Get ready for the superlatives. Last Friday, in wonderfully warm late March sun, I started at the top. First up this year was a visit to Château Latour. Frankly you couldn’t get a better introduction to the extraordinary quality of this vintage – the proverbial game of two halves. In 2018 an incredibly wet first half of the growing season was followed by a sunny, hot halcyon, game changing second, that spanned July to October. The ripeness and depth of fruit and the texture of Château Latour in 2018 immediately reminded me of 2009. Yet there is real freshness here too. This is Latour that is a mix of 2009 and 2010. Wow!
Posts Tagged ‘Cabernet Sauvignon’
Château Haut-Bailly has some of the most enviable terroir in Bordeaux. Unfortunately even this was insufficient to spare the property from the devasting frosts of April 27 and 28, 2017. These frosts did damage to the lower plots on the property, but the old vine parcels were spared. Subsequently even flowering and an exceptionally dry summer, saved the day. In 2017 Château Haut-Bailly has produced red wines that have depth and freshness. The vintage is a little reminiscent of 2008 and 2014 but with softer tannins and more gentle extraction.
Château Pape Clément was badly affected in volume terms by the damage wrought by the April frost in 2017. At the property, in Bordeaux’s suburbs in Pessac, production for the red was sixty percent down and fifty percent for the whites. Other properties elsewhere in Bordeaux owned by Bernard Magrez were affected even more significantly. Château La Tour Carnet in the Haut-Médoc, for example, lost 70% of production. At Pape Clément, despite the considerably reduced crop, and the knock-on effects in terms of blending options, the quality is excellent. The white is very exciting. It is full and deep but not overblown. The Pape Clément red is typically layered and lush, with lots of black fruits.
I’m publishing these in-depth notes somewhat belatedly. I have already posted last April briefly about the quality of the dry whites and the structured reds made in 2017 at Château La Mission Haut-Brion and Château Haut-Brion. Today I’m publishing more detailed notes and thoughts on the wines. The top line? 2017 is a genuinely ‘epic’ year for the whites here. Even by their own sensational quality, La Mission Haut-Brion Blanc and Haut-Brion Blanc are super sublime.
Fronsac and Canon-Fronsac look good in 2017. The wines are nicely balanced, with plenty of flesh and harmony. They should age well in the medium term but will be easy to appreciate in their infancy. All in all, this is an interesting vintage for the consumer. Obviously 2015 and 2016 were excellent vintages here, with greater richness and structure, but I was genuinely surprised by the appeal of the wines in 2017. Yes, there has been a reduction in volume due to frost but I didn’t get any sense that quality had been dramatically affected. Quite the opposite. I was especially impressed with Château Dalem, Château de Carles, Château de la Dauphine, Château de la Rivière, Château Moulin Haut Laroque, Château La Vieille Cure and Château Villars. That said, quality seemed pretty homogenous to me and there really weren’t any misfires in the other wines I tasted from Fronsac or Canon-Fronsac earlier this year.
The 2017 vintage was a difficult one for Stephan von Neipperg and his team. In the frost of April 27-28 they lost much of the crop at Clos Marsalette in Pessac-Léognan, half of the crop in both his Castillon estate Château d’Aiguihle and St Emilion property Clos de l’Oratoire. At Château Canon-la-Gaffelière frost reduced the harvest by 40%. Only the prized La Mondotte vineyard was spared. That’s the bad news. The good news is that team Neipperg have succeeded in making impressive wines, very much against these odds. This is partly thanks to the quality of the remaining crop, a huge amount of work in the vineyard but also a determination to encourage a useful harvest from second generation grapes. It is also says much about Stephan von Neipperg’s own strength of character. Determined not to be despondent, he encouraged his team in the face of adversity. When the going gets tough, as Billy Ocean famously noted, the tough get going.