Margaux was an appellation that was also affected by the frosts in April 2017. Château Angludet, for example, made no wine at all. Others properties have had volumes reduced, but more importantly, blending components affected. This variation in experience will amplify the appellation’s overall diversity of style. Margaux is a large geographical district and covering such diverse terroir the wines are always somewhat heterogenous. The best at the UGCB’s 2017 in bottle tasting last autumn showed freshness but also substance. Some lacked middle and flair. Across a pretty big sample [16 wines] Château Brane Cantenac and Château Rauzan-Ségla were tops with Château Lascombes and Château Kirwan not that far behind. Very good wines were also made at Château Cantenac Brown, Château Monbrison and Château Siran [in very different styles]. Château Marquis de Terme, Château Dauzac and Château Ferrière produced good wine too [again in contrasting styles]. That said, do search out 2012, 2014, 2015, 2016 over 2017 which are finer and generally more consistent vintages. 2015 and 2016 are especially fine in Margaux and worth the premium.
It is a tribute to the dedication of the top estates in the Haut-Médoc that so many respectable wines have been made in 2017. In some cases that might also be a little of the luck of the draw. Some properties will have been less frost-affected than others because the best sites are often those that also offer some degree of frost protection by virtue of geography or aspect. Others will have made wine by sheer force of effort and wherewithal. Château La Tour Carnet, for example, lost well over 70% of their crop due to frosts. The very respectable red they have ended up producing has also been underwritten by the resources of owner Bernard Magrez. Smaller, less well financed properties, would have probably faired less successfully in the circumstances. Of the eight wines shown last autumn by the UGCB, Château Belgrave and Château Cantemerle led the pack. These are really stylish and complete wines which show a lot of flair. For the moment Château La Lagune shows less well. Though it has considerable purity, it felt a little sulky, but I would expect this wine to eventually find its stride. Excellent wines have been produced by Château Beaumont and Château Citran and both will offer good value. Château La Tour Carnet and Château Coufran are also good.
In the Haut-Médoc, the 2017 vintage doesn’t quite play as well as perhaps I’d hoped back in 2018 during my primeurs tastings. A lot of sites inland from the Gironde, such as Listrac and Moulis, suffered from the April frosts, and this has obviously affected the choices of blending elements, as well as volumes [as elsewhere in Bordeaux in this vintage]. I’m a great fan of these two appellations as sources of good value, vigorous wines, that have plenty of zap and life. Unfortunately, there is a certain angularity to some of the wines here in 2017. While the best terroirs have made the best wines here – Château Poujeaux is the most convincing – 2017 is not a vintage to particularly seek out here over 2009, 2010, 2014, 2015, 2016 and 2018. All these vintages are fuller and more complete than 2017.
This is a small snapshot of bottled 2017 to draw conclusions from but these notes can be augmented by observations I made initially about the appellation during primeurs, found here. Again, frost affected Pomerol estates mostly in terms of volumes and blends. There is variation [one of the characteristics of the vintage] but a number of excellent wines have been made. There is something tremendously decadent about top Pomerol, and for me Château La Conseillante really wowed at the tasting, alongside a seriously impressive Château Clinet. Château Petit-Village looked very good as usual, not that far behind at all. I’ve been impressed by the improvement of Château Beauregard in recent vintages. This is testament to work that has been undertaken in the vineyard and the cellar there, as well as the product of a vintage when Cab Franc has shone through, which Beauregard has extensive plantings of. Château Le Bon Pasteur was also good. The misfire for me was Château Gazin, which felt a little austere in comparison with its peers.
For a full analysis of the growing season and my first thoughts on 2017 St Emilion during primeurs week in April 2018 you can click through to the full report here. As is well known, the devastating frosts of April 2017 sealed the fate of some producers in St Emilion entirely. They were a few unable to make wine at all. For others it substantially reduced yields and affected their blends. Some were left unscathed. Nature can be cruel and unfair, though not obviously in an intentional way [just leave that to us!]. Given this, you’d expect there to be considerable variation in quality in St Emilion. Ironically, judging from the wines lined up by the Union des Grands Cru de Bordeaux last October, the appellation has produced some of the most appealing Bordeaux in the region with a reasonable degree of consistency. The notes below are limited to those who are members of the UGCB so this is a comparatively small snapshot clearly. In this case, a dozen wines. The stand outs for me were Clos Fourtet, Château Figeac, Château Larcis Ducasse, Château Pavie Macquin and Château Valandraud which have all produced superlative St Emilion. Just a notch below these are Château La Gaffelière, Château Troplong Mondot and Château Trotte Vieille who also impressed with complex and satisfying wine.
2017’s a funny old vintage in Bordeaux. It feels to me like this year is the least successful of the past decade, assuming we forget about the washout 2013 vintage. That’s not to say that there aren’t a number wines that are really impressive now that the 2017s are in bottle. Last October’s annual Union des Grand Crus de Bordeaux tasting in London showed some excellent wines in Pomerol and St Emilion, perhaps more so than in the other communes, but there were fine wines to be found in all the appellations. That said many lacked a bit of charm, seemed somewhat austere and lacked mid-palate concentration. Yes, they are fresh. Yes, the acidity is bright and some have a decent zap about them, but, overall, it’s hardly a vintage that sets the pulse racing. The same couldn’t be said for the experience that the vignerons themselves faced in the early part of the growing season in 2017 when devastating frosts wiped out entire crops in St Emilion and Pomerol and did much damage elsewhere, notably in parts of Pessac-Léognan and the Haut-Médoc. Some properties didn’t make any wine at all. It was certainly a nerve-jangling time for growers. Looked in that light, perhaps we must actually see 2017 as something of a success.