Many of the red wines tasted during my visit to Bordeaux this April had freshness, engaging aromas, juicy fruit flavours, reasonable depth and generally soft tannins. On this basis 2017 is surely a good vintage? Well yes. For the best properties we’re talking of wines with elements of 2014, 2012 and 2008, possibly a combination of all three in certain places. Things are more exciting for the whites [it looks to be a brilliant year] and Sauternes too has excelled again. But these generalisations hide a somewhat heterogeneous vintage.
Posts Tagged ‘Sauternes’
So what are the principal characteristics of the Bordeaux 2015 vintage? Firstly there is a real beauty to the fruit tones in the red wines this year. Time after time, especially on the Right Bank but also on the Left I kept writing ‘beautiful,’ ‘pretty,’ and ‘delicious.’ There is freshness, despite pretty high alcohols in the main. The vintage is almost a hypothetical blend of 2009 and 2010, but with less evident structure and weight than those vintages. For me it recalls 1985 in terms of that vintage’s early beauty and freshness – and ‘85 remains in great shape today. But the 2015 vintage is by no means homogeneous. In fact there is considerable variability. What is in no doubt is that ‘15 is terrific in St Emilion. There is concentration and delight in so many wines there this year. It has also been strong vintage in the surrounding Côtes de Bordeaux appellation, especially Castillon and Francs.
Now the dust has settled on primeurs week my verdict would be that 2014 Bordeaux is a good to very good vintage for red wines, a vintage which favours the Left Bank especially, but there are also many successes on the Right Bank too. Without doubt it is the best and most consistent vintage since 2010, though it is not up to the quality of that vintage nor its predecessor 2009, with a couple of possible exceptions. 2014 is another excellent vintage for the dry white wines of Bordeaux and there are a number of stylish sweet wines from Sauternes and Barsac. Given the overall quality of the reds, 2014 is definitely a vintage worthy of purchasing en primeur, assuming the price is right. Early indications are that prices will remain stable or increase a little from 2013 for the top estates [an altogether inferior vintage for the reds]. Still given exchange rates, this will still be a reduction of between 10-20% if you are a GBP or USD customer – so if that’s your currency 2014 is potentially interesting. The litmus test usually is that chateaux must release cheaper than any physically available vintage otherwise an en primeur purchase makes no financial sense. So, even if by default, 2014 may be the first vintage since 2008 to offer decent prospects for the consumer. Fingers crossed!
The MW Institute’s Annual Claret tasting of over one hundred top chateaux held last November was a good opportunity to assess how the 2010 Bordeaux vintage is developing. There is no doubt that this is a great vintage for many reds. It has been pretty consistent from cask to bottle, a vintage generally much more classical than the precocious and forward 2009, but of similarly prodigious quality. Taken together these two vintages make an exceptional back-to-back duo for Bordeaux, especially so on the Left Bank and in Pessac-Léognan. The same can also be said for Sauternes and Barsac. Pomerol and St Emilion once again have made many excellent wines in 2010, often extremely well endowed and big framed, though sometimes too much so in St Emilion when they nudge sixteen degrees.
One man’s meat is another man’s poison. If botrytis was the enemy across most of Bordeaux in 2013, it was certainly most welcome in Sauternes and Barsac. The warm and humid conditions favourable for the development of ‘noble’ rot from mid-September onwards, allied to drying winds, proved the classic mix for a very good sweet wine harvest in 2013. The region has produced many beautiful wines with the vintage’s trademark acidity. It gives extra freshness and vibrancy. Some are comparing the quality to 2007 and 1997. Château d’Yquem has produced something tremendous, but there are also very impressive efforts from Château Coutet, Château Doisy-Daëne, Château de Fargues, Château Lafaurie-Peyraguey, Château de Rayne Vigneau, Château Rieussec, Château Sigalas Rabaud, Château Suduiraut and Château La Tour Blanche.
It is tempting to put the boot into Bordeaux 2009. The expectations were so high at the outset, as were the prices, that after all the perfect Parker points there was really only one way for sentiment to go. For me it remains a case of sentiment. Only the most curmudgeonly of tasters would surely find fault with a generally thrilling set of wines shown at the MW Institute’s 2009 claret tasting last November.