2014 Bordeaux Gets Early Thumbs-Up

The 2014 vintage in Bordeaux looked promising as it was coming off the vine last fall, and that promise is being re-confirmed during early blending in the cellar, one prominent Margaux wine figure reports.

Emmanuel Cruse, owner of Château d'Issan and President of the Grand Conseil du Vin de Bordeaux, said during a large vertical tasting of d'Issan wines just outside New York City on Saturday evening that the vintage was "very good, though not outstanding." That said, Cruse continued, "I personally think that 2014 is better than 2012, 2013, 2011, 2008, 2007, 2004, 2003, 2002, 2001." That places 2014 in very good company indeed with the 2009, 2008, 2006, 2005, and 2000 vintages in what has been a very auspicious beginning to the century for the world's best-known wine region.

Cruse's comments come at the penultimate moment in Bordeaux' annual springtime marketing folly known as the "en primeur campaign." During the first three months of the new year, Bordeaux châteaux make preliminary blends of their wines to offer for a weeklong trade and media tasting in early April. Based on the reception the wines get, plus their recent history of pricing and inventory, these producers set their individual sales prices for before the wine is finished and bottled, in a process called "futures."

"My neighbor Paul Pontallier [managing director of Château Margaux] says that the 2014 reminds him of the 1996, but with better merlot," Cruse reports. Margaux appellation wineries tend to plant more merlot than elsewhere in the cabernet sauvignon-dominant Medoc region, but Cruse says he will have his highest percentage of cabernet — about 80 percent — in d'Issan wines in recent memory. Cruse also reports that yields were also good in 2014 — about 44 hectoliters per hectare, considerably more than the 27 hectoliters in 2013 and the 35 each in 2012 and 2011.

"Regarding the price, I think that each château will have its own policy regarding the past campaigns, stocks, etc.," Cruse says, "but I also think that for those who have had reasonable price up until now, the 2014, as it is better than 2013, needs to be slightly higher than 2013. But, to be honest, it is a bit early to speak about prices."

Not so for the British wine merchants, who have often taken a grandmotherly interest in Bordeaux and are wont to scold it annually for its prices. They have recently written an open letter to Bordeaux producers, imploring them to keep 2014 futures prices reasonable. The merchants have also often faulted American wine critic Robert Parker for, in their view, inflating Bordeaux prices with his often-early praises before prices have been set.

"The English see Parker as no longer being there, so they want to again take up their former leadership," Cruse noted, regarding the open letter.