Ever wanted to buy Bordeaux, but not sure where to start?

The 2017 vintage is about to be sold En Primeur, which is a great way to start your collection. We have put together an introduction to En Primeur which can be found here. This introduction and our knowledge will not only ensure you the best Bordeaux in your cellar, you can purchase with complete confidence from Glengarry.

Glengarry have sold fine wines via the En Primeur system since 1983; our first offering was in fact the super 1982 vintage, an auspicious starting point.  Selling En Primeur certainly went hand-in-hand with the importation of wine into New Zealand, but it was not until the early 1980s that wine could legitimately enter New Zealand from elsewhere. Glengarry was the first to get involved with selecting fine wines from around the world and bringing that world to the palates of New Zealanders.

With our longstanding relationships and our experience honed over 30-odd years, we are old hands at this, and once again we made the commitment to ensure you the best service and advice, I will be in Bordeaux to taste the 2017 vintage next week . Follow me on Twitter (@lizziewine) or our Facebook and this blog.

We have a dedicated En Primeur website – www.enprimeur.co.nz. Register there to get regular updates, offers and information. Once registered you can also prepare a wish list of wines you are interested in.

The New Traditional: Orange and Pet-Nat Wines, and Gluten-Free Beers

Orange Wines

Normally with white wine, the juice is immediately pressed from the grapes and the skins discarded. They can, though, be made in exactly the same way as red wines, keeping the juice in contact with the skins. This is how orange wines are made. Their origin lies in the classic wines of Georgia, and in Italy’s Fruili region, where fermentation and extended maceration on the skins creates a unique character. Orange wines acquire a deep hue and have a phenolic grip to them, with additional tannins derived from the skin contact. They often exhibit a dry, austere nature, and tend to partner very well with food.

We recommend:

GLENGARRY WINES MILLTON
Millton

Pet-Nat Wines

Short for pétillant-naturel, aka méthode ancestrale. A traditional method of making sparkling wine that is, in fact, the world’s most ancient. The wine is bottled before the primary fermentation is finished, delivering a lower pressure, lightly sparkling wine in the pétillant style. The wine is finished without the addition of secondary yeasts or sugars. Pét-nat wines can manifest as cloudy, unfiltered and capped with a crown seal, and they can be white, rosé or red in colour. They are a rare item in New Zealand, and don’t have a particularly long shelf life. Tip: do not leave them in the boot of your car in the heat of summer.

We recommend:

GLENGARRY WINES FRAMINGHAM
Andrew Hedley

Gluten-Free Beers

Wine, sherry, port and cider are all made from fruit and don’t contain gluten, while gin, brandy, rum and tequila are made from gluten-free ingredients. There is debate as to whether a tiny amount remains in vodka, bourbon and whisky, however, most research concludes that any gluten is removed through the extensive distillation process. If unsure, select vodka made from potatoes, corn or grapes and avoid single-distilled spirits and those made from wheat, barley or rye. All beers are produced using varying quantities of barley or wheat malt. Those claiming ‘gluten removed’ require investigation. So we did.

We recommend:

GLENGARRY WINES KERERU
Kereru

Read more from our March Wineletter here

Chilean Fine Wine

The history of the Chilean wine industry does remind me a little of our own and, in fact, I do ponder whether Chilean wine recognition is set to grow beyond expectations in the not so distant future. This is certainly what drove me to visit in February, and to say I was excited with what I saw is an understatement. My visit did also highlight for me one of the biggest challenges that Chilean wine has to overcome; that being the perception of Chilean wine, particularly Chilean Fine Wine. In discussing with friends where I was heading, the most common response was, ‘there’s great value wine made in Chile’, which there certainly is, but what has me excited are the fine wines, the diversity of grape varieties being grown there and the focus on microclimates. Chile is a very long country with an extensive range of climates. Historically it was the central Maipo where most of the attention was focused. There’s still great wines coming from there, as there should be; without phylloxera, Chile has some exceptionally old vines. The viticultural extremes in the south, north and at altitude are now being explored and championed, which adds many dimensions to Chilean wine.

