Bordeaux En Primeur 2014 Tasting Trip

Bordeaux En Primeur at the UGC Tasting  March 30th-2nd April

Philip and I (Charlie) travelled to Bordeaux for 4 days of tasting on Monday 30th March. There was a determined air within the British Wine Trade to `STRONGLY ENCOURAGE’ the Bordeaux Chateau owners to price this vintage correctly, unlike the previous five vintages!

Monday 30th March

The first appointment on leaving Bordeaux on a grey Monday afternoon was with Paul Valade and his son Cedric at Chateau Brisson. The Valade Family have been consistent in producing excellent price/quality wines since 1979 and it was reassuring to see how Paul  has now handed over the reins to his talented son, Cedric.

Two years ago Cedric acquired 3 hectares of vines in the Saint Emilion Grand Cru appellation  on upper plateaux east of Saint Emilion and neighbouring the highly respected vineyards of Chateau Barde Haut. It has been a slow process but they have now completed the exquisite tasting room where we were able to taste their full range of wines.They will complete the new `Chai’ later this year and will then boast a modern `state of the art’ winery. The magnificent views from their house are enviable.

The two wines from this Chateau which are offered from the vines in Saint Emilion are Chateau VALADE   and  L’ETENDARD  de Chateau Valade. Both receiving GOLD MEDALS in recent Concours de Bordeaux tastings.

 There were 14 wines in total from different vintages to taste from :-

Chateau Brisson – Cotes de Castillon
Chateau Le Plantey – Cotes de Castillon
Chateau Valade –  St. Emilion Grand Cru
Chateau l’Entendard – St. Emilion Grand Cru 

The focus was on the 2014’s however it was a pleasure to taste back vintages from the 2007-2014 period.  Our prognosis is that the 2014 Chateau Brisson and Chateau Valade seriously merit attention. They will remain open and pleasurable for the first 2 years before closing down for the next 5-6 years. Patience being a virtue!

The general characteristics of the 2014 vintage are of  forward velvety red and black fruit attack balanced with healthy (not astringent) acidity and freshness. Very well crafted wines with terrific balance. On finishing our tasting we were treated to the first supper to be held in the new house with older vintages enjoyed, including a Magnum of  1994 Chateau Brisson which really showed well. Very classy indeed.  An impressive tasting !

En Primeur has arrived and a brilliant way to start off. We firmly believe Paul & Cedric Valade are really on a roll and have been making reliably consistent, balanced and  polished wines for over two decades. It is reassuring to see Cedric continuing the accomplished mantel set by his father. GREAT VALUE wines which will hold their own in any Cru Classes tastings.

Tuesday 31st March

Bright eyed and bushy tailed we headed for an early start in the Medoc and to one of St. Julien’s quite brilliant Estates, Chateau Leoville Poyferre which was hosting the Saint Julien appellation tasting at the Union des Grands Crus:  Chateaux tasted included : –

Beychevelle – 4th Growth
Branaire Ducru – 4th Growth
Gloria – Cru Bourgeois
Saint Pierre – 4th Growth
Gruaud Larose – 2th Growth
Lagrange – 3th  Growth
Langoa Barton – 3th Growth
Leoville Barton – 2nd Growth
Leoville Poyferre – 2th Growth
Talbot – 4th Growth

The outstanding Estates were Leoville Poyferre , Leoville Barton and Langoa Barton and Saint Pierre where the latter has been hugely improved since the 2005 vintage. These wines contained an element of focus and precision that some others slightly lacked.

Cellar at Leoville Poyferre  Upon tasting these 10 wines we were treated to an open lunch with other        professionals in the the international wine trade, where we had the privilege of    tasting Chateau Leoville Poyferre 2005 & 2007. I must confess the 2005 is    mightily impressive. To anyone who has any of the 2005 if you can hold a little  longer this will flourish into a great wine whereas the 2007 is much softer and is  reaching good maturity now. Before these two we tasted the Moulin Riche  (previous 2nd wine of Leoville Poyferre) from the 2009 vintage. A vintage  renown for intense fruit concentration and still showing in a very youthful  manner. Remarkable really for this `lesser ‘ wine.

