We asked our friend Panos Kakaviatos of Wine Chronicles to recount his days this year at en primeurs week (or “wine futures” week) to help bring our readers to latest information on the 2014 vintage from Bordeaux, Burgundy, the Rhône Valley and Port. This is the final segment, in which he offers an overall assessment of the 2014 Bordeaux vintage.
The final numbers proved to meet expectations of UGCB president Olivier Bernard, who reported some 20,000 participants coming to taste 2014 barrel samples: the highest number of participants since the 2009 barrel tastings in 2010, he said.
Customers certainly have dollar signs in mind.
Bernard, who is also owner of Domaine de Chevalier, reiterated a call to chateaux to release wines at a “sensible price” for Eurozone countries, which should allow a favorable exchange rate to provide a discount for buyers elsewhere (including us in the United States).
“If Europe is a buyer, then the U.S., U.K., China and Japan will purchase 2014 futures,” Bernard said. Well, we shall see.
As for the quality of the vintage, it was good to read positive feedback from fellow wine writers across the globe.
Take veteran Danish taster Izak Litwar. He remarked that “not a single bad wine” was to be found in the Left Bank, with especially strong performances in Pessac-Léognan, Pauillac and Saint Estephe. Like others tasters, he appreciated the tonic aspect of the whites – both sweet and dry – given the high acidity of the vintage. And although the Right Bank was not as homogenous in quality, “some stunning wines have been made there.”
It is always reassuring to find fellow writers who agree with you, too. For example, the great Bordeaux-based author and critic Jane Anson agrees with me that two of the very best barrel samples were Vieux Château Certan in Pomerol and Montrose in Saint Estephe. And we both were impressed with Langoa Barton, in one of its best from barrel performances ever.
At a blind tasting of Margaux wines, almost everyone in the room – from over 10 different countries – marveled at the strong performance of Château Labegorce.
For veteran Swiss wine writer Yves Beck, 2014 comes off as a “very good year” with some “great wines”.
According to Paul Pontallier of the famous Château Margaux, “It is not quite as good as 2010, 2009 or 2005, but it is the best of the very good recent vintages.” Many observers agree with that notion.
Perhaps Niko Dukan of Croatia put it best: “Bordeaux certainly needed 2014, especially after the extremely difficult vintages before.”
As a lover of wines with vivacity and freshness, I particularly recommend the vintage and my message to Total Wine buyers is you can seek out 2014 with confidence. The team at Total Wine will work hard to get you a very broad selection, so you will be able to find whatever style (and price point) you want.
The official start of fall heralds much more than the arrival of everything pumpkin spice. The change of seasons brings with it specialty beers and ciders that we look forward to every year.
A true celebration of Germanic brewing tradition, this year’s Sierra Nevada Oktoberfest is a collaboration between the California-based brewery and Brauhaus Riegele of Augsburg, one of Germany’s oldest family-owned breweries. The beer, which boasts a deep golden hue, gets its rich and complex malt flavor from the use of traditional German Steffi barley.
However, fall truly begins with the release of Shiner Oktoberfest. A craft brew favorite that’s received national acclaim, Shiner Oktoberfest won a Gold medal at the renowned Great American Beer Festival—and for good reason. Upon pouring, you’re greeted with aromas of sweet malt with hints of burnt sugar and earthy hops in the background. The beer offers a clean finish and nice balance with sweet roasted malt flavors countering touches of hop bitterness.
At Total Wine & More, you’ll find many other Oktoberfest standouts from Samuel Adams to Harpoon, as well as other specialty styles that come but once a year. Southern Tier Pumpking Ale’s 90-point rating from Beer Advocate is well deserved. Big flavors of pumpkin pie, nutmeg and cinnamon are bolstered by the rich and creamy nature of the beer. It’s truly autumn in a bottle. Other illustrious members of our Pumpkin Ale selection include Dogfish Head Punkin Ale, Shipyard Pumpkinhead Ale and Blue Moon Harvest Pumpkin Ale.
Naturally, no discussion of our fall favorites is complete without mentioning cider, which has experienced a meteoric rise in popularity over the past several years. We offer a variety of fruit ciders from apple and pear to pineapple, apricot and yes, pumpkin. In addition to popular favorites like Angry Orchard and Woodchuck, we have many other great domestic ciders from Ace, Austin Eastciders and Hornsby’s, as well as a fantastic international selection.
