16 February 2015

Sussex Wine Academy

If you are a fan of the great red wines from Bordeaux, you may be wondering what the 2014 vintage will be like when it is ready. For the top wines, which need considerable ageing, these have traditionally been sold before they are even bottled. These wines are currently sitting in their oak barrels in the Bordeaux chateaux, where they will normally stay for around 18 months. Once there is a consensus from the wine experts as to the quality (normally around April after the vintage) the wines are put on sale early – called buying ‘en primeur’.

This early buying used to be a good way of getting top wines at the best price. Not any longer. Wine markets have become volatile through a number of influences – the Chinese market and the world-wide recent recession to name but two. Thus prices often have gone down after the first release price, rather than an ever upwards increase as in the past. Buying ‘en primeur’ may thus soon be consigned to history for all but the largest trade buyers.

Leaving that aside, what about the 2014 Bordeaux vintage? Whilst it is still a little early to tell, there are some indications as to what the wines may be like when ready to drink in a few years’ time. Generally, the quantities produced were very good and better than the last few years. This is good news for the producers whose cellars were beginning to look a little empty. In terms of quality, it looks as if it will be a good year, but not a great year. The weather over the entire year has an effect on the wine produced, not just at harvest time. With a relatively cool and damp summer, there was a lot of catching-up to do with the warm sunny autumn which occurred in the Bordeaux region, just as it did in Sussex. The grapes thus ripened quickly, meaning that in most cases the grape skins lack a certain amount of concentration of both tannins and colour to make ‘great’ wines. The maceration period (the time the grape skins are left in the fermentation vats) was quite short this year, since the colour and tannins were easily extracted.  There is thus the potential for soft, approachable, appealing, fruity wines, which will drink early but not keep too long. We will know more in April – watch this space!