Viñedo Errázuriz barrel hall

Two of the most iconic Chilean Fine Wines are Almaviva and Seña, wines that we have just recently landed in New Zealand. Almaviva was launched in 1998, a joint venture between Baroness Philippine de Rothschild and Don Eduardo Guilisasti Tagle, Chairman of Viña Concha y Toro. The grapes are grown in the Puente Alto sub region of Maipo, which over 20 years ago now was acknowledged for its ability to produce world class Cabernet Sauvignon. It’s here that the 85 ha Almaviva vineyard is located. Almaviva is only one wine, a blend of classic Bordeaux varieties with Cabernet dominating. The name Almaviva comes from French literature: Count Almaviva is the hero of The Marriage of Figaro. The label pays homage to Chilean history, the image representing the design that appears on a ritual drum used by the Mapuche civilization. The word Almaviva on the label is in the Beaumarchais’ (who wrote the Marriage of Figaro) own handwriting. The label designed to symbolise the joining of two cultures, which is what Almaviva is all about; a French inspired wine from exceptional old vines in Chile.

The original house in the centre of the Almaviva vineyard

The vintage that has just arrived is the 2015 vintage: a blend of 69% Cabernet, 24% Carmenere (a variety rarely found in Bordeaux now, though is permitted), Cabernet Franc 5% and Petit Verdot 2%. This wine spent 18 months in new French oak. There’s an impressive bright red fruit and floral note on the nose, the palate is full of unctuous sweet red fruit with a firm tannic structure and a long fine elegant finish. It’s very youthful right now and has great ageing potential. I tried this alongside the 2007 for comparison at the winery. The 2007 was showing signs of ageing, with a lighter rim, though not a distinct change in colour. There were dried fruit characters on the nose and the tannins had integrated beautifully into the wine. The 2007 was gorgeous; this level of maturity was just right for Almaviva.

Almaviva Barrel hall

Seña is another joint venture, this time between Eduardo Chadwick and Robert Mondavi. Seña was Chile’s first international joint venture; Eduardo Chadwick, from Viña Errázuriz, joined together with the Napa Valley’s Robert Mondavi and in 1997 released Chile’s first Icon wine, the 1995 vintage of Seña. Whilst of excellent quality right from the beginning, Eduardo was frustrated that the international recognition was not as he thought it should be. So, in 2004 he held a tasting in Berlin, inspired by the 1976 Judgment of Paris which put Napa’s Cabernet’s against the best in the world. The tasting in Berlin involved a stellar line up of tasters, who produced this set of results:

1 – Viñedo Chadwick 2000

2 – Seña 2001

3 – Château Lafite-Rothschild 2000

4 – Seña 2000

4 – Château Margaux 2001

6 – Château Margaux 2000

6 – Château Latour 2000

6 – Viñedo Chadwick 2001

9 – Don Maximiano 2001

10 – Château Latour 2001

10 – Solaia 2000

Viñedo Chadwick in this line up is Eduardo Chadwick’s wine. Dom Maximiano is named after the founder of Viña Errázuriz, who established the impressive property in the Aconcagua Valley in 1870. So, essentially Viñedo Chadwick, Don Maximiano and Seña all sit together. We have Seña in stock now, with the other two wines due later in the year.

Since 2005 Seña has been converted to biodynamic farming; the resulting wines continue to be spectacular. The tasting first held in Berlin has been repeated with similar international benchmarks; each time, the results have been impressive.

Sena ageing at Viñedo Errázuriz

Just last week Eduardo Chadwick was named as Decanter Man of the Year for 2018, this story just the tip of the remarkable contribution he has made to the world of wine.

Viñedo Errázuriz winery

The New Traditional: Natural, Low/Non-Sulphite, and Vegan-Friendly Wines

Natural Wines

Natural wines are more difficult to define, and are not certificated in the way biodynamic wines, for example, are. They are farmed organically or biodynamically, hand-harvested and ‘transformed’ without the addition or removal of anything in the cellar. No additives or processing aids are used, and intervention in the naturally occurring fermentation process is kept to a minimum. Neither fining nor filtration are employed. The result is a wine full of naturally occurring microbiology. Essentially, it’s about using what one was given, with the wine evolving naturally to be whatever it will be.