So give fall a proper welcome by stopping by any of our locations to stock up on the season’s very best offerings.
Hello Brookhaven! We hope you have your glasses ready, because we’re opening a new store in your town with8,000 winesand2,500 beersto fill them. We’ll also have plenty of cigars, gifts and accessories to browse.
Yes, that’s the correct reaction.
Our new store is in Brookhaven Plaza, and the doors will open at 9 a.m. October 29. Stop by later that day at 4 p.m. and join us for our Grand Opening extravaganza! We’ll have tastings, events and more including wines and beers such as Dr. Heidemanns-Bergweiller, The Calling, Chateau Ste. Michelle, Red Brick and Second Self. You can find all the details on upcoming tastings, classes and other events at the events page on Totalwine.com.
We’re extremely excited to open our fourth store in Georgia, and even more so to be opening in the growing Brookhaven community. So we decided to celebrate and do some good for the neighborhood during our Grand Opening. Stop by and shop at our new store October 29 through November 1 and you’ll be helping to support the Woodruff Arts Center, the largest arts educator in Georgia. We’ll donate a portion of our Grand Opening sales during this time to the art center.
Bring your friends, family and coworkers — and don’t forget to make everyone who misses out jealous by posting your fun Grand Opening experiences (#totalwineGO).
We’ll be posting the latest updates to our Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and other social media channels, so follow us there to stay totally up-to-date. We’re looking forward to seeing you at our new store!
Halloween may still be a week and a half away, but that doesn’t mean you can’t get a head start on trick-or-treating. We’ve selected some of our favorite beers and wines that will satisfy all types of candy cravings. After all, there’s nothing more terrifying than an empty bar.
The hopivores at DRAFT Magazine gave this Lambic a 91-point rating, so it comes with credentials, which also include a gold medal at the 2013 U.S. Open Beer Championship. With a refreshing raspberry flavor and perfect balance of sweetness and acidity, this Lambic is truly candy for beer lovers.
Young’s award-winning Double Chocolate Stout is for those whose Halloweens often end with piles of candy bar wrappers. A combination of chocolate malt and real dark chocolate means this beer lives up to its name. Upon opening, you’ll be met with aromas of dark chocolate, mocha, caramel and vanilla, which are followed by delicious flavors of roasted malt and chocolate.
This Danish apéritif is rich and smooth, boasting a lovely tart cherry flavor that puts those trademark cherry lollipops to shame. If you’re looking to enjoy a pre-Halloween treat, add this cherry wine to club soda and serve over ice for a frightfully refreshing cocktail.
4. Red Decadence Chocolate Wine As the name suggests, this wine is truly decadent with flavors of black cherry, blueberry, plum and, of course, dark chocolate. A flawlessly balanced sweet wine, we couldn’t think of better company when catching up on our favorite horror movies.
Sometimes, there’s nowhere to rum. George Ocean Coconut Rum, one of our new favorite spirits, takes center stage in our White Ghost cocktail, which will satisfy even the most discerning poltergeists. With the inclusion of banana and orange liqueur, the drink’s flavors are reminiscent of the taffy candies we’ve come to know and love.
We asked our friend Panos Kakaviatos of Wine Chronicles to recount his days this year at en primeurs week (or “wine futures” week) to help bring our readers to latest information on the 2014 vintage from Bordeaux, Burgundy, the Rhône Valley and Port. This segment is his top ten bargain picks from this year.