 

Following on from our visit at Leoville Poyferre we headed to Pauillac & Chateau Lynch Moussas. Situated close to Chateau Lynch Bages, this Estate has not had a huge following in the UK but was host to Union des Grands Crus for the wines from St. Estephe & Pauillac . Pauillac has not performed to the level we have been used since 2010 this was a particularly interesting tasting session which will be of interest to many of our clients.

From St. Estephe we tasted the following:

Lafon Rochet – 4th Growth St. Estephe
Les Ormes de Pez – Cru Bourgeois St. Estephe
De Pez – Cru Bourgeois St. Estephe
Phelan Segur – Cru Bourgeois St. Estephe

Les Ormes de Pez and Pez given their usual price point were of particular attraction showing good fruit structure and length.

Then a somewhat more distinguished selection of Pauillac’s :-

D’Armailhac – 5th Growth Pauillac
Batailley – 5th Growth Pauillac
Clerc Milon – 5th Growth Pauillac
Grand Puy Ducasse – 5th Growth Pauillac
Haut Bages Liberal – 5th Growth Pauillac
Lynch Bages – 5th Growth Pauillac
Lynch Moussas – 5th Growth Pauillac
Pichon Baron Longueville – 2nf Growth Pauillac

The best were Pichon Baron Longueville which we are expecting all critics to score very well and which, we hope, will be priced quite fairly. I cannot emphasise enough how polished this wine was with everlasting freshness and good structure.

Chateau Grand Puy Lacoste was also impressive and our thanks go to Emiline for her warm reception. Further down the pecking order Chateau Haut Bages Liberal & Grand Puy Ducasse impressed us and which should be at a more competitive price points than the top two chateau. Chateau Lynch Bages was as ever enjoyable but lacked a dimension that Pichon Baron contained. In all Pauillac did deliver pretty well.

On leaving Leoville Poyferre we journeyed the short distance to our next appointment in  Pauillac at Chateau Lafite Rothschild. This 1st Growth Estate was conducted in almost pure silence.  There is a consensus that when Bordeaux produces good vintages so does Lafite, so we were expecting high things indeed.

We tasted the following:

Carruades de Lafite – 2nd wine of Lafite Rothschild Pauillac
Duhart Milon – 5th Growth Pauillac
Lafite Rothschild – 1st Growth Pauillac

There was no doubt that Carruades de Lafite was very sophisticated encompassing some of Lafite’s trade mark flavours of pure cassis and cedar wood. The finish was distinguished. My only concern is that this needs to be in the realm of £900 or less (?) to show any value. The 2014 Chateau Duhart Milon is very much back to its best. Clearly not on the chart of 2009 & 2010 but then what is from 2014. Philip and I were equally impressed with this and are optimistic on a good release price from the Chateaux. An Estate that the Rothschild Family are keen to improve still further. Its main feature was the intensity of the black fruit , integrated tannins and long, fresh length. Finally tried the first wine, Chateau Lafite Rothschild which contained a beautiful dark/purple colour on appearance. A delicate structure with underlining elegance that opens up to another level of minerality. My overall view was that Lafite  was very refined and subtle with great precision and I found it compelling. Lafite Rothschild will no doubt be in strong demand.

Before our day drew to an end we visited a Bordeaux Negociants warehouse where we had an opportunity to taste an extensive selection of wines.. They were the following:

Domaine de Chevalier – Pessac Leognan
Pape Clement – Pessac Leognan
Tour St. Bonnet – Cru Bourgeois Medoc
Potensac – Cru Bourgeois Medoc
Beaumont – Cru Bourgeois Medoc
Latour Carnet – 3rd Growth Haut Medoc
Lanessan Cru Bourgeois Medoc
Sociando Mallet – Cru Bourgeois Medoc
Poujeaux – Cru Bourgeois Medoc
Bernadotte – Cru Bourgeois Medoc
Brane Cantenac – 3rd Growth Margaux
Du Tertre  – 5th Growth Margaux
Giscours – 2nd Growth Margaux
Malescot S. Exupery – 3rd Growth Margaux
Rauzan Segla – 2nd Growth Margaux
Lascombes – 2nd Growth Margaux
Capbern Gasqueton – Cru Bourgeois St. Estephe
Clos de Sarpe – St. Emilion Grand Cru
Talbot Blanc – Caillou Blanc – Graves
Coutet – 1st Growth Barsac
Dosiy Vedrines – 2nd Growth Barsac
Guiraud – 1st Growth Sauternes
Dosiy Daene – 2nd Growth Barsac

