www.de-clouet.com/blog in French or http://www.fairwines.co.uk/ in English