We recommend:

GLENGARRY WINES ESCARPMENT AMPHORA
Escarpment, Photo Credit Raymond Chan

Low/Non-Sulphite Wines

In NZ, the presence of sulphur dioxide is required to be noted on the label. Sulphur is produced naturally from the grapes through the fermentation process, so all wines will contain a certain amount. The other way you’ll encounter sulphur is in its addition as a preservative, used to inhibit oxidation and microbial spoilage. The amount used varies, and therein lies the difference: between those who adhere to the formulaic approach and those who do everything they can to reduce their sulphur content. Some wines have no sulphur added at all, the Seresin and Araucano wines below being prime examples.

We recommend:

GLENGARRY WINES HACIENDA ARAUCANO
Hacienda Araucano

Vegan Friendly Wines

The reason not all wines are vegan- or vegetarian-friendly is down to the way a wine is clarified (i.e. made clear and bright) via a process called ‘fining’. Young wines naturally contain proteins, tartrates, tannins and phenolics. These are in no way harmful, and most wines will eventually self-clarify. However, to hasten the process, many winemakers use fining agents. The most commonly used are casein (milk protein), albumen (egg white), gelatin (animal protein) and isinglass (fish bladder protein). When it comes to assessing what’s in there, it’s worth noting the label is generally not going to be of much assistance.

We recommend:

GLENGARRY WINES AKARUA
Akarua

Read more from our March Wineletter here

The New Traditional: Organic and Biodynamic Wines

These days, out on the borders, some people like to build walls. It’s all part of a trending push to adopt a more conservative, inward-looking stance, and it’s often self-serving in nature. You might think that this has little to do with your bottle of wine, but you’d be wrong. There are individuals out there who are bucking the status quo and questioning the sometimes rigid behaviours associated with today’s wine production. As with other human endeavours, this doesn’t always go down well.

This is particularly true in some of the European countries, where appellation, and its protection, can, in some minds, be everything. Hence, some very good wines there that travel a less frequented path (biodynamic wines, natural or unfined wines, for instance) can cop a wall’s worth of rejection as they are ‘cast into exile’ by those policing the regulations. The result? These wines are unable to state their provenance as they fall outside strict guidelines around what constitutes an appellation. But they do it anyway.

The irony is, of course, that in many instances, these hardy souls are in fact turning back towards older, now discarded traditions and questioning the original reasoning behind their abandonment. Or, sometimes, they are just heading off Stage Left to see what’s over there. While logic dictates that this can only be healthy, it is also perceived as threatening in some quarters. The line between craftsmanship and creativity can be a hazy one, expecially when it comes down to definitions.

However, many of us are excited about what’s happening out around the edges. After all, for things to flower and progress, experimentation and rejuvenation is what it’s all about. And so, this issue casts a light on those viticulturalists and winemakers shedding some of the more insidious aspects of the wine industry as it corporatizes itself, as they go in search of greener, more meaningful ways of doing things. These wines and their creators are forging new paths, often into old, forsaken territories, and we should be encouraged by their energy, their initiative and their sheer audacity, to cheer them on.

Organic Wines

Organic grape cultivation eschews the use of synthetic fungicides, herbicides, fertilizers and other artificial processes. The wines themselves are regulated through legislation that can vary from country to country. One of these certification challenges is derived from the USA, where wine and food are conflated under organic regulations. There, in order to protect various food products, the term ‘organic wine’ can’t be applied because of the sulphur present, resulting in the designation ‘made from organic grapes’. We encounter that in NZ when the producer labels both their domestic and exported product with the one label.