With 21 wines to taste in less than 2 hours it presented quite a challenge to remain focused. With a considerable selection of Cru Bourgeois , this tasting allowed us to taste perhaps the best value of 2014 En Primeur. There was a consistent structure and finesse in both Tour St Bonnet & Lanessan that should bode well. We await the pricing with interest.  Sociando Mallet & Poujeaux at this level were also very impressive.

From Margaux I thought Chateau Du Tertre delivered and should be respected although not quite on the par with Rauzan Segla. On the few selection of Sauternes we tasted, Chateau Coutet showed more freshness than others, with enticing acidity and definitely one to watch out for. Under that I am always impressed with Doisy Vedrines that contains very lushious sweet fruits with bags of exotic nectar flavours and is considerably cheaper than the former.

Wednesday 1st April

We set of early on Wednesday for Pomerol with first appointment at 9:00 with Jacques Thienpont owner of Le Pin and without doubt one of the famous Estates of Bordeaux. Jacques was in a buoyant mood and was delighted with his 2014’s even if Production was still not as high as he would have liked. We kicked off with L’if  from Saint Emilion  which Jacques is producing for only the second time. It will be desperately difficult to acquire! It has already created huge interest around the globe  and you can see why. It has a delicate bouquet withsoft red fruits contained with discreet minerality and fragrance . A breath of fresh air! Keep an eye out for L’if. Next up,  Le Pin  which was not discreet in the slightest. An abundance of rich red fruits whilst offering a very silky and pure texture. Precision, length and balance with undisputed elegance.

On leaving Pomerol we headed directly to the Union des Grands Crus tasting at Chateau Petit Village and tasted seven wines :-

Petit Village – Pomerol
Gazin – Pomerol
Croix de Gay – Pomerol
Clinet – Pomerol
La Cabanne – Pomerol
Le Bon Pasteur – Pomerol
Beauregard – Pomerol

To a great surprise all seven were hugely promising with the best being Chateau Clinet, Gazin & Beauregard. Clinet 2014 is really promising and particularly polished (a point to note is that it tasted even better at the Chateau). Watch out for Chateau Beauregard which should be extremely well priced as it’s not usually one of the stand out wines in Pomerol.

On to Saint Emilion, a `petit’  tasting for smaller Estates on both sides on the river. These included the following:

Feytit Client – Pomerol
Cote Monpezat – Cotes de Castillon
Penin – Bordeaux Supperieur
Hostens Picat – Cotes de Bordeaux
Mont Perat – Cotes de Bordeaux
La Fleur de Bouard – La Lande de Pomerol
De Viaud –La Lande de Pomerol
La Sergue – La Lande de Pomerol
Godeau – St. Emilion Grand Cru
De Chambrun  – La Lande de Pomerol
Clos l’eglise – Cotes de Castillon
Barde Haut – St.Emilion Grand Cru
Clos La Madeleine – St. Emilion Grand Cru
Ampelia – Cotes de Bordeaux
Corbin Despagne – St. Emilion Grand Cru

Many contrasting wines here with varying successes and failures. In Chateau Godeau we were very interested to see how this wine will show under the new ownership of the family who sold Chateau Calon Segur in 2012.  Godeau had before appealed to a very dominant North America market in its style but has now completely changed to a more conservative style of more freshness with good levels of fruit. This was impressive as was Clos l’Eglise & Barde Haut. If you are looking for real value then  La Fleur de Bouard,   de Chambrun & Grand Corbin d’Espagne and Ampelia are worth noting.