1. Château Haut Bages Liberal(Pauillac)
I recall a horizontal for Decanter Magazine a few years ago with other 5th growths for the 1990 vintage – including Lynch Bages and Grand Puy Lacoste. While Haut Bages Liberal was not quite as long as the two others, it was not far behind and better than most other 5ths. Same goes for 2014. Tasted blind at Château Phelan Segur with other journalists, the barrel sample gave off red and black fruit expressions. A bright and fresh palate with sustain, like a musical note that lasts a long time. Medium-plus body, high tannin, high acidity and medium alcohol. Quite savory overall and barrel age could well flesh it out to the higher end of the “points” spectrum. 91-93+
2. Château Pibran (Pauillac)
A superb effort from the team that makes the legendary Château Pichon Baron, this Haut Medoc is well worth your hard-earned money. It has Pauillac power but with a mini velvet glove delivery. Suave tannins and freshness on the finish with a long finish. What more can one want? 91-93
Image courtesy Laure Marie Ducloy
3. Château Tronquoy Lalande (Saint Estephe)
Savory and robust, with flavors of both red and black fruit, this barrel sample reinforced the idea for tasters of how well Saint Estephe did in 2014. Tannic and ripe Merlot (56% of the blend) with almost heady alcohol (14.3%) gives it a broad and full body. Along with Ormes de Pez, a top example from Saint Estephe in the moderate price category. 90-92
4. Château Lanessan (Haut Medoc)
This estate has a long, well-earned reputation for bringing fine price-quality ratios to savvy Bordeaux consumers. Once again in 2014, we have a smooth and savory palate, with more red than black fruit, medium-bodied wine, with a rich mid-palate and a long finish. 90-92
5. Château Quinault L’Enclos (Saint Emilion)
Just 12.6% alcohol. “Twenty years ago we were proud to have high-alcohol level wines and now we are proud to be low,” remarked estate consultant Kees Van Leeuwen. Very fresh, yet much sap and mid-palate concentration. Flavors include ripe plum and cherry. Medium plus body and smooth medium plus finish with lift, made from nearly 70% Merlot, but also Cabernet Franc and Cabernet Sauvignon. Delicious. 90-93
6. Château Fombrauge (Saint Emilion)
I recently wrote an article in Decanter about Saint Emilion and how Fombrauge counts among 15 other estates that were promoted to grand cru classé in the 2012 classification. It’s a well-merited promotion. Although I have a more classically-inclined palate, I think that the utter flamboyance of this estate can be irresistible – and such is the case in 2014. Tasted blind, it exhibited brambly red and blackberry fruit, with a modernist touch of oak spice, but well-integrated and the higher acidity of 2014 gave it needed balancing freshness. 90-92
7. Château La Cabanne (Pomerol)
Tasted blind with its peers and again at the Bordeaux négociant Vintex, this is a revelation because La Cabanne tends to under-perform. Not so in 2014. High acidity combined with rich and suave tannins lead to a focused and fresh mid-palate and linear and medium-plus finish. Barrel aging will soften the touch. Nice job! 90-91+
8. Château Carbonnieux (Pessac-Léognan)
Fine cedar aromas precede a palate marked by suave tannin and tonic freshness coming from the vintage. Medium-bodied, yet barrel aging will likely give it more mid-palate: a fine effort from a producer that offers quality at an affordable price. 90-91
9. Château Carbonnieux (Pessac-Léognan)
This is a wine I regularly served in my days as a wine steward on Nantucket Island’s famous Chanticleer restaurant. Tasted both at a trade tasting and at the château, the barrel samples were very smooth and savory, with grapefruit brightness and an almost velvety texture – a good example of a 2014 white that is not varietal in nature. 90-92+
10. Clos Floridene (Graves)
Tasted twice at two different trade tastings with consistent notes. This is textbook white Graves that should be a bargain for savvy white wine lovers. It gives off pure citrus and mineral notes, has a smooth texture with medium body and medium flavor intensity and ends with a bright finish. 90-91+
We asked our friend Panos Kakaviatos of Wine Chronicles to recount his days this year
at en primeurs week (or “wine futures” week) to help bring our readers to latest information on the 2014 vintage from Bordeaux, Burgundy, the Rhône Valley and Port. This segment is on Bordeaux whites.
A few years ago, I enjoyed a horizontal of the 2000 vintage of white Graves at Domaine de Chevalier and was struck at how some estates with higher acidities did better than others. 2000 was not a particularly successful vintage for whites. In contrast to 2014, the summer was too hot to produce vibrant wines and most were better enjoyed in their youth. So wines made from earlier picked grapes suited the vintage better – but that did not mean that the wines were necessarily very good. They conveyed freshness – but also underripe fruit.
By the same token, in 2014, acidity alone does not ensure a great white.
In 2014, the potential pitfall was the opposite. Summer was cool and that ensured high acidity. But then again – in contrast to 2000 – it was important to pick late enough to avoid too much Sauvignon Blanc varietal character or even under-ripe aspects that high acidity can accentuate. That was the message that Olivier Bernard gave to me, as I tasted his magnificent Domaine de Chevalier white.
