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Bordeaux Primeurs 2013: Margaux

Written by JW. Posted in Bordeaux

IMG_5684The Margaux appellation has struggled more than most in 2013. A great many wines tasted at the Union des Grand Crus tasting were in a kind of no-man’s land. The delicate fruit tones of 2013 had been worked too much in quite a few cases, rendering them chewy and extracted yet with puckering levels of acidity. Some very good wines have still been made. I’ve posted separately on Château Margaux and Château Palmer. Both stand out as beacons of hope but neither are what you might call affordable. Elegant efforts from Château Angludet, Château Giscours and Château du Tertre are pure and vigorous and worth considering if you’re a Margaux fan [like me]. Château Rauzan-Ségla and Château Brane-Cantenac, Château d’Issan and Château Lascombes, should also work out well too. The disappointments seem more to do with approaches to the vintage in the cellar as much as the problems that 2013 presented itself. In some respects many of the Margaux wounds are self-inflicted.

By now, if you’ve been reading any of these posts I’ve been bashing out, you’ll be very familiar with the problems that 2013 presented. The cool and wet spring delayed the growing season and played havoc with vine flowering, reducing yields. A hot July and warm August saved the day, but it was always going to be a late harvest. Wet, warm weather as the vintage approached then threatened [and delivered] rampant botrytis in the vineyards such the crop had to be harvested a week or so earlier than had been hoped.

The best Margaux wines in 2013 have recognized the limitations of what could be achieved. At best the fruit was delicate and aromatic, but it often lacked concentration, alcohol and overall ripeness. It was also generally high in acidity. This was not the sort of fruit that needed to be pushed about or thrown into lots of new oak, regardless of how ambitious a proprietor you were. The results of these sorts of efforts are delivered in a number of very chewy and puckering wines. They may settle but I wouldn’t want to bet on it.

In that sense Margaux in 2013 reminds me of an inferior version of 2011. These wines felt disjointed and over-stretched when I first tasted them in April 2012. By the time they were bottled some had settled, but they were still a relatively lean and austere bunch. I was left in no doubt that those that had succeeded best were those that were elegant and delicate in the first place. I think that will be even more the case with 2013. For me 2012 was a much better vintage here, partly because of the beauty of the Merlot in that vintage [quality not replicated even at the very best estates in 2013]. It’s probably worth looking through merchants lists to see if any of these wines are still available [at competitive prices].

Back to 2013. Top of the tree are contrasting efforts from Château Palmer and Château Margaux. The former is muscular and impressive, the latter perfumed and elegant but with appealing delicacy. At the UGCB tasting at Château Marquis de Terme, stablemates Château Giscours and Château du Tertre stood out for purity and elegance. These worked well for me, as did an impressive effort from the talented Ben Sichel at Château Angludet. His 2005, incidentally, stole the show at lunch [a beautiful wine].

IMG_5651Palmer ties with Chateau Margaux for best ’13 here

In my book Palmer’s second label Alter Ego beat a lot of classed growths this year. There is a firm and composed effort from Château Rauzan-Ségla, Château Brane-Cantenac is sappy and vigorous and Château d’Issan is fresh and pure.

Château Lascombes is usually pretty plush and full. Techniques here are pretty extractive but this is one 2013 that should come out of the mincer nicely. Château Labégorce, usually good value, looks elegant and nicely judged. It’s no blockbuster [trying to produce one in ’13 was the road to ruin] but it is well balanced. I’d put Château Prieuré-Lichine, Château Monbrison and perhaps even Château La Tour du Mons in this category too [though it was a little inconsistent in my tastings].

Then there are a gaggle of wines that felt disjointed one way or another. Some may have sufficient balance amongst the elements to settle. Château Dauzac is one of these. Still I’ve no idea how Château Cantenac Brown or Château Malescot Saint-Exupéry are going to turn out. Both felt extremely extracted and disjointed. Château Marquis de Terme was in similar territory but felt a smidgen more harmonious overall. Château Kirwan was rather hard and joyless.

