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Bordeaux Primeurs 2013: St Julien

Written by JW. Posted in Bordeaux

222For me St Julien performed better than expected in 2013. Things were a little drier here than elsewhere in the Médoc and perhaps this, combined with the typical homogeneity of the appellation, has made the wines  close to satisfying. Depending on the estate, the quality probably lies somewhere between the 2011 and 2007 vintages, perhaps even toward 2008 in a few cases. Château Léoville-Las-Cases, Château Léoville Poyferré and Château Ducru-Beaucaillou top the appellation. There are good efforts too from siblings Château Léoville Barton and Château Langoa Barton, as well as Château Branaire-Ducru. Overall there’s plenty of grip and sap to the wines, some are chewy currently, but in general they should work out in the medium term.


I’ve posted separately on Château Léoville-Las-Cases, Château Léoville-Poyferré and Château Ducru-Beaucaillou. Qualitatively there is not that much between Ducru and Léoville-Poyferré, but stylistically they are very different. Ducru is elegant and harmonious; Château Léoville Poyferré has more obvious power and strength. It is more tightly structured and in need of a bit of time in bottle. Château Léoville-Las-Cases is out in front of these two. They have produced a wine of surprising ripeness and opulence for the vintage.

At the Union des Grand Cru tasting held at Château Lagrange, the overall quality was pretty good, better than expected in fact. Most of the wines felt reasonably correct, even if they are a little compact this year. Conditions were just as tricky at the start of the growing season in St Julien as everywhere else. The dreadfully cold and wet start to the growing season substantially delaying things, and reduced yields [on Merlot in particular]. Whilst St Julien wasn’t spared the late September humidity, it was spared some of the rainfall, and perhaps this partly accounts for the better showing of the wines in 2013.

Château Léoville-Barton and Château Langoa-Barton are clean, fresh and vigorous, with Langoa the more compact of the two. Château Branaire-Ducru is mid-weight, the fruit creamy and layered. It has attractive sap at the back. I’ve written separately about Clos du Marquis. For my money it is definitely up with these guys for the quality, perhaps even a fraction ahead. Château Gruaud Larose and Château Saint-Pierre also were pretty good. Gruaud-Larose had nice blackcurrant fruit tones and was cool and fresh. St Pierre was similar but currently more marked by acidity. Château Beychevelle and Château Talbot were better than expected. I’ve not been thrilled by either of these wines recently, but both felt accomplished efforts for the vintage.

Château Gloria and Château Lagrange brought up the rear for me. Gloria is fresh and sappy, but the acidity is very strong at present. It should  round out during elévage. I’ve been a long-time fan of Château Lagrange but recent vintages have taken on a rather uninspiring, workman-like edge. I’ve had a lot of joy with the 1996 and the 2000, the 2005 is very serious but good, but 2009 and 2010 aren’t in the top league and there’s been a hardness for me here in 2011-2012. There is plenty of fruit in Lagrange 2013 but the acidity and rather tough tannin leaves it feeling chewy.

In the end even these wines will be pleasant and correct enough I’d expect but are any of these worth forking out for as en primeur purchases? Given that 2013 here looks no better than years like 2011 and 2007, there’s no compelling case for their purchase unless they are [substantially] cheaper than these vintages. And generally speaking they aren’t. That said some, such as Clos du Maquis (£300 per 12], look good value. Château Léoville-Poyferré, one of the top properties, has also priced 2013 with the consumer in mind [£420 per 12].

IMG_5614Château Léoville-Poyferré: Well priced in 2013?

The following seventeen wines were tasted either at the Union des Grand Crus de Bordeaux tasting at Château Lagrange or at the individual chateau specified. I hope the notes are helpful.

