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.
Posts Tagged ‘St Estèphe’
Finally notes taken on wines tasted at the Bordeaux Grand Cru Classé tasting in London last year. While the majority of these were 2018s that I’d missed during primeurs week, it was also a good opportunity to look at other recent vintages. In Margaux, Château Rauzan Ségla had made a sublime wine in 2018, so too Château Branaire-Ducru and Château Léoville Poyferré in St Julien. In Pauillac, Château Pontet Canet was astonishing, paralleled in different ways by extraordinary wines at Château Montrose in St Estèphe and Château Smith Haut Lafitte in Pessac-Léognan.
Château Cos d’Estournel has been making wine of first growth quality for years, but the period of ownership under Michel Reybier has coincided with a dramatic shift in ambition and overall quality. And not just in the main wine. Pagodes de Cos, the second label, in recent years is now better than many vintages of the grand vin itself in the 1990s. Yet, while there has been a string of impressive wines here in the last few vintages – 2014, 2015 and 2016 are all exciting editions of Cos – 2018 is a real marvel. I reckon it is possibly the finest wine made in the last decade at the estate. And, in what is a truly remarkable vintage for St Estèphe, Cos might actually just pip the extraordinary wines also made in this year at Château Calon-Ségur and Château Montrose.
Bordeaux 2018 reaches its hedonistic heights in the northern Haut-Médoc, and no more so than in St Estèphe. At Château Calon Ségur one of the most remarkable wines has been made. This property has had a very impressive run here over the last decade. That said, the 2018 is a legend in the making. The fruit is spectacular, the style is sublime and the wine is voluptuous. For me it was the most memorable wine [amongst many] during primeurs back in April. Not surprisingly word quickly got out. The wine was the most expensive Calon released en primeur and it is now offered at a price higher than any other vintage in the past decade. I guess for a Bordeaux that has first growth unambiguously stamped all over it, and considering the world’s screaming eagles, maybe £1000 a case could still be considered a snip.
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!
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.