Bordeaux 2014: A question of price
Author: Jonathan White
In the role of merchants we have always positioned ourselves as the closest link between the people who make the wine and those who drink it. When we signed the open letter from UK merchants to the Bordelais earlier this year urging greater consideration of pricing strategy, it was our intention to bring the producers of these great wines closer to the customers who drink them. For many years the producers have had their say, proclaiming the latest vintage to be one of the best ever or being of such excellent quality. This letter was our chance to represent the view of the customer, who has been finding it hard to justify purchasing wines from recent vintages en primeur.
We have been accused of self-interest, when all we want to see is the return of an effective campaign where all members of the supply-chain, including the end consumer, can take something positive from it. Why would we request low prices when our percentage margin stays the same regardless?
What we are not asking for is a blanket reduction in prices. We are urging smarter calculations: offering value to the customer as an incentive to buy en primeur; checking current market prices for recent vintages; requesting that wines are released at prices which will sell. What we don’t want to see is wine left on the market, so that when our customers’ wine arrives in the UK, a year or more after the campaign, it can be found at cheaper prices.
Three or four estate managers have told us that wines must be priced effectively for local French and Eurozone markets, otherwise they will turn their back on them. Ultimately, this is good news for the UK and other non-Eurozone territories too, especially considering the current currency exchange rates. Let’s hope that these few can persuade others during the course of the next several weeks. We are also told that many Bordelais properties have to sell wine this year, and this might be the last chance they have to get it right.
We tend to agree with Paul Pontallier from Ch. Margaux, who rates the 2014 vintage as somewhere between the greats of the 21st century (2005, 2009 and 2010) and the others – some of which were good, some more challenging. He suggests that it cannot be considered as outstanding, since the weather in August just wasn’t good enough. The year 2014 is good to very good in places and we were really impressed by many wines.
We found the greatest consistency of very good wines in Pauillac, where some estates really harnessed the fruit from their Cabernet Sauvignon to create ripe juice and real freshness. However, we could also cherry-pick two or three estates from Margaux, St Estèphe, Pessac-Léognan and St Julien where there is real quality as well.
Many of the wines we tasted were very approachable, however they also showed the structure one would expect of wines which will age well in bottle. Most of the wines will be best enjoyed during the next 20 years, although several will likely be excellent well beyond that.
On the team’s return to the UK this weekend, we will be posting tasting notes, our vintage report and individual scores on bbr.com. We score the wines out of 20 and aim to set a benchmark for which they can be judged year on year. Don’t forget to come to our Bordeaux tasting in July to taste many of these wines for yourself.
Read the rest of our coverage of our team’s week tasting Bordeaux 2014 en primeur.