At the cru bourgeois tasting I had a look at Château Paveil de Luze. It felt rather pinched and acidic. The same goes for Château Siran too I’m afraid. I think these properties are clearly victims of the tough vintage – the fruit was not sufficiently ripe. Likewise Château Desmirail has produced something lean and sappy, if a fraction rounder. All these may settle during elévage but they will remain pretty austere [at the very best].

The following notes are arranged in order of scores. As always the notes are more important than the numbers. I’d like add that, as Margaux lover, I wish overall I had more positive news to report here in 2013, but sadly I don’t.

Château Margaux, Premier Grand Cru Classé, Margaux

Deep at core; colour close to the edge; pretty purple; attractive purity of blackcurrant fruit; quite scented and aromatic with genuine violet perfume; very Margaux; real delicacy; elegant and balanced on the palate, light; with soft tannin, a little density and good-ish length. Has purity and delicacy. [94% Cabernet Sauvignon, 5% Cabernet Franc, 1% Petit Verdot]. Drink 2018-2030. 91-93

Château Palmer, Cru Classé, Margaux

Deep and saturated; very bold colour for the vintage; very vibrant at edge; creamy fruit; very pure and layered; real plushness; very attractive fruit on entry but concentrated; muscular in the middle but moves towards a nicely measured and well-mannered finish. Excellent effort. [49% Merlot, 51% Cabernet Sauvignon]. Drink 2018-2030. 91-93

Château Giscours, Cru Classé, Margaux

Mid depth; vibrant edge; blackcurrant purity; nicely defined and fruit driven aromatics – true Bordeaux and Margaux attributes; good attack on the palate; vibrant with acidity and life but there is plenty of blackcurrant fruit; some elegance with nice chew at the end. Good effort and worth considering in 2013. [75% Cabernet Sauvignon, 20% Merlot, 5% Petit Verdot]. Drink 2018-2028. 87-89+

Château du Tertre, Cru Classé, Margaux

Deep and healthy looking; purple at edge; some purity and blackcurrant tones; attractive and pure [nicely unadorned]; palate quite creamy; good-ish effort with [remarkably] even some generosity and polish here; overall nicely balance with good length and sap on the finish. Surprisingly generous for the vintage. [80% Cabernet Sauvignon, 10% Merlot, Cabernet Franc 5%, Petit Verdot 5%]. Drink 2018-2028. 87-89

Château Angludet, Margaux

Mid-depth; glossy look; vibrant edge; some fragrance and violet perfume’ blackcurrants; quite elegant styled but unforced; attractive soft entry; easy; some beauty here; elegant and nicely judged. Good effort. One to consider in 2013. [56% Cabernet Sauvignon, 32% Merlot, 12% Petit Verdot, 31 hl/ha, 12.8% alc]. Drink 2017-2025. 86-88+

Alter Ego, Margaux

Deep and saturated look; vibrant at edge; legs in the glass; attractive fruit on the nose; nicely layered and composed; attractive fruit on the palate; pretty sturdy with nice sap and chew. Sturdy and solid. Goodish length on the finish. [46% Merlot, 46% Cabernet Sauvignon, 8% Petit Verdot]. Drink 2017-2023. 87-88+

Château Rauzan-Segla, Cru Classé, Margaux

Deepish; firm nose suggests this may well be a bit hard; actually good and solid effort on the palate; not overdone; spicy tones; compact; acidity and sap here but not dry in tannin although there is some chew on the finish. [58% Cabernet Sauvignon, 39% Merlot, 2% petit Verdot, 1% Cabernet Franc]. Drink 2018-2025. 86-88+

Château Brane-Cantenac, Cru Classé, Margaux

Mid depth; glossy; some spice and earthy tones with a little streak of green pepper; blackcurrants on the palate; elegance; not too forced; sappy and grippy at end. Drink 2017-2025. 86-88

