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BORDEAUX :THE 2014 VINTAGE
EN PRIMEUR : TO BUY OR NOT TO BUY, THAT IS THE QUESTION.

On first acquaintance, my tasting of a reasonable cross section of wines from the major districts of Bordeaux in early April of this year has left me with a feeling that, across the board, this is a decent vintage of average quality rather than anything to get overexcited about. It looks superior to its immediate predecessor in 2013 certainly, but any claims at this stage that it should rank with the best vintages of the past 15 years seem exaggerated and should be treated with the scepticism they deserve. The cold drizzly weather in early April this year was not conducive to the wines, or the tasters, being on top form and most of the reds that I tasted were dumb, tight, closed, in need of more time and higher pressure on the barometer. The Pessac-Leognan wines were particularly unrewarding on the day, but further north up in the Haut Medoc there were wines of more obvious promise. The few wines that I tasted on the right bank provided grounds for greater excitement, but those wines were surely superior to the general standard.

My perennial criteria for purchasing ‘en primeur’ require that at least one of the following must be achieved : exceptional quality, very limited availability and the promise of a lower price than is likely to prevail after bottling. The third of these should be the clincher. Having been unconvinced in all vintages since 2005 that there would be a price advantage for the early bird, I have found it easy to resist the temptation to offer a broad selection in recent years, even in the much talked up ripe vintages of 2009 and 2010, and we can find many if not most of the wines from those years available now for rather less than was demanded ‘en primeur’. It is by no means true that so-called great vintages are always to be purchased at the earliest possible moment. I did not buy the excellent 1990’s until about 1994 and they did not cost me any more as a result of my delay.

The perennial exception however remains the wine available to us from Francois Mitjavile, his Tertre Roteboeuf in Saint Emilion and Roc De Cambes in Bourg. In 36 consecutive vintages he has never let us down, even in the vintages regarded as difficult. Indeed it is in such years that the difference in quality between his wines and the rest are at their most obvious. Thus, in a vintage such as 2000 or 2005 when the producer had to be an idiot not to make good wines, his wines tend to stand out less perhaps, because the general standard is so high. It is in vintages such as 1997 that he manages to distance himself more obviously from the field, and I do not mean simply the rank and file estates, but many of the high fliers as well. 2014 can be considered as a tricky vintage, for the weather in August was dreadful and it was only the Indian summer that lasted right into November that allowed for full maturity in the grapes and the prospect of really good wine. Once again Francois Mitjavile rose to the challenge and proved that he can be at his best in the vintages that are most complicated. There is a strong argument for biding one’s time when it comes to buying Bordeaux ‘en primeur’ in general, but there is no argument for doing so when the wines of this man are at stake.
You may very reasonably consider that I am biased, and if you seek a more objective assessment then I refer you to the reviews of two expert authorities, Jancis Robinson MW and Jeannie Cho Lee MW. I hope that their reflections will leave you in no doubt of the superiority of these wines.

“Francois Mitjavile’s wines and vines on the slopes of St Emilion are always exceptionally ripe but his Tertre Roteboeuf 2014 was his latest-picked ever. He was the only proprietor to let me choose which barrel to taste from.”
Jancis Robinson MW FT.COM Magazine April 18th 2014

And on her own website she states

“All other wines offered were prepared samples…..and only the producers know exactly how they were prepared.”

Jancis has given Tertre Roteboeuf a higher score (Exceptional 18/20) than any other wine in St Emilion, and that includes Ausone and Cheval Blanc.

“The most impressive was Tertre Roteboeuf. In this vintage, if I had to pick one wine that stood out in Saint-Émilion, it was this wine. Tertre Roteboeuf is a glorious wine with great depth and elegance, power as well as finesse and a very long finish. Owner Francois Mitjavile says this was the latest harvest he could remember.”

Jeannie Cho Lee MW Le Pan Magazine April 2014

TERTRE ROTEBOEUF Saint Emilion 2014 VINTAGE
In Bond UK £575 per case of 6 bottles
£585 per case of 3 magnums
£405 per double magnum

The harvest here took place on October 15th, only a day later than 2013, but around a fortnight later perhaps than the average over the past three decades. The colour shows remarkable density and concentration for a cool late harvest and the natural alcohol is generous as usual. The tannins have good grip without harshness, the result of a gentle degradation during the late autumnal maturation. The character of the fruit is tender, gentle, elegant and concentrated, yet retaining that essential freshness.


ROC DE CAMBES Cotes de Bourg
In Bond UK £198.00 per case of 6 bottles
£208.00 per case of 3 magnums
£150.00 per double magnum

The freshness is even more obvious in this wine, reflecting a microclimate that is a degree cooler in average temperature thanks to the greater proximity to the estuary and the ocean. That cool character helps to show the fruit to great advantage. There is a beautiful, bright ruby colour in the glass, a visual promise of the pleasures to come on the palate and this wine will surely reward the drinker as generously as that from far more famous and expensive appellations. If I was only allowed to buy one wine from the whole of Bordeaux in the 2014 Vintage, it would probably be this.


DOMAINE DE CAMBES Bordeaux
In Bond UK £265.00 per case of 12 bottles
£275.00 per case of 6 magnums
£275.00 per case of 3 double magnums

As ever, this provides the bargain buy for those who want a taste of the the Mitjavile genius for a modest outlay. A good wine to buy in magnums and double magnums, as well as normal bottles, I suggest.


CHATEAU GUILLOT CLAUZEL, Pomerol
In Bond UK £255.00 per case of 12 bottles
This wine also meets all of my criteria for ‘en primeur’ purchasing. The production is extremely small as there are less than 2 hectares of vineyard in current production with 80% of the wine coming from merlot grapes and 20% from cabernet franc. The aim here is always to try and pick with optimum freshness in mind, It is not easy to find Pomerol as good as this at such a fair price and this remains for the present a property that has stayed somewhat below the radar and thus continues to offer an excellent price/quality ratio. The price of Le Pin, its immediate neighbour, is over 30 times higher.
As Neal Martin, author of the definitive work on Pomerol, states, Guillot Clauzel is ‘a name to keep an eye on’. We have bought the last eight vintages without disappointment!


DOMAINE DE L’ALLIANCE, Sauternes
In Bond UK £105.00 per case of 6 x 50cl bottles
Sauternes enjoyed an excellent vintage in 2014 and Daniel Alibrand has again produced wine that will rival the best. In my blind tastings of all the top two dozen or so wines from Sauternes in recent vintages, his wine has emerged at the top of what we might call the second division, in which we would include such excellent wines as Nairac and Doisy Daene, and it would therefore look far from stupid in a line up from the first division, with such as Suduiraut and Yquem.
As usual, I tasted every single cask in the cellar - there are but few - so we can be completely confident of the quality of the final blend in the knowledge that nothing substandard will have surreptiously slipped in.
Still largely unknown in the market, L’Alliance is a new star in the Sauternes firmament and one that is available at as a sweet a price as the wine itself.

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