Château Léoville-Las-Cases, Cru Classé St Julien

Deep and dark looking; saturated but has life and vibrancy at edge; blackcurrant purity on the nose; cool with some smoke and graphite; layers and almost a certain opulence; very pure; creamy blackcurrant flavours on the palate, opulent and full in the middle – really full of fruit. Lots of material and tannin here but fruit to back it up. Nothing wrong with this at all. One of the best wines tasted on the left bank. [74% Cabernet Sauvignon, 12% Merlot, 14% Cabernet Franc, 13.1% alc, TA 3.76, pH 3.69, IPT 63, 31hl/ha, 9.5% press win, 85% new oak]. TastedChâteau Léoville-Las-Cases 31/3/14. Drink 2020-2035. 91-93+

Château Léoville-Poyferré, Cru Classé, St Julien

Deep and saturated look; tight to rim; vibrant; blackcurrant purity with a vanilla lift; focused and precise on the palate; seam of fruit; oak needs to integrate a little but good effort. Grip and focus. Chewy finish. Pretty serious. Akin to 2008. [65% Cabernet Sauvignon, 26% Merlot, 6% Petit Verdot, 3% Cabernet Franc], 13% alc, TA 3.6, pH 3.63, IPT 73, 34hl/ha]. Tasted 31/3/14 at Léoville-Poyferré. Drink 2020-2030. 91-92+ [Additional note] Deep and saturated; attractive and layered nose; complex; full; smoked meats; blackcurrants; nice entry and good extract and material; firmly structured – and feels a little more backward compared with the Bartons just before but all the elements clearly there; chew and density on the finish suggests a serious effort here. Will settle nicely. Tasted UGC 1/4/14. Drink 2020-2030. 90-92+

Château Ducru-Beaucaillou, Cru Classé, St Julien

Deeper; vibrant purple at edge; glossy look; pure blackcurrants, pure, saline quality; excellent purity on the palate, very linear with a crisp quality and vibrancy; very nicely balanced overall – has genuine delicacy and elegance. Should come together nicely. Pure and attractive St Julien. [90% Cabernet Sauvignon, 10% Merlot, 13% alc, TA 3.59, pH 3.6, IPT 68, 100% new oak]. Tasted at Château Ducru-Beaucaillou 3/4/14. Drink 2018-2030. 90-92

Clos du Marquis, St Julien

Deep and serious looking; tighter to the edge; vibrant; creamy blackcurrant aromatics, cassis & feels deep; very nice aromatics; little oak at the edge but plushness to the fruit; density and depth but not over-extracted; tannins ripe and fresh finish with good length. Great effort. [73% Cabernet Sauvignon, 18% Merlot, 9% Cabernet Franc, 13% alc, TA 3.57, pH 3.77, IPT 61, 50% new oak, 6% press wine, 31hl/ha]. TastedChâteau Léoville-Las-Cases 31/3/14. Drink 2020-2030. 89-91+

Château Léoville Barton, Grand Cru Classé, St Julien

Deep and saturated; tight to the rim; inky look; cool blackcurrant fruit with some black cherry tones; feels full; blackcurrant fruit tones on the palate; nicely layered; more grip and tannin than Langoa Barton. Classical Leoville Barton. Nice extract overall. Needs to settle but all the elements are there. [85% Cabernet Sauvignon, 15% Merlot, 60% new oak, 13% alc]. Tasted UGC 1/4/14. Drink 2020-2035. 89-91+

Château Branaire-Ducru, Grand Cru Classé, St Julien

Deep at core; purple edge; fresh blackcurrant tones on the nose; fruit is clean and nicely lifted; creamy notes; very pure and clean again on the palate; medium bodied with sap; layers here. Nicely done. [63% Cabernet Sauvignon, 31% Merlot, 5% Petit Verdot, 1% Cabernet Franc]. Tasted UGC 1/4/14. Drink 2018-2028. 88-90

Château Langoa Barton, Grand Cru Classé, St Julien

Deep and saturated look; creamy blackcurrant aromas with sour cherry notes; attractive purity; nice entry with blackcurrant fruit; cool blue fruit tones; there is grip and acidity but there’s a good balance between this and the purity of the fruit. Compact but a good effort overall. [65% Cabernet Sauvignon, 30% Merlot, 5% Cabernet Franc, 13% alc]. Tasted UGC 1/4/14. Drink 2018-2030. 88-90

Château Gruaud Larose, Grand Cru Classé, St Julien

Mid depth; dark core; little reticent at first then blackcurrants and some earthy notes emerge; nice entry on the palate; cool blackcurrant fruit with some complexity [meat and notes of earth]; attractive mid-palate and nicely balanced fruit and acids. Fresh obviously but for the vintage this works. [77% Cabernet Sauvignon, 21% Merlot, 2% Cabernet Franc, 12.75% alc]. Tasted 87-89+