The barrel sample of Domaine de Chevalier proved to be one of the most successful white Graves, exuding fine balance and tension, with just the right amount of new oak at 40%. “We waited long enough for the grapes to ripen properly so that the acidity did not prevail and make the wine taste too varietal,” explained Bernard.
Another excellent white, La Mission Haut Brion illustrated the success of Semillon Blanc in the vintage, which balanced out the more evident zing of the Sauvignon Blanc. Even better is the equally very expensive Château Haut Brion, with more subtle notes of stone fruit.
The logic of picking at the right time worked beyond the Graves region with fine showings in the Medoc, above all at Château Margaux whose white wine may be the best ever at the estate, director Paul Pontallier said. Ripe fruit, coming from September maturity, buffeted the remarkable acidity.
More accessible for mortals with more modest pay checks, successful whites include Château Clos Floridene, with citrus and mineral aspects, a smooth texture, medium body and medium flavor intensity: textbook white Graves, with a medium and bright finish. Château Haut Bergey is lovely too, exuding ripe fruit with a creamy and rich texture and red apple like acidity that lends lift on the medium finish. Some of the whites treaded a line between varietal nature and optimal ripeness, such as Château Olivier, which proved fresh and clean – but in a New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc varietal fashion. It will certainly please many a palate.
Although the high acidities sometimes made me feel like the Sauternes barrel samples I tried were more like Loire Valley late harvest wines, the appellation was by and large uniformly successful.
Steve Webb of Bordeaux Gold almost every year says that a given vintage is the best ever. You’ve got to hand it to him! But there was “a bit of emotion” tasting these wines, he said. “At the top level, it was sublime, as the vintage had such a cool summer, which is great for white wine grapes, bringing that bright, fresh acidity.”
What finally balanced the acidities was isolated rainfall in September and October: bursts of rain that set off botrytis, according to Bordeaux Gold partner Bill Blatch. “The final rain burst, in mid-October, was outstanding, as the heat went up to 27 degrees at the end of October,” he said.
For me the best are the usually large-scaled and richer-in-style stickies, such as Châteaux Suduiraut, de Fargues and La Tour Blanche. For bargain hunters, seek out Château d’Arche, which was particularly savoury in 2014. Lovers of Barsac will find particular pleasure from the sheer elegance in Châteaux Doisy Daene and Coutet – to take two examples. I did not get a chance to try the various barrel samples of Château Climens, but that will be done in June.
It was not a year of maximum residual sugars, Blatch stressed, averaging between 130 and 140 grams, hence a “beautifully balanced vintage,” he said. By contrast, the 2009 vintage had an average closer to 150.
So 2014 does not come off as a particularly rich style of Sauternes. A case in point is none other than the precocious vineyard that is Château d’Yquem, which certainly has tremendous energy, but I am not sure that it falls into the league of 2001 or even 2010. I was reminded more of a Barsac style. It was marvelous of course, as the barrel sample conveyed white pear and citrus notes, and subtle botrytis spice in the form of ginger, white pepper and touches of black tea. But the high acidity made it more linear and “high toned”. For director Pierre Lurton, it was the highest acidity he has ever seen at 4.9 grams per liter, to match the 135 grams of residual sugar.
