Wine Words & Video Tape

Wine, Words and Videotape

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Bordeaux 2023: Château Valandraud et al

Written by JW. Posted in Bordeaux

Turning up to Château Valandraud is always a mouth-watering prospect. There are fewer wines now on tasting at the refurbished château than there used to be at the tiny cellars beside Jean Luc Thunevin’s home in St Emilion, but it’s still one to get the juices going. While focus is always on the hedonistic Valandraud grand vin itself, I always spend at lot of time looking at the entire range, which is where the value here lies. I’ve been visiting his cellars now for over a decade during primeurs and I’ve been consistently impressed by Domaine de Sabines in Lalande de Pomerol, Clos Badon in St Emilion and Le Clos du Beau Père in Pomerol. These wines do not disappoint in 2023, though there is a freshness and lightness of touch this year in keeping with the vintage. Jean Luc continues to consult for lots of properties on the right bank and I was particularly impressed with Château Mangot this year, alongside Château Sansonnet. What of Château Valandraud itself in 2023? It is inky and bold and definitely needs time.

Bordeaux 2023: Château Laroque

Written by JW. Posted in Bordeaux

Well, the secret is well and truly out now. Château Laroque is no longer an insiders wine. Everyone it seems has cottoned-on to the increasing quality of the wines made at this St Emilion property and what great value they are. Laroque has enviable terroir on a variety of limestone soils in St Christophe des Bardes. It’s a large property and the wines historically were always good but the catalyst for the transformation here is the arrival of Laroque’s director David Suire just before the harvest in 2015. For almost a decade now, he has quietly been getting on with making the property one of the most exciting prospects on Bordeaux’s right bank. It will come as no surprise to those that know him. The clues perhaps lie in his winemaking background with Nicolas Thienpont at Château Larcis Ducasse and formerly at Château Beauséjour Duffau-Lagarrosse. David Suire to my mind is one of the brightest stars in the St Emilion firmament. He is also wonderfully engaging and honest man with a teasing sense of humour. So how is Laroque in 2023 and what are Suire’s thoughts on the vintage?

Bordeaux 2023: Château Larcis Ducasse, Château Pavie Macquin and the Thienpont wines

Written by JW. Posted in Bordeaux

“The source may be beautiful, but the true beauty lies in the accomplishment.” It’s the quote that starts Nicolas Thienpont’s 2023 vintage booklet. Often primeur guides are full of hot air but in this case his statement couldn’t be more deserved. Thienpont, who has been making wine on the right bank for forty years, knows the lie of the land here probably better than anyone and he has been giving expression to its varied terroirs with a gentle but guiding hand. He and his team [son Cyrille, winemaker David Suire and consultant Stéphane Derenoncourt] look after the winegrowing and winemaking at Château Larcis Ducasse and Château Pavie Macquin. Nicolas and Cyrille also run the over-achieving Thienpont family properties in Castillon [Château Alcée] and in Francs [Château Charmes Godard, Château Puygueraud and Château La Prade]. If there’s a common characteristic to all these wines, it is the quest for purity, a kind of generous purity, and that’s Thienpont’s touch. So, what’s the take here on the 2023 vintage in Bordeaux’s right bank and just how good are the wines?

Bordeaux 2023 Primeurs – First Thoughts

Written by JW. Posted in Bordeaux

What a difference a year makes. Bordeaux 2023 is stylistically light years apart from 2022. That generalisation is based in this case on tasting a hundred or so wines really centred on St Emilion in late April. Yes there is freshness, energy and drive to the nascent wines – they are perhaps more quintessential ‘Bordeaux’ in style than some recent vintages – but there is also heterogeneity. There is not the richness or mid palate weight of the 2022 vintage, or the evenness in quality, but the best wines from St Emilion and Bordeaux’s right bank show brightness and purity in 2023. The difference largely comes down to the weather. The 2023 growing season presented plenty of challenges across Bordeaux. A generally warm and humid year for much of the vegetative cycle, these conditions lead to considerable mildew pressure in the vineyards, challenges that required constant vigilance and affected some properties more than others. While high summer was warm it wasn’t hugely sunny. There were storms in June and there wasn’t the major water deficit that defines the exceptional years. That said there were some heat spikes and as the later growing season progressed the weather became drier, hotter and much sunnier and the vintage was harvested in generally dry, very good conditions. Overall though this is not a solar vintage like 2022 or 2018, and this might be something a relief for some consumers, with the wines perhaps truer to their terroirs and types.

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