Château d’Issan, Cru Classé, Margaux

Deeper; purple at edge; good and healthy blackcurrant tones; purity; creamy quality and nicely integrated oak; quite tight on the palate; elegant with acidity showing. Elegant if a little compact overall. Good effort in the context.[74% Cabernet Sauvignon, 26% Merlot, 12.83% alc, TA 3.26, pH 3.69 IPT 60, 50% new oak, 55% of production] Drink 2018-2030. 86-88

Château Labégorce, Margaux

Deepish colour; some stuffying and density here; earthy blackcurrants with spice; palate not that bad; not too puckering or astringent; more generosity than some. Little chew on the finish. [50% Cabernet Sauvignon, 45% Merlot, 5% Petit Verdot]. Drink 2017-2025. 86-88

Château Lascombes, Cru Classé, Margaux

Deepish looking; spicy nose; some plums and toast; blackfruits too; similar tones on the palate but a little dry in the middle but overall more stuffing here than Kirwan or Cantenac Brown. Bit extracted overall but let’s see how it settles as Lascombes usually does. Represents 60% of the production. [50% Merlot, 45% Cabernet Sauvignon, 5% Petit Verdot, 13% alc]. Drink 2018-2025. 86-88

Pavillon Rouge du Château Margaux

Mid depth; light earthy purple at edge; some cherry and a little plum and bubble gum tones; light and quite tight on the palate but well made and polished as you’d expect. Little austere on the finish. [84% Cabernet Sauvignon, 10% Merlot, 4% Petit Verdot, 2% Cabernet Franc]. Drink 2017-2026. 86-88

Château Bellevue de Tayac, Margaux

Mid depth; deepish core; some violet lift and elegance; feels Margaux; elegant cool flavours on the palate with some spice. Lacks a bit in the middle but not pushed. Cool and elegant. Drink 2018-2026. 85-87

Château Monbrison, Margaux

Mid depth; translucent at centre; some perfume and light blackcurrant aromatics; cool palate; elegant but with quite high acidity; freshly styled and grippy too but [thankfully] not extracted. [60% Cabernet Sauvignon, 28% Merlot, 7% Cabernet Franc, 5% Petit Verdot]. Drink 2018-2025. 85-87

Château Prieuré-Lichine, Cru Classé, Margaux

Mid depth; light; fresh and some stalky blackcurrant aromatics; light palate; some elegance and easy going. Has the virtue of elegance and drinkability but pretty light. [70% Cabernet Sauvignon, 25% Merlot, 5% Petit Verdot]. Drink 2017-2023. 85-87

Château Dauzac, Cru Classé, Margaux

Mid depth; thick aromatics dominated currently by toasty oak; some black fruits beneath; chewy and sturdy palate; solid at first, then dry and a little puckering on the finish. This may yet settle as there is quite a bit of fruit, still I’d wait and see. Drink 2017-2025. 84-86

Château Ferrière, Cru Classé, Margaux

Deepish; vibrant meniscus; some wet stone; inky and spicy tones; vigorous with plenty of acidity, tannin and chew but there is fruit. Drink 2017-2023. 84-86

Château Kirwan, Cru Classé, Margaux

Mid depth; lightish at centre; little stalky blackcurrant notes; bit reductive; blackcurrant fruit; very sappy style with quite pronounced acidity than Giscours or du Tertre; feels a bit stretched at the end with a dry finish. Hope it fills out. [61% Cabernet Sauvignon, 18% Merlot, 11% Cabernet Franc, 10% Petit Verdot]. Drink 2017-2023. 84-86

Château Marquis de Terme, Cru Classé, Margaux

Mid depth; attractive forward and ripe feeling aromatics; some red fruits; feels forward and glossy; sweet fruit initially then the obvious structure; still this should meld as it has material but it will always be chewy. Dry finish. [60% Cabernet Sauvignon, 40% Merlot]. Drink 2018-2025. 84-86