We recommend:

GLENGARRY WINES LOVEBLOCK
Loveblock

Biodynamic Wines

Biodynamic winemaking and viticulture draws its philosophy from the premise of Austrian philosopher, Rudolph Steiner, that the Earth (and thus the vineyard itself) is a living organism. In order to keep everything in balance, the rationale is that vinicultural practices need to be timed to coincide with the rhythms of the earth, a philosophy embracing the whole ecosystem, that requires environment, plants, animals and people to be in complete harmony. As with organics, there is a certification system, but it’s a global standard, known as Demeter and named for the Greek goddess of grain and fertility.

We recommend:

Read more from our March Wineletter here

Alvaro Palacios | New arrivals at Glengarry Wines

Just before Christmas, Glengarry Wines landed a container of wines from Spain, which included a selection of wines from Alvaro Palacios.

Alvaro Palacios, Decanter’s Man of the Year 2015 and the recipient of the 2016 Winemakers’ Winemaker Award by the Institute of Masters of Wine and The Drinks Business; an award bestowed upon someone who has made an outstanding contribution to the field of winemaking. The winner is chosen by a panel of winemaking peers, including all winemaking Masters of Wine as well as past winners of the prestigious award. Previous winners include Peter Sisseck of Dominio de Pingus (2011), Peter Gago of Penfolds (2012), Paul Draper of Ridge (2013), the late Anne-Claude Leflaive of Domaine Leflaive (2014) and Egon Müller from Egon Müller Scharzhof (2015).

Palacios, one of nine children (his parents were the owners of Palacios Remondo in Rioja), studied oenology in Bordeaux, while working at Chateau Pétrus under Jean-Pierre Moueix. He could have returned to work for the family business in Rioja, but he chose instead to apply his winemaking knowledge to revive the largely abandoned, ancient vineyards of Priorat. He bought his first vineyard, Finca Dofí, in 1990 and in 1993 he identified a Garnacha vineyard on well-drained schist (planted between 1900 and 1940). Palacios named it L’Ermita and it’s now regarded as the “crown jewel” of the Priorat property. In 1998, Palacios expanded to Bierzo, founding Descendientes de J. Palacios (named after Palacios’ father) with his nephew.

Amongst the selection are two new wines from Alvaro: a new Rioja and Priorat, both made in tiny quantities; we are delighted to have these rare gems here. As Glengarry Wines have all wines on sale this month, these are included, though I must say, I wish they were not, as it seems incredulous to be selling these wines in a sale.

DESCENDIENTES DE J PALACIOS PETALOS 2015

The small plots of old Mencia vines clinging to their slopes produce an intense floral nose that casts a lush veil over the savoury characters lying beneath. Earthy notes and vibrant acidity give way to round, luscious fruit. A seductive, early-drinking style.

Now $25.99

ALVARO PALACIOS CAMINS DEL PRIORAT 2016

Now predominatly Garnacha, a direction that Alvaro is looking to take for his Priorat wines. 35% Garnacha, 25% Cariñena, 15% Cabernet Sauvignon, 15% Syrah, 10% Merlot, aged in French oak barrels and bottled unfiltered. Dense plum and berry aromas are embellished by notes of spice and pepper. The ripe fruit flavours, oak and tannins are beautifully integrated and enhanced by a silky, savoury texture. Delicious, long flavoured, very approachable. This is the entry level wine for Alvaro’s range in Priorat, a great place to start.

Now $25.99

ALVARO PALACIOS LES AUBAGUETES 2015 DOCa

The newest wine in Alvaro’s Priorat range, Aubaguetes will sit in the range nestled between Dofi and L’Ermita. The grapes for this come off a very old north facing, steep (as they tend to be in Priorat) vineyard with a shady exposition. The vineyard has exceptionally old vines and is located within the municipality of Bellmunt. The predominant grape is Garnacha, with a little Samso in the blend. The total production for this is tiny, hundreds of bottles, not thousands. We are very lucky to have a small quantity of these in New Zealand.

