En Primeur Roundup - Lafite Rothschild the Leader of the Pack
With virtually all releases complete, it’s worth taking a look back over the 2014 En Primeur campaign to summarise our thoughts and give you advice with the benefit of hindsight...
One would have to conclude that overall, the campaign has been a disappointing one from a price point of view. Despite our constant, comprehensive attempts (along with the rest of the UK trade) to convince the Chateaux to reduce prices from the very underwhelming 2013 campaign, this happy reality did not materialise. As Decanter’s Jane Anson pointed out in a recent article, only 19% of Chateaux reduced their prices and 17% kept them the same. Given that the most comparable physical vintage, 2008, was extremely well-priced on release, this meant that there were many delicious wines in 2014 which we were unable to truly recommend.
That’s not to say that a price drop was a pre-requisite for a BI recommendation: some of the wines were just plain brilliant and were therefore worth consideration even if they sat rather closer to, or even slightly above, their 2013 and 2008 counterparts. The below wines either achieved the ideal balance of quality and price and subsequently sold well – or simply made such a strong case for themselves qualitatively that they could not be ignored.
The First Growths
The First Growths were all well priced – in fact, both the Grand Vins and Second wines were cheaper than any available physical vintage, the first rule of success in the 2014 campaign. Moreover they were beautiful wines which undoubtedly have a place in the finest cellars. It is the best vintage since 2010, without doubt, but more classical in style and akin to the 1996 or 1985 vintage. Now wouldn’t you like to have more of those in your cellar...?
Haut Brion was an excellent wine which achieved some very fine scores and at £2350 it’s a decent buy – the cheapest available vintages are the undoubtedly inferior 2002 (£2500) and 2007 (£2480).
Perhaps more compelling was Margaux, the original allocation of which sold out very quickly at £2350. We now have stock available at £2600, still £200 cheaper than the 2004, 2008 and 2012. This was a fabulously elegant, poised and structured Margaux which boasted a full 90% of the wonderful late-ripened Cabernet – well worth consideration for the cellar.
Mouton Rothschild was the first of the Firsts to release and boy did they get it right both in the bottle and on the release – in timing and price. We sold out very quickly at £2350 and now have a smattering available at £2600; with the natural comparison of 2008 at £3125 and the cheapest physical (2011) at £2875, this is a very smart buy and given the quality of the wine, definitely something you want in your collection.
Spotlight on Lafite Rothschild
The overall winner is probably the 2014 Lafite Rothschild. With 94-96 from Neal Martin and 97-98 from James Suckling (not to mention 95-97 from our own tasting team), there is no doubting the quality of the 2014 Lafite Rothschild wine – however it was the price that really set the tongues wagging. The cheapest physical vintage is the 2011 at £3700; a comparable vintage, say 2004, 2006 or 2008, will set you back at least £1500 more. There is still a little stock available at £2950. Nobody will regret having this wine in their cellar.
Not technically a First, but treated and venerated in the same way, La Mission was perhaps one of the more aggressively priced 2014s but such as the quality versus its (almost) peers in the true First category, it still looks a good buy at £1420.
This sold out first at £575 then again at £595 and it’s not hard to see why: the quality was excellent and at 30% below the comparable 2006 and 2008, it was the first ‘no-brainer’ of the campaign. Sadly there is none left but we will keep hunting...
Les Ormes de Pez
From the same stable as Lynch Bages, this is a fabulous buy at just £160. St Estephe was a wonder from top to bottom producing wines of great power and elegance and the fine vineyards of Ormes de Pez, less than half a mile west of Calon Segur, produced a succulent, intense wine with the structure to keep improving for at least a decade and drink well for many years after.
One of the wines of the vintage, this magical effort from Nicolas Glumineau’s team lit up an early tasting on a grey day. At almost 15% below the 94NM 2008 and over 20% below the 93+NM 2006, the 2014 at £625 is a very smart price indeed for what is a truly exceptional wine.
Another sold out effort (unsurprisingly given the miniscule production) Lafleur 2014 was perhaps the Right Bank wine of the vintage. With Cabernet Franc making up more than half of the Lafleur blend in 2014, it's perhaps no surprise that the wine was such a success; the critics were effusive in their praise at even at £1740 per 6 we could have sold out many times over.
One of the finest and most distinctive wines of 2014, Pontet Canet was priced relatively high compared to previous years; but sometimes you simply have to take a wine on its merits and when asked the question ‘Is £648 a fair price to pay to have this wine in your cellar?’ our answer was an emphatic ‘YES’. Neal Martin said it best when he stated “This Pontet-Canet is couched in joie-de-vivre”
We were all taken aback by the price Montrose released at, but our amazement was only matched by the quality of the wine. This was surely the closest to the 2010 that any Chateau reached – it really was that good – and even at £850 demand was significant. If you simply want the best wines from any given year in your cellar, and especially considering it is under 35% of the price of the First Growths, then Montrose had to be on your list.
Figeac has been one of the stories of Bordeaux over the past few years. Winemaker Frederic Faye is a staunch defender of the Figeac style, unusual in St Emilion for its high proportions of Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc; the results in 2014 are fantastic, balancing the ripe red fruits of St Emilion with the aromatics, structure and classicism of the two Cabernets. At £575 it was well priced, below both the undoubtedly inferior 2006 and 2008.
Grand Puy Lacoste
Very few wines in this vintage will express both the glorious juiciness of the late-ripening Cabernet Sauvignon and the magical gravelly, graphite minerality of its vineyards with quite such panache and elegance. Matthew Jukes placed it joint second in the whole vintage, scoring it level with the First Growths (Latour excepted) – no mean feat for a wine available at just £375.
Cantermerle is of the most consistently excellent, great value drinking wines which has undoubtedly benefited from investment and the experiences gained over the past 5 vintages. It regularly punches above its weight, and the 2014 is a claret of density and precision - at just £175 per case, you'll never regret owning a case or two of this from its birth.
You can find full details of all the wines we’ve offered at our En Primeur microsite here – otherwise if you want to discuss or find out more, simply contact your sales person or email [email protected]