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Bordeaux 2017 Vintage Review

 

I was very surprised by the relatively outstanding quality of the top wines I have tasted so far… most of the top wine estate of Bordeaux made some outstanding quality wines that will deliver beautiful drinking for years ahead.’ James Suckling

 

‘ 2017 was complicated, but there are some excellent wines’ Jane Anson, Decanter

 

‘Those that spared the frost went on to produce an excellent vintage’ Bill Blatch

 

 

After travelling up and down the Gironde last week we have come back buoyed with excitement regarding the latest 2017 release. Whilst the quality is not as consistent as the 2016s the Chateaux that had a good year did very well indeed and overall 2017 has produced a rather unique vintage that both winemaker, trade and critics have been hard pressed to compare against. Largely because the vintage is both early (due to a hot quick start to the growing season) and yet fresh due to moderate temperatures in July and August which have kept the wines very red fruited, retaining their acidity and giving the wines more finesse rather than power. Whilst it is important not to generalise, almost all of the wines were neither under ripe or over ripe with an overriding freshness that gives the wine both approachability and good mid-term ageing potential. There is no danger of jammy soupy flat wines yet we found very little greenness too.

 

Whilst Pauillac on the left bank and Pomerol on the right bank were more consistent in quality there were really excellent wines in every appellation. In this vintage it is important to identify who managed to not only escape the frost but those who also used the wet weather in September to their advantage and who did not. Irregular ripening was an issue for some Chateau and those that managed to be strict with their selection produced excellent wines. In this respect it is important to take each Chateau’s performance on a case by case basis rather than writing off one appellation over another. The wines that succeeded whilst not being ‘blockbusters’ have good concentration and intensity whilst remaining harmonious in the mid palate with ripe tannins that are beautifully integrated and matching both the concentration and the overriding finesse typical of the vintage. Those that achieved this have produced beautiful elegant wines.

 

For many the vintage has been touted the ‘Bordeaux drinkers vintage’ that has produced wines that are testament to the appellations they come from. For many Chateaux that were hit by frost, whilst it meant they lost quantity their quality was not affected, since it was their lower lying lesser vineyards that were lost which meant only their top vineyards went into the final cuvee raising their quality rather than reducing it. This was noticeably the case for Chateau Nenin who did not produce their second wine this year but made a superb first wine eclipsing their 2016. This was the case for many others in the region.

 

It was clear that the top Chateaux throughout the region were very consistent this year and produced stellar wines – Mouton Rothschild, Latour and Lafite all making excellent wines. Equally on the right bank whilst St Emilion may have been the least consistent, Chateau Ausone made a hauntingly beautiful wine that was one of the wines of the vintage. Pomerol was very strong with Le Pin, Lafleur, Vieux Chateau Certan, Chateau Feytit Clinet and La Conseillante all offering wonderfully plush concentrated wines at the top of their game.

 

Other highlights include the excellent Chateau Carmes Haut Brion which was the highlight of the Pessac Leognan region producing exceptional quality. The white wines from Pessac Leognan were also exceptional with fantastic purity of fruit, complex flavours with both freshness and concentration. Chateau Haut Brion Blanc was fantastic but at the more affordable scale Chateau Smith Haut Lafitte made a wonderful white and red commendable for the region.

 

It was not only at the very top where one can find excellent wines. Chateau Canon retains its form in St Emilion, with their south facing slopes they are some of the earlier ripening vineyards in the region and due to the hot early start to the vintage were ready to pick by the end of August. They held back and picked at their leisure from the 4th September with absolutely no problems throughout the entire growing season with no frost damage at all. The harmonious palate is testament to this. On the right bank there were also great affordable options such as Vignobles K entire line up Tour Saint Christophe, Haut Brisson and their new acquisition Bellefont Belcier that all offer fantastic value for money.

 

Chateau Ducru Beaucaillou with a much later ripening season being Cabernet Sauvignon dominant, picked a month later and the rain in September was necessary to kick start the vines in the later stages of ripening who were suffering from extensive hydric stress through the dry summer. Their wine was also wonderfully plush, concentrated and harmonious. Chateau Lafleur also made the point that whilst the season was very dry this year, the vineyards have in fact been going through an extensive drought period all the way back to 2015. For many the rain in September helped the vines balance out the ripening in the final stages before picking at the end of September. For Baptiste Guinaudeau at Chateau Lafleur the 2017 vintage is the third great vintage in a row due to cumulative hydric stress of the last 3 years producing small berries of concentrated fruit ideal for complex wine production.

 

“This is not a power house vintage but who needs power when you have great balance of concentration and finesse, the Chateaux that achieved this are well worth seeking out.”