94/100 “Alvaro Palacios Les Aubaguetes 2015 is a deep purple colour. Seductively floral, blackcurrant aromas. The palate opens with a blast of fruit juice, and then the Samso comes through with clear, blueberry intensity . Very approachable now.” – Sarah Jane Evans, MW

Now $329.99

 ALVARO PALACIOS QUINON DE VALMIRA 2015

A total of 2,000 bottles of this wine were produced; this is the newest Rioja wine from Alvaro Palacio. Alvaro is very committed to restoring areas of Rioja Baja to how they were, recovering old plots of Garnarcha and showing the exceptional wines that this area in Rioja can produce. The vineyard Quinón de Valmira, is located on Monte Yerga overlooking the Ebro Valley, in the Alfaro area near the winery. In the 11th century, a group of monks reached this area, sitting 615 metres above sea level and founded a Cistercian settlement. This wine is made from 100% Garnarcha.

“First fruits of Alvaro Palacios’ labours to restore Rioja Baja’s traditional Garnachas to glory. Bush vines, grown at 615m, at the limit of ripening. Shallow red clay soil over calcium carbonate. Alvaro Palacios Quiñon de Valmira 2015 is a pale garnet colour with gloriously floral aromas. Equally seductive palate superbly ripe with a lift of orange peel and grain of dark chocolate. Very refined; Pinot-like.  A great beginning; a vineyard to watch.” – Sarah Jane Evans, MW

Now $425.00

ALVARO PALACIOS L’ERMITA 2015

The pinnicle of Alvaro’s range in Priorat, L’Ermita was first produced in 1993 and is one of the most exceptional Garnacha’s in the world. Aged in new French barriques for around 20 months, the concentration of the fruit ensures you don’t feel the oak in this wine.

“Alvaro Palacios said at the London en primeur tasting: ‘L’Ermita is the caprichosa, the spoiled baby. L’Ermita’s soil is cold, and it’s harvested late: on 5 November in 2013 and 28 October in 2015. We harvest late because of the temperature of the soil, which has 2 diagonal areas of granite running through it. And we have 200 different vineyard plots. Like La Faraona [Bierzo] and Valmira [Rioja], it is grown at the limit – which means it is a spellbinding wine, a fresh wine out of one of the warmest places.’ Alvaro Palacios L’Ermita 2015 has a dense dark purple core with pinkish edge in colour. Generous brambly aromas. The palate arrives silky and smooth with bright acidity and dancing freshness. Strikingly cool and elegant, with a very fine texture. Superb finish, full of promise for a terrific future ahead of it.” – Sarah Jane Evans, MW

Now $950.0

Prices valid for the month of January 2018. While stocks last.

New Fine Wine Release – Ao Yun

Ao Yun is one of the most fascinating and exciting new wines in the world. It combines classical French winemaking and Tibetan farming, from one of the most incredible sites imaginable in the Northwest corner of China’s Yunnan province. It is produced by Moët Hennessy (Owners of Bordeaux Chateau Cheval Blanc and Chateau d’Yquem) in the foothills of the Himalayas near the legendary Shangri-La. This remote hidden paradise among the Mountains, is a world Unesco protected area in the three rivers region. It is grown on a patchwork of 314 tiny plots, on both sides of the Mekong, spread across four extremely high villages ranging from 2200m to 2600m. This breathtaking mountain terroir has no equivalent anywhere else on Earth, hence the name Ao Yun – ‘flying above the clouds’.

The local Tibetan people have worked this land for centuries, building millions of terraces that now play host to this unique expression of Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc. Planted in 2002, no one has ever attempted to grow these varieties at this altitude before. The sunshine hours are quite short due to the shadows from the steep valleys, but UV levels and temperature variation from day to night are much higher. Combined with being situated at low latitude, but at such high altitude, means there is a significantly longer ripening period from flower to harvest than in Bordeaux or anywhere else in the World (140-160 days v 100-120). There is also very little rain fall here, which means no mildew or botrytis, allowing everything to be farmed organically.

