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 ‘Margaux’
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.
In one sense Thomas Duroux hasn’t much to show from the 2018 vintage. The effects of rot that tore through Château Palmer’s vineyards in early July led to two-thirds of the crop being entirely lost. The biodynamics practiced here left the vineyards even more exposed to the vagaries of a growing season that was biblically wet in its first half. Yet the remainder of the harvest, a meagre 11 hectolitres per hectare, produced an elixir. It is what Thomas describes analytically, but also qualitatively, as Palmer’s “most powerful wine ever.” If the entire growing season was a “a terrifying experience” for Duroux, Palmer has certainly ended up making one of its most remarkable wines ever.
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.