Image courtesy Laure Marie Ducloy

Image courtesy Laure Marie Ducloy

By Panos Kakaviatos for Total Wine

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

Saint Estephe blind LMD

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+