Château La Tour du Mons, Cru Bourgeois, Margaux

Deep in the glass; glossy look; perfume – violets – lots of fruit and some oak to integrate; spicy characters with some Margaux elegance yet there is some density. Little dry on the finish but nicely done overall. [55% Merlot, 37% Cabernet Sauvignon, 6% Cabernet Franc, 2% Petit Verdot, 40% new oak, 60% one year old]. Tasted at Château Meyney 31/3/14. Drink 2018-2026. 84-86 [Later note] Mid depth; glossy look; some perfume and stalky Cabernet fruit with some oak still to integrate; fruit is good but bit masked by oak currently and needs to settle; bit astringent on the finish. Tasted Cru Bourgeois tasting at Château d’Arsac 3/4/12. Drink 2017-2023. 83-85

Château Rauzan-Gassies, Cru Classé, Margaux

Deep and dark; saturated looking compared to many in the appellation at the UGC; stalky fruit; some bubblegum notes; little reductive; quite tight and sappy on the palate – almost a bit undermade but in the context of the vintage that might prove to be a good thing. Short and light on the finish. [68% Cabernet Sauvignon, 32% Merlot]. Drink 2017-2023. 84-86

Blaison d’Issan, Margaux

Mid depth, earthy purple at edge; earthy blackcurrant fruit; quite solid but mannered; grippy and stalky on the palate; little reductive; fresh and sappy certainly. [57% Merlot, 43% Cabernet Sauvignon, 12.7% alc, TA 3.24, pH 3.64, IPT 54, 35% new oak, 45% of production, 28hl/ha] Drink 2016-2024. 83-85

Château Cantenac Brown, Cru Classé, Margaux

Deep colour; more extracted looking; resin on the nose with almost Italianate notes; little monolithic on the nose; wet concrete tones; very extracted style on the palate; quite tight with lots of acidity and grip which alongside the tannins makes for a currently very dry and puckering experience. Way too extractive of the delicate fruit to my palate. See how it goes down the line. Drink 2018-2025. 83-85

Château Desmirail, Cru Classé, Margaux

Mid depth; some spice; little softer and rounder aromatically than some; tight and sappy. Bit thin on the end. Light certainly. Drink 2016-2020. 83-85

Château Malescot-Saint-Exupéry, Cru Classé, Margaux

Mid depth; some marizpan notes; almost a degree of fatness; dry and very extracted palate; quite sappy and very puckering on the finish. Very chewy indeed. Not looking good in 2013 at this stage. Over-extracted for the vintage. [62% Cabernet Sauvignon, 30% Merlot, 5% Cabernet Franc, 3% Petit Verdot]. Drink 2017-2025. 83-85?

Château Marsac-Seguineau, Margaux

Bright and light in the glass; spicy, aromatic with a little perfume; some inky tones and perfume on the palate; some extract but light finish. Elegant. [60% Merlot, 25% Cabernet Sauvignon, 15% Cabernet Franc, 25% new oak for 12 months, Marsac-Seguineau is a10 ha vineyard on Marsac plateau near La Tour de Mons]. Tasted at Château Meyney 31/3/14. Drink 2018-2024. 83-85+

Château Siran, Margaux

Mid depth; fresh blackcurrants; quite high toned style; quite acid and firm on the palate with a puckering finish. Acidity very obvious. Not a success this year. May round out a bit but acidity very pronounced.[55% Cabernet Sauvignon, 35% Merlot, 10% Petit Verdot]. Drink 2017-2023. 82-84

Château Paveil de Luze, Cru Bourgeois, Margaux

Deep colour; tight to edge; some coffee; hint of leaf; rather pinched and acidic on the palate; wood on the palate too; there is fruit here but overall feels pinched and then chewy on the end. Drink 2018-2023. Tasted Cru Bourgeois tasting at d’Arsac 3/4/12. 80-82

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