Top Ten Whites (both dry and sweet)
Château Haut Brion: A gorgeous white in the making. More subtle on the nose and palate than La Mission. Subtle notes of stone fruit. Suave and sap filled on the palate, with balancing brightness. Almost unbelievable that this wine has 14.75% alcohol! The low acidity balances it out. Rich and powerful yet crisp on the long finish. Made from 68% Semillon and 32% Sauvignon Blanc, aged in 55% new oak. Only 620 cases expected to be produced. 94-96
Château La Mission Haut Brion: The aromatics are intense and focused, with mineral and citrus. The high-acid tonicity balances the warm ripeness. Indeed, château representative Turid Alcaras explained that the planned blend was altered: they went from 17% Sauvignon Blanc to 28%, to give the wine more zing. The rest of the blend is of course Sémillon. Just 560 cases. 93-95+
Domaine de Chevalier: One of the most successful white Graves, outpaced by Haut Brion, but far less expensive. The barrel sample exuded such fine balance and tension, with just the right amount of new oak at 40%. Refined yet high intensity pure flavors of citrus and stone fruit. It has a smooth texture with vivacity coming from the acidity. Bravo! 93-95
Château Smith Haut Lafitte: Rich and even a bit heady, but with lovely juiciness and pure citrus and white fruit flavors on the mid-palate leading to a tonic, lifting and long finish. Tasted with similar notes at a trade tasting and at the château. 92-94
Château Malartic-Lagravière: The high acidity is nicely balanced with ripe fruit. The overall texture is rather expansive, with mid-palate sap and a very creamy and smooth feel. It has a medium-plus finish that comes across simply delicious. 91-93
Pavillion Blanc of Château Margaux: Margaux produced an outstanding white in 2014, which director Paul Pontallier said is his best ever. It is hard to disagree, as the 100% Sauvignon Blanc manages to combine verve, richness and depth. The famous French wine critic Michel Bettane told me that it is one of the very best examples of Sauvignon Blanc from Bordeaux and I agree. Just 35% of crop from the estate’s white wine vineyards were used to make the Pavillon Blanc, so careful selection and fine ripeness truly balanced the high acidity in this vintage. Bravo! 93-95
Sauternes and Barsac
Château d’Yquem: The high acidity lent particular freshness to the 2014 barrel sample of this most legendary wine. So much so that it reminded more of a Barsac. It was marvelous of course, with distinct white pear and citrus notes, and subtle botrytis spice in the form of ginger, white pepper and touches of black tea. But the high acidity made it more linear and “high toned”. For director Pierre Lurton, it was the highest acidity he has ever seen at 4.9 grams per litre, to match the nearly 135 grams of residual sugar. Barrel aging will “fill out” the body, to bring more opulence, but I do wonder if Yquem’s hallmark expression of delectable botrytisized fruit concentration and opulence was just a bit in second gear in 2014. 93-96+
Château Suduiraut: This estate always makes full-throttle and opulently styled Sauternes so I tend to like it more in cooler vintages – and 2014 is no exception. There is an enveloping feel to the palate, rich as expected and then – pow! – a reassuring brightness that brings lift to the long finish. Spicy and fruity throughout, this is top flight Sauternes in 2014. 92-95
Château de Fargues: De Fargues’s 15 hectare vineyard is located just about two miles southeast of d’Yquem and is planted with 80% Sémillon, and 15% Sauvignon Blanc. It tends to be less precocious than its more prestigious neighbor and that suited the vintage’s later pickings perfectly, leading to an opulent style with even more botrytis spice than Suduiraut, but also a touch cooler in aspect. Another top flight sticky. 92-95
Château Doisy-Daëne: I did not get a chance to taste through the barrel samples at Climens. The blend is never complete there during en primeur week so I look forward to assessing it later in 2015. Perhaps my overall favorite Barsac is Château Doisy-Daëne, which exhibits particularly bright ripe fruit (white peach, pear) along with hints of citrus, from kiwi to lime. The brisk nature of the barrel sample makes me think that it will be particularly easy to drink, but there is underlying structure for the longer haul. 92-94
We asked our friend Panos Kakaviatos of Wine Chronicles to recount his days this year at en primeurs week (or “wine futures” week) to help bring our readers to latest information on the 2014 vintage from Bordeaux, Burgundy, the Rhône Valley and Port. In this segment, he offers his assessment of 2014’s Bordeaux reds.
As we understood from vintage reports, high acidity and tannin are hallmarks of the barrel samples tasted in both white and red, with an exceptional Indian Summer tending to favor Cabernets, both Sauvignon and Franc. So, it’s a Cab year, right? Well, hold your horses.
Let’s start with the Merlot-driven Right Bank. The word “freshness” describes the best wines here, which may not please palates in search of dark colors, higher alcohol and extracted oak tannins. Happily for lovers of vivacity, it was harder to make those wines in 2014.
Take for example the premier grand cru classé Saint Emilion Château Pavie Macquin – which in 2009 reached 15.5% alcohol and tasted heavy-handed. In 2014, it came across as downright fresh and delicious. By the same token, Château Corbin – an excellent grand cru classé – delights the senses, with 13% alcohol and remarkable freshness plus Saint Emilion style richness. I prefer it to the impressive 2010, which clocked in at 15% alcohol. My two overall Saint Emilion favorites: Château Canon and Cheval Blanc. Other successes include Clos Fourtet, Berliquet and Canon La Gaffeliere.