This is an incredibly difficult undertaking in this location, Moët Hennessy searched the world for four years before finding this special site. The project is led by CEO Jean-Guillaume Prats, who was lured away from his 15 year position as Director of Chateau Cos d’Estournel. He then convinced Cheval Blanc winemaker Maxence Dulou, to bring his wife and two Children to this remote corner of China. To reach there from Shanghai, requires a three hour flight to the Yunnan capital of Kunming, then another hours flight over the Mountain tops to Shangri-La. You then have to endure a five hour drive over a twisting 4500m Mountain pass, to reach the new winery in the tiny village of Adong. Every single part of the operation was painstakingly brought in from France to ensure the highest quality, all the winemaking equipment, Oak barrels, bottles, corks and labels travelling this arduous route. This is a true human adventure in winemaking. A collaboration between Maxence, his Chinese technical team, and 120 Tibetan farming families who practice the viticulture to an extraordinarily high standard. Everything is done by hand working plant by plant, it takes 4 times more man hours in the vineyard here than in Bordeaux.

We were privileged to drink the 2014 Ao Yun at the New Zealand release, exclusively for Glengarry. This is only the second vintage and production is just 34,000 bottles with very little available in China. The blend is 90% Cabernet Sauvignon and 10% Cabernet Franc, but tastes like no other region. Ao Yun is a sophisticated and graceful wine, with a freshness and purity unlike anything else. Despite being aged in 100% new oak, it is focused and elegant. There is a superb balance between the wild black fruit and Pauillac like graphite, minerality/acidity and the sweet polished tannin structure. Ao Yun offers something truly unique to the world of Fine Wine and we are very excited to have an allocation.

Bragato Wine Awards

Romeo Bragato, an Italian Viticulturalist and visionary, was based in Australia as the Victorian Government Viticulturalist between 1888 and 1901. Romeo then moved to New Zealand and was our Government Viticulturalist between 1902 and 1909. Romeo’s work included identifying grape varieties that suited NZ’s diverse climatic conditions, grafting phylloxera resistant root stocks, vineyard layout and many viticultural practices. The Bragato Wine Awards are named after this legendary viticulturalist and are one of the two shows owned and run by NZ Wine Growers, the other of course, the Air NZ Wine Awards.
The Bragato Wine Awards are unique in many ways, more so than ever this year with the move to all wines being from Single Vineyards. The judging for the Bragato Awards occurs in August each year. As such, this is one of the first competitions to see the new vintage releases; excellent to see the new 2017 vintage with four gold medals for very such young, new to market wines. There’s also no volume requirements for this show, thus it attracts those very small producers that just don’t have the volume for larger shows. The Bragato Wine Awards also award the results to the growers, those who grew the grapes to make the winning wine. In my opinion, all of this makes the Bragato Wine Awards a very special and important show for the NZ wine industry – celebrating single vineyards and the people who grow the grapes there, people and their place.

Bragato team 2017

For this year’s judging, the chairman of the show was once again Ben Glover. Ben has been instrumental in moving the Bragato Wine Awards to the single vineyard focus it has today, a direction I strongly believe in. Wine is after all an expression of the place it comes from, interpreted through winemaking.
This year’s competition attracted 506 Entries, 49 Gold medals were awarded and 14 trophies handed out, including this year, The Glengarry Trophy for Sparkling Wine. Each year an international judge assists to provide an international view on the wines, this year that was David Stevens-Castro, an excellent taster with a broad knowledge. The Senior Judges for 2017 were Rod Easthope, Francis Hutt, Jeremy McKenzie, James Millton, Helen Morrison, Simon Nunns, Barry Riwai and myself.
The results from this year’s judging are hot off the press and I must admit, I’m super proud to have played my small role in selecting these wines. What an exciting array of wines they are, all very much an expression of the single vineyard in which they were grown.
You’ll find many of the award-winning wines here on our website. www.glengarrywines.co.nz/bragato

Pinot Noir and Truffles

Black Estate are located in North Canterbury – note the name reference, no longer Waipara; a relatively recent decision sees the producers here group together to present a unified and clarified story as North Canterbury. And what a story it is. I was fortunate enough to visit there with a few of the team last weekend and unearthed a raft of new stories, wines and wineries, so much so that I’m planning my next visit already.

