Embracing an Enigmatic En Primeur – Bordeaux 2017 #1
Due to the unusual weather conditions during the 2017 growing season, I had anticipated that our tasting of en primeur – Bordeaux 2017 (EP2017) was going to be an interesting experience. And I was right, it is not a harmonious vintage. The Green Acres team headed over to