Pomerol barrel samples seemed more homogenous than in Saint Emilion. Having the right soils that would permit Merlots to ripen as slowly as possible into the Indian Summer was important as was leaf-clearing in August to maximize ripening. Clearing leaves off the vines heightens exposure to the sun. It can be a risky practice. What if vintners clear the leaves and then a heat wave grills the grapes? Luckily that did not happen in August and leaf-clearing did the trick for some estates.
Vieux Château Certan, for one glorious example, ranks as one of best wines of 2014, Left Bank included. As owner Alexandre Thienpont remarked: it took two days of September sun to equal one day of August. “It was a cool year, but the grapes ripened slowly,” he remarked. The Merlots were rich, perfumed, vinous yet bright. Thienpont says that 2014 is not necessarily a Cabernet vintage. Tasting his fantastic barrel sample proved his point.
The ultra pricey Petrus was excellent, exuding underlying grip and power with violet floral lift. Former director Jean Claude Berrouet along with son Olivier, who is director, said that 2014 reminded him of the 1975 for the tannins and the 1978 for the late summer. He stressed the need to not use too much new oak (50%) and to be gentle with extractions to get quality tannins.
Other top Pomerols included Château La Fleur Petrus for its refinement and tannic edgea, and smooth and delicate finish; Château Trotanoy for its darker fruit, foreboding nose and mid-palate juiciness leading to a rather muscular finish; the fresh, suave yet also substantial and structured La Conseillante and a rich, nuanced and bright Clos L’Eglise.
Among economically priced wines: a surprisingly strong performance from a usually under-performing Château La Cabanne.
Image courtesy Laure Marie Ducloy
Regal Left Bank, but not all Medocs are created equal
While I co-hosted a cru bourgeois tasting in Ventimiglia (Italy) shortly after en primeur week with François Nony, owner of Château Caronne Sainte Gemme, he remarked that one needed to appreciate how August rainfall varied across Medoc appellations. It was greater for example in Margaux (82mm) as opposed to Saint Julien (52mm) and Saint Estephe (61mm). Could that explain why Margaux seemed a bit more hit-and-miss than its more northern neighbours? The very best Margaux did not seem to reach the heights of the very best Pauillacs and Saint Estephes.
The most successful Left Bank wines managed to combine power with subtle elegance, fully integrating the vintage’s high acidity, including a supreme Château Latour (perhaps the very best from the Left Bank), a refined and subtle Lafite Rothschild, a brooding yet nuanced Mouton Rothschild, a thoroughly charming Pichon Comtesse de Lalande, and perhaps my favorite “luxury brand” from the Medoc, when factoring price: the momentous and thoroughly refined Château Montrose, whose barrel sample was smooth, nuanced and deep, sustained by vivaciousness coming from the vintage’s high acidity. It reminded me of the 2005 en primeur but with more charm, and even with some robustly ripe aspects of the 2009, with greater freshness. If the price is right, I am buying six bottles sans hesitation. Other fine examples include Lynch Bages, Grand Puy Lacoste, Beychevelle and Langoa Barton, which may be the best I have ever had from that estate.
The Medoc features countless bargains as well, from an excellent Château Pibran – ripe and with tannic grip – to a smooth, savory and red fruit fresh Château Lanessan.
Smooth and supple Graves – for the most part
In the Graves region, the barrel samples seemed slightly patchier than in the Medoc, but most were good to very good. Château Haut Brion reigns supreme. Its 14.25% alcohol is balanced by relatively high acidity, making it fresher than La Mission. Its nose exuded crushed tobacco freshness with red and black fruit, preceding a palate that was subtle yet full bodied, with high tannin and acidity – and I loved the frank and long tonic finish.
I admired the structure and aromatics of Château Haut Bailly. The barrel sample highlighted the tannic structure, but aging will soften the wine into something special indeed. More evidently appealing – and perhaps the red of the region, when factoring in price – is Domaine de Chevalier. Its barrel sample gave off a lovely expression of ripe, red and black fruit in a lively attack leading to a medium plus body, marked by vivacity and high-intensity flavors. Château Smith Haut Lafitte continues a happy trend towards greater freshness combined with ripe tannins – and less new-oak flavors. Successful economically priced brands include a smooth and fresh Clos Floridene and a fresh and a more-seriously-structured-than-is-usual Château Carbonnieux.