Our visit there was to join the team at Black Estate for lunch to celebrate a local delicacy, NZ truffles. The day started with a visit to Limestone Hills Truffière, where we were greeted enthusiastically by Rosie the beagle and Gareth. Limestone Hills has the largest variety of truffles of any plantation in New Zealand. A super successful truffle hunt followed where Rosie found many Périgord black truffles and bianchetto white truffles.

Rosie the Beagle

Next stop was Black Estate, their restaurant sitting on the original estate that was planted by the Black family. Still family owned, Pen runs the restaurant and is married to Nicholas who is the winemaker. Nicholas worked for many years for Danny Schuster, just up the road from Black Estate, and describes driving past Black Estate every day and being able to see only a small edge of the vineyard from the road. One day his curiosity got the better of him, leading him up the driveway, the rest as they say is history. Black Estate have three vineyards in North Canterbury, the home vineyard where it all started, Netherwood and Damsteep, all producing wines with very distinct personalities.

The menu for lunch

Lunch was of course all about truffles and matched with Black Estate wines. There was no dish that stood out as being the highlight, they were all just so damned good. Black Estate and their neighbouring vineyards run truffle lunches as part of the North Canterbury Truffle Festival. My advice – book now for next year.

Why you should buy so-called lesser vintages.

We are so well conditioned to seek out the best vintages, the super stars, those that the media rave about and generally that’s not a bad thing. When it comes to buying Bordeaux though, the ‘rule’ book needs rewriting as buying only the best vintages may just leave you dry between great bottles.
There’s much to consider. Firstly, wines from the great vintages of Bordeaux are meant to be aged, this is a region that can (and does) produce some of the most long lived fine wines in the world. Wines that have an abundance of tannins, brilliant bright acidity and a superb concentration of fruit. All things that are essential for long term ageing. When we talk long term ageing for Bordeaux, think 40 – 50 years or so. Now, depending on your current age (no disrespect meant), this may prove a challenge, unless of course you are purchasing to build a cellar to hand down the generations. Wines from lesser vintages do mature earlier, though keeping in the context of Bordeaux require 10 – 15 years to develop gorgeous aged characters.

The next relevant point to note is the expertise of this region and the selection that goes into the Grand Vins. The quantity made of these top wines is not what it used to be, there’s significantly less, all with the aim of ensuring that the top wines are of the very best quality. So, in years where the media does not go mad about the vintage and write such bold statements as ‘the greatest ever’, ‘the best in the decade’, the top châteaux are still going to produce excellent wines, there’s just likely to be less of them.

Last week, we hosted a tasting of First Growths from the 2014 vintage, tasting four of the classified first growths from the left bank: Mouton Rothschild, Lafite Rothschild, Margaux and Haut-Brion, together with the right bank pair, Pétrus and Lafleur. A very well attended tasting that we were very much looking forward to hosting. At the beginning of the night there was much discussion around the room about the 2014 vintage, many comments that it would be interesting, though not as great as 2009 or 2010. This is of course true, the 2014 vintage is not as good as either of these and, in fact, I’d rate it slightly behind the 2016 vintage that we’ve recently been selling En Primeur.

2014 was a relatively small vintage with inconsistent flowering. It was then extremely wet through July and August. Heading off on holiday at the end of August, many châteaux were nervous. September and October were then warm and dry. This provided a long ripening period which Cabernet loves. 2014 is a year best summed up as classic; generally, the wines are lower in alcohol, most around 12.5% and they are balanced, with beautiful freshness.
The wines looked brilliant and showed very distinctive appellation and châteaux personalities. It’s one of the things I really like about the 2014 vintage (2015 has it too), you can taste the character of the area and châteaux, more than the vintage.

The wines were in fact so good that by the next morning we had sold out of every last bottle of Mouton Rothschild, Lafite Rothschild, Margaux, Haut-Brion, Pétrus and Lafleur we had from the 2014 vintage. The stock we had should have easily seen us through to next year.