First insights into Bordeaux 2017
Margaux - Despite the late frosts in April dominating the headlines of the 2017 vintage, after speaking directly with winemakers in the region, for many the 2017 vintage has lots to be positive and excited about. Despite Margaux being badly affected by the frost, the frost events were very localised within the appellation. For example Nicolas Audebert winemaker at Chateau Rauzan Segla lost only 5% of their vines to the frost and early reports from them following blending of the 2017 are very positive in terms of quantity and quality.
Delphine Kolasa reports from another ‘on form’ Chateau (Chateau Labegorce) and rising star Chateau D’Alesme both based in Margaux who were less fortunate with the frost than Chateau Rauzan Segla with 40% of their vines damaged collectively. However, what did survive they are happy with. The heat wave in June allowed the grapes sugar levels to catch up following the cool April and then a cool but dry summer allowed the grapes to achieve good phenolic ripeness. Delphine describes in true Bordelais style the 2017 as ‘classic’, good freshness and concentration similar perhaps to 2014 but possibly better…in her words 2014 plus plus!
Pauillac – Emeline Borie at Chateau Grand Puy Lacoste is even more buoyant with Pauillac entirely unaffected by frost (as was St. Julien). Despite escaping the frost she still describes the vintage as one of extremes. April was unseasonably cool followed by the heatwave in June with 4 consecutive days hitting well above 40 degrees. However the cool dry veraison period meant that harvest time was normal (maybe a week early) but similar to the 2015 vintage with picking starting 15th September and all in by the 29th.
Although still very early days Emeline tasted the 2017 vintage during the blending session in December. Tasting the wines against the 2014, 2015 and 2016 she felt the concentration and structure were most similar to 2015. A very positive sign. At GPL it was the Cabernet Sauvignon that performed best however further north it was the Merlot at Chateau Cos d’Estournel that was the star grape. See Charles Thomas’ report from commercial director at Cos d’Estournel below:
St. Estephe – Chateau Cos d’Estournel - The precociousness of the 2017 vintage became evident with bud break in March and would characterize every major event in the vineyard, including flowering, veraison and harvest. The hot weather early on in the season, combined with unusual water stress, proved especially beneficial to our clay soils, resulting in exceptional Merlot.
Generally speaking, these extreme weather trends allowed the vintage to develop in a progressive fashion. High temperatures in June favored the precocious nature of the vintage and low rainfall allowed tannins to reach optimal maturity. The cool summer that followed maintained fruity aromas and the balance between acidity and potential alcohol content. Finally, high humidity in September created the perfect context for the ripening of the grapes’ skins.
Throughout the year, the experience of our team proved essential. Vines were tended to with prudence and expertise, and a series of measured reactions allowed us to accompany them throughout the growing cycle under ideal conditions. After harvest, our gravitational cellar allowed us to bring the fruit and body of the wines to their fullest expression while preserving freshness.
St. Emilion - Winemaker Nicolas Audebert at Chateau Rauzan Segla is also at the helm of Chateau Canon in St. Emilion – another region of Bordeaux that in part was devastated by the April frosts. With Nicolas having plots in two of the worst hit areas of the region he seems to have been extremely lucky since Chateau Canon was completely untouched by the frosts. He is super confident of the quantity and quality of their 2017 in St Emilion. With Chateau Razan Segla and Chateau Canon being at the top of their game in recent vintages (Canon recently receiving perfect 100pts from both Neal Martin and Antonio Galloni) their positive feedback is a good indication that there could be plenty to get excited about in 2017.
Jeffrey Davies negociant and journalist from the original wine journal ‘Les Amis du Vin’ gives us a full overview of the Bordeaux 2017 vintage: The 2017 vintage here is truly a heterogeneous one, dependent largely on whether or not one's vineyards got whacked by the terrible frost of last April. Many estates claim that they will not be bottling any wine under their "grand vin" label.
Historically, we know that certain "terroirs" are more susceptible to frost and hail damage than others – the Entre-Deux-Mers and western Médoc regions immediately come to mind. That certainly seems to have been borne out in 2017. Then we have the question of each individual property's ability – financial, that is – to avoid the damage wreaked by frost, be it by lighting smudge pots throughout the vineyards, putting up wind turbines, or renting helicopters to fly over the vineyards to push warmer air back down towards the vines. These are all costly undertakings though some "Vignerons" point out that they still cost less than frost or hail insurance, something all but the wealthiest properties can rarely afford.
So, there will be wines in those areas unaffected by frost, and where the summer weather was quite generous to the vines, that will prove to be surprisingly successful (by opposition to the initial, entirely negative, lump sum, reports). A few growers claim to have made wines on a par with their 2015s and 2016s . . . We shall see.
It will require a lot of hard work, due diligence as it were, on the part of both journalists and merchants to taste and sift through all the wines they care to taste, to cull the wheat from the chaff. Initial successes are already evident here and there: three names with which to tease you would include Les Carmes Haut-Brion, Beau-Séjour-Bécot (where a change in vineyard and winemaking consultants took place before the harvest), and Bellefont-Belcier, recently acquired by Hong Kong-based financier, Peter Kwok. His team from Vignobles K took over management of the vineyard and subsequent harvest and winemaking, beginning in August 2017
First insight from Gareth Howells (negociant for Ulysse Cazabonne) states that 'the wines I did taste (from the Medoc) showed good purity of fruit, fresh acidity, lighter than previous vintages on the palate and in alcohol. Most GCC estates on the left bank were spared the worst of the frost, which seemed to ravage some areas of St Emilion. This doesn’t mean that what wines were made are necessarily bad it just means that there will be less volume to go around.
The overall view is that 2017 is be a good vintage “classic” some people have called it due to the light alcohol and more refined fruit concentration. Not as good as 2015/2016 but not far off 2014, someone also mentioned 2008.
Simon Bradford (negociant for Ballande-Meneret) has reported back to us that on the left bank where they made a decent quantity the wines are fresh, crispy,delicious to taste. Freshness,lovely ripe fruit, finesse and a good length come into it. Stylish wines, refined and classy....The right bank, and Pessac seem to be considered as a very 'attractive ' vintage that will make delicious drinking situated somewhere between 2014 and 2015.