As the morning swiftly moved on we headed to our next Union des Grands Crus tasting at Clos Fourtet where we tasted the following:

Canon La Gaffelliere – St.Emilion Grand Cru Classe (B)
La Couspaude – St.Emilion Grand Cru Classe
D’Assault – St.Emilion Grand Cru Classe
La Dominique – St.Emilion Grand Cru Classe
Clos Fourtet –  St.Emilion Grand Cru Classe (B)
La Gaffelliere – St.Emilion Grand Cru Classe (B)
Grand Mayne – St. Emilion Grand Cru Classe
Berliquet – St. Emilion Grand Cru Classe
Pavie Macquin – St.Emilion Grand Cru Classe (B)
Latour Figeac – St. Emilion Grand Cru
Troplong Mondot – St.Emilion Grand Cru Classe (B)

As you would expect with a line up of this calibre there was plenty to choose from that impressed. From lower down the pecking order I have always been a huge admirer of La Dominique. A tiny Estate that has worked tirelessly and has recently been upgraded to St. Emilion Grand Cru Classe. Since 2005 they have produced fantastic wines and I’m happy to say 2014 is no different. Latour Figeac too which holds 2 of the biggest names throughout the region has crafted  a refined and fine example of perfect St. Emilion. Chateau Canon La Gaffeliere & especially Troplong Mondot really showed their ultimate class. With incredibly smooth tannins and the latter being very muscular and refined. Clos Fourtet & Pavie Macquin though are not to be discounted also looked promising.

From Clos Fourtet we moved onto one of St. Emilion’s greatest Estates at Chateau L’Angelus. Anyone who is familiar who with label of Angelus will recall the great bells which is very evident on the top of the Chateau and really gleams in front of you. On entering the long tasting room this was clearly one of the busiest tastings of the week. Where we had on show the following wines:

Bernadotte – Haut Medoc Cru Bourgeois
Meyney – St. Estephe Cru Bourgeois
Siran – Margaux Bordeaux Supperieur
Angelus – St. Emilion Grand Cru Classe (A)
Carillon de Angelus – 2nd wine of Ch. Angelus – St. Emilion
Bellevue – St.Emilion Grand Cru Classe
Commanderie – St.Emilion Grand Cru Classe
Daugay – St. Emilion Grand Cru
Haut Sarpe – St. Emilion Grand Cru
Lamothe Bergeron – Haut Medoc Cru Bourgeois
La Pointe – Pomerol

Chateau L'AngelusQuite clearly and as it should be Angelus was quite breath taking. Possibly the finest wine of the vintage from the wines that I tasted, very much on a par with Le Pin and maybe even greater. Angelus contained a great purity and length finishing with a great silkiness touch. Other promising St. Emilion’s were Bellevue which was refined but delicate and a relatively new Estate to  the UK Market that lies to next to Angelus called Daugay. Whilst this is only a St. Emilion Grand Cru we were very impressed with its high overall quality that had real freshness and refined finish. Keep an eye out on this one. Haut Sarpe was also impressive.

Our final visit of the day was an early evening visit to Northen Medoc to Listrac and visit Chateau Fourcas Hosten which of late has improved dramatically.Our goal here was to find a Cru Bourgeois that our clients could acquire at a very decent price for immediate drinking. We tried 2006,2007,2008,2009 & 2010. The 2009 & 2010 were highly impressive and although the 2010 will need a little more time, it really has that touch of class that we were searching for.

Thursday 2nd April

On our last morning in Bordeaux we headed to Pomerol to Chateau Clinet which in recent years has been run by Ronan Laborde and his wife Monique. It is here where their third wine Ronan de Clinet originates from of which they are very proud. But we were there to taste la Fleur de Clinet & Chateau Clinet. The former until recently has acted as Client’s very proud 2nd wine however due to its unbelievable success, La Fleur de Clinet now has its own vineyard and operates under its own label. A tiny production of just 60,000 bottles. This appeared very round with rich tannins present and contained exotic aromas that in time will develop very nicely indeed and is always a reasonable price. Chateau Clinet itself was much more pronounced than when we tasted at the UGC tasting. Very complex with an overriding back bone of healthy acidity that was clear from the outset. A wine of great expression and passion. Very impressive and certain to be very popular. We then left Pomerol and headed to the airport exhausted after four days of tasting.

Having undoubtedly tasted some very good to excellent wines we await the pricing from the chateaux.

IF this vintage is correctly priced, there are a several chateaux we would highly recommend to purchase En Primeur. The vintage is not as good as the great 2005, 2009 and 2010 but in general, it is an attractive vintage with a combination of lovely fruit in harmony with freshness.

Charlie Villers