Top Ten Reds (When Budget Is Not An Issue)
Château Montrose: Very smooth, nuanced and deep yet sustained by vivaciousness no doubt coming from high acidity. The barrel sample reminded me of the 2005 en primeur, but with more charm. It also had ripe aspects similar to the 2009, but with greater freshness. If the price is right, I am buying six bottles without hesitation – and you should, too! Only 47% of the harvest went to the first wine, made up of 61% Cabernet Sauvignon, 30% Merlot, 8% Cabernet Franc and 1% Petit Verdot with 13.7% alcohol and being aged in 60% new oak. Wine of the vintage category. 94-96
Château Latour: This reminded me a bit of the 2004 but with more power and greater ripeness. Some tasters with more experience compared it to the 1996, which, readers may recall, also featured a fine Indian Summer after a cool August. And yet, numbers indicate riper fruit in 2014 as compared to 1996. The wine exuded a veritable cornucopia of cranberry freshness, dark cassis and a touch of blackberry, ripe and powerful, with tannic backbone and grip on the subtle yet broad mid-palate. The briskness on the long finish coming from high acidity gave the wine elegance and lift: a tour de force and perhaps the very best barrel sample of the Left Bank. 94-96+
Château Mouton Rothschild: Tobacco and cassis on the nose. Rich, powerful and ample – as a first-growth Pauillac should be! Here we have some differences of opinion when I tasted it along with merchants and fellow wine hacks. While some are not as excited about Mouton in 2014, I found the barrel sample memorable as it combined foreboding tannin from a vintage like 1986, as director Philippe Dhalluin noted, with more evident ripeness, somewhat like the 1996, but larger-scaled – and made from better vineyard selection than from the 90s era. Something special is afoot here. Made with 81% Cabernet Sauvignon, 16% Merlot and 3% Cabernet Franc. 93-95
Château Lafite-Rothschild: Breed and elegance define Lafite in 2014. And that should surprise no one. I recall tasting the 2005 from barrel, subtler than many other wines tasted. At the time, director Charles Chevalier said that marathon runners do not reveal their best so early in the race. Indeed, 2014 is quite an accomplishment at this estate. Notes of cedar and cassis and an ultra silky palate combine with impressive structure for the long haul. It will be interesting to see which Rothschild could “come out on top”, but they are neck in neck, with their respective styles showing well. 93-95
Château Pichon Comtesse de Lalande: One of the most successful wines of the vintage, exuding orange rind like freshness, cassis and lots of crackling red fruit. It conveys an overall sense of purity and elegance, with loads of juiciness on the full-bodied palate, as well managed high-tannin and high-acidity lending structure and lift on the long finish. Tasted with fellow hacks and members of the trade at the château, we were all impressed. 92-95
Château Ducru Beaucaillou: Like Léoville Las Cases, this wine is more Pauillac like with noticeable tannin. But it has a silkier texture often detected at this estate. The attack envelops the palate, certainly full-bodied, with pure expressions of ripe red and dark fruits. The barrel sample showcases more structure than charm, but there is much depth and an echoing finish. The 90% Cabernet Sauvignon has high tannin that barrel aging should soften into something quite special. 92-94+
Petrus: Petrus reminded me of the 2005 en primeur. Perhaps not quite as vivid, but it displays a similar combination of fresh and bright red fruit, and substantial yet suave tannin that gives the wine structure for the long haul. There is an overall impression of sheer elegance – and addictive drinkability (how I wish it were more accessible!) – leading to a long, sneaky finish. A most impressive showing of Merlot that is not over extracted, and being aged in only 50% new oak: wine of the vintage candidate. 94-96
Vieux Château Certan: Certainly along with Montrose on the Left Bank, this counts as a top candidate of 2014. Why? De-leafing was carried out in specific vineyards to enhance ripening during the uneven summer. A cool vintage, said owner Alexandre Thienpont, but a long ripening process that lead to fine maturity – and very smooth tannins but never too glossy in texture. The Merlots are rich, perfumed, vinous and bright and nearly 20% Cabernet Franc lends backbone and length. The texture is silky and substantial at the same time, and the balance is excellent with high acidity (nearly 3.7 grams per liter) and alcohol (13.5%). Gorgeous. 93-95+
Château La Conseillante: As with neighbor Vieux Château Certan, this estate de-leafed to accentuate ripening in the summer, which was cool and only moderately sunny. Merlots were picked in late September, so that the fruit would be ripe enough but not overripe (due to the cool August). The high quality was so uniform that very little second wine (only 12% of the harvest) was made. La Conseillante conveys lovely fresh red and black fruits, from cranberry to ripe plum, with crackling freshness. The mid-palate is marked by excellent concentration and so one has the impression of a full-bodied wine that remains vivacious and with verve, leading to a lifting and long finish. Bravo! Aging in 75% new oak, with 78% Merlot and 22% Cabernet Franc and 13.5% alcohol. 92-95
Château Haut Brion (red): Slightly lower alcohol at 14.25% yet same high acidity as La Mission, this comes across as fresher and more suave, which is usually the case when comparing the two. The nose conveys crushed tobacco freshness with clean red and black fruit. The palate is subtle yet full bodied, with lovely balance achieved among high tannin, acidity and ripe fruit. I love the frank and long tonic finish. Should turn out to be superb with barrel aging. 93-95+
Get ready Missouri – we’re opening a new Total Wine & More in Brentwood on October 15.
You may now do your happy dance.
You heard us right! We’re opening our second store in the greater St. Louis area, at the Promenade at Brentwood, and we want you to help us celebrate our Grand Opening. The fun starts at 4 p.m., so plan on stopping by for tastings and events with wines and spirits including Caymus, La Marca Prosecco, William Hill Estate, Whitehaven, The Calling, Joseph Carr, Girard, Absolut Vodka, Gentleman Jack and Jack Daniel’s Single Barrel, plus a special Woodford Reserve bottle-engraving.
During our Grand Opening weekend, you can shop and support a local cause at the same time. Join us October 15-18 to help support The Muny. Total Wine & More will donate a portion of our Grand Opening sales during this time to the association.
Did you miss the Grand Opening of our Town & Country store? If you did, or have never been to one of our stores before, click the photo below and take a look at what you can expect at our Brentwood #totalwineGO this weekend!
Bring your friends, family and coworkers — and don’t forget to make everyone who misses out jealous by posting your fun Grand Opening experiences (#totalwineGO).
We’ll be posting the latest updates to our Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and other social media channels, so connect with us to stay totally up-to-date. We can’t wait to see you at our new store!
Hey Miami – we’re opening our very first South Beach store!
That’s right: On October 15, we’ll be opening a new Total Wine & More store at Fifth & Alton in Miami Beach, Florida. To celebrate, we’re throwing a Grand Opening Extravaganza celebration all weekend with wine, spirits and beer events and tastings with brands like Caymus, Belvedere, Hennessy, Alpine Brewing, Green Flash Brewing… and more! The doors open at 9 a.m., and the events kick off at 4 p.m. We’ve got all the information you need to join the fun on the new store’s events page.
During our Grand Opening weekend, you can also assist a local cause. Join us October 15-18 to help support the New World Symphony. Total Wine & More will donate a portion of our Grand Opening sales during this time to their Academy.
We’re also excited to announce that this will be our first South Florida location with a Brewery District where you can fill 64 and 32 oz. growlers! Stop in for a fill during our Grand Opening.
Bring your friends, family and coworkers — and don’t forget to make everyone who misses out jealous by posting your fun Grand Opening experiences (#totalwineGO).
We’ll be posting the latest updates to our Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and other social media channels, so follow us there to stay totally up-to-date. We can’t wait to see you at our new South Beach store!
Join Gaia Gaja for a livestream wine tasting on October 24 at select locations!
Join us for an afternoon getaway to the bel paese (beautiful country)!
Gaia Gaja, a fifth-generation winemaker and daughter of winemaking legend Angelo Gaja, will host an afternoon with Gaja wines. Gaia had a wine named in her honor (Gaia & Rey Chardonnay) before she even took her first steps. She has worked at the Gaja winery since she was a child and has represented the winery in Italy, Japan, France and the United States. Our tasting will feature wines ranging from $65 to $200. Wine Spectator has described Gaja’s wines as “perhaps the finest Italian wines ever made.”
Don’t miss this special event as Gaia shares stories from her family’s journey crafting these beautiful wines in Italy.
Saturday, October 24, 2015
1-2 p.m. EST (12-1 p.m. CST)
$20 per person