Château St Pierre, Grand Cru Classé, St Julien

Deep and saturated look; bright at edge; blackcurrants; sweet toasty aromatics – nicely integrated and attractive; cool entry to the palate; fresh acids here [as at sibling Gloria]; perhaps a little compact but has nice chew if rather sappy. [74% Cabernet Sauvignon, 18% Merlot, 8% Cabernet Franc 50% new oak, 12.9%]. 87-89+

Château Beychevelle, Grand Cru Classé, St Julien

Deep-ish; vibrant edge; some menthol, blackcurrant fruits; quite full on the nose; inky blackcurrant tones on the palate; some cassis; not a bad effort. Composed with some elegance. Good effort. [55% Cabernet Sauvignon, 36% Merlot, 9% Petit Verdot. Harvest 1-10th October, 13% alc]. Tasted UGC 1/4/14. Drink 2018-2025. 87-89

Château Talbot, Grand Cru Classé, St Julien

Depth; earthy purple at edge; some ink and blackcurrants; bit of cream; opens up nicely in the glass; some layers to this effort; blackcurrant fruit on the palate is cool and fresh; there is acidity but overall the fruit meets in the middle; quite a complete effort from Talbot in a tricky year. [78% Cabernet Sauvignon, 18% Merlot, 4% Petit Verdot]. Tasted UGC 1/4/14. 87-89

Croix de Beaucaillou, St Julien

Deeper; vibrant and attractive floral perfume; sweet and sour cherry; spices; nice entry on the palate; soft with good density but elegant and round. Much more generosity than many in this vintage. Elegant and fruit driven.[52% Cabernet Sauvignon, 45% Merlot, 3% Petit Verdot, 13.15% alc, TA 3.5, pH 3.73, IPT 65, 60% new oak]. Drink 2017-2024. Tasted at Château Ducru-Beaucaillou. 86-88+

Château Gloria, St Julien

Deepish- vibrant edge; very fresh and brightly flavoured; some bubblegum and blackcurrant tones; fresh and vivid; cool blackcurrant flavours on the palate; pretty strong acid here gives a rather grippy/sappy finish. [68% Cabernet Sauvignon, 23% Merlot, 5% Petit Verdot, 4% Cabernet Franc 45% new oak]. Tasted UGC 1/4/14. Drink 2018-2023. 86-88

Château Lagrange, Grand Cru Classe, St Julien

Deep at core; vibrant purple at edge; some resin; cereal tones and blackcurrants; inky palate which feels grippy and rather chewy. Acidity and tannin giving rather chewy aspect to the end palate. [75% Cabernet Sauvignon, 21% Merlot, 4% Petit Verdot]. Tasted UGC 1/4/14. Drink 2018-2025. 86-88

Château Moulin Riche, St Julien

Deep and saturated colour; vibrant at the meniscus; intense, tight but focused on the nose; blackcurrant cassis; polished and creamy entry; wood a little dominant and acidity present. Grip. Should settle. [55% Cabernet Sauvignon, 28% Merlot, 17% Petit Verdot]. Tasted 31/3/14 at Léoville-Poyferré. Drink 2017-2030. 86-88 

Le Petit Lion de Marquis de Las Cases, St Julien

Deep at core; vibrant edge; fresh looking; spicy blackcurrant tones; nice lift; plums; attractive and some depth aromatically; good fruit on the palate with focus; quite full and attractive; soft and approachable at present. Settled. Rounder and more generous than expected. [53% Merlot, 46% Cabernet Sauvignon, 1% Cabernet Franc, 13.1% alc, TA 3.62, pH 3.73 IPT 58, 20% new oak, 9.5% press wine]. TastedChâteau Léoville-Las-Cases 31/3/14. Drink 2017-2028. 86-88

Château Lalande-Borie, St Julien

Mid depth; pretty and perfumed; cherry and raspberry notes; pretty; spicy and vibrant palate with grip and some sap. Spicy finish. Elegant and crisp.[70% Cabernet Sauvignon, 26% Merlot, 4% Cabernet Franc. 12.95% alc, TA 3.61, pH 3.7, IPT 60, 30% new oak]. Tasted at Château Ducru-Beaucaillou. Drink 2016-2024. 85-87

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