Two weeks into the Bordeaux 2017 campaign and time to take stock of the situation so far. We haven’t yet offered any wines individually as we don’t feel there have been any absolute must haves yet, but with the big critics having reported in it’s time to start looking at the shape of the campaign so far.
Pricing is definitely trending in the right direction from the 2016s, though whether this is enough to move lots of wine is another thing and in some cases is making other recent physical vintages such as 2012 or 2014 look like better value.
Chateau Palmer were out of the gate early at and while the wine is great, and the chateau did drop their price from the 2016, it is still more expensive than the 2012 and 2014, wines of similar quality even if a little different in style. If you’re a Palmer collector then there is no reason not to add this to your vertical, but others should perhaps think twice about the value to be had as against physical vintages.
A slightly different case at Haut-Batailley. Since the sale to the Cazes family of Lynch Bages a new approach is in place. They didn’t release their 2016 en primeur and will offer physically at some point in the future but there is a repositioning going on here and the 2017 is a whopping 40% up on the 2015 at release. The wine itself really is excellent and there is a case to be made that this is a correction toward the mean after historic underpricing, but it’s certainly another one to ponder before pulling the trigger.
Speaking of the Cazes, Ormes de Pez looks good at £225, down in price on the 2016 and getting better scores than any other recent vintage. We really liked the wine, so please do let us know if it’s something you’d like to add to your cellar
Plenty of other less storied reds are out, and while it’s definitely a vintage to pick and choose from there are some good wines at modest prices and the ones we liked are offered here.
As per usual most Sauternes is out of the gate early. Here there are some great buys to be had as it is a very decent vintage indeed for the stickies. I particularly loved Suduiraut, Coutet, Lafuarie-Peyraguey and Siglas-Rabaud, but it’s hard to go wrong and if you follow a certain Cheateau I would not hesitate to add the 2017 to your cellar. Ditto the dry whites. While red Pessac-Leognans were extremely variable, this was not the case for the whites which are on the whole excellent. Highlights among the wines out so far are Pape Clement blanc (not cheap, but truly excellent) and the whites from Malartic Lagraviere and Latour Martillac.
Please do let us know if you’d like to secure anything, or if you have any questions about any wines in particular.
And so, once more, to Aquitaine.
The first thing to note is that 2017 is a mixed vintage, although better than general perceptions before the tastings. Where wines are good they are excellent and, in some cases, verging on exceptional. This is not the case across the board however. The problems with spring frosts have been well-documented and some Châteaux have bottled no wine at all, while others have atypical blends. While not necessarily a bad thing in itself, it has in some cases led to wines that lack harmony and balance. Decisions on whether or not to include second generation fruit have perhaps impacted on quality although in certain quarters the decisions and rationale are opaque. Winemaking styles and appropriate treatment for the character of fruit brought in are also a factor, although in recent years the trend has been towards less ‘recipe’ winemaking and more sensitive fruit handling. This can only be a good thing so overwrought examples are rarer than a few years ago.
The Médoc, especially St Julien and Pauillac, fared well, in particular where vineyards are close to the Gironde. The influence of the water moderated temperatures enough that frost damage was mostly escaped and a healthy crop brought in. Elsewhere the picture was more, well, mixed. The Margaux lack a bit of concentration as a whole, but the better wines are extremely pretty. The white Pessacs are excellent, the reds extremely variable.
A wide variation of wine quality and yield can be also found on the other side of the Gironde in St-Émilion and Pomerol. There are some fabulous wines here, with the better efforts displaying the structure and energy of a top vintage. This is not the full picture; although the overall trend in recent years is towards more harmonious and terroir reflective wines, there are still some producers who have pushed things too far resulting in awkward and clumsy 2017s. Others were hit by the frosts and struggled to get enough ripe fruit in.
Sauternes are excellent. The onset of botrytis was homogenous and consistent, and the wines retain enough acidity to balance them.
Overall a curious vintage then. There was a lovely freshness to many of the wines from barrel and some big names should be approachable young, while retaining their capacity to age due to their balanced profiles. There are also some sterner efforts which will require patience. Overall tannins are ripe and supple but there can be an absence of the mid-palate presence seen in truly great years.
It is, however, a vintage with which to be selective. Quality is not even everywhere, and pricing remains the great unknown. If a wine is offered at a better price than a physical vintage of comparable quality then it’s certainly an attractive proposition. If this balance is reversed then a collector would need a very compelling reason to buy the 2017 – the requirement for a large format perhaps, or the completion of a vertical. The exchange rate could be painful for UK buyers, and as is ever the case in a vintage that follows one of the greats, the temptation for the Châteaux to price too highly will be impossible for some to resist. This apprehension about pricing may lead to a cagey and drawn-out campaign, but, where the prices work and the wines are succesful, this is a vintage that certainly merits a place in your cellar.
We won’t be offering every wine released, and in some cases allocations will be extremely tight so please let us know if there are any wines in particular you’d like us to contact you about. We are also here to answer any specific questions you have around the vintage and the market so please don’t hesitate to give us a call if you’d like to talk through the 2017s in more detail.
You can also view an archived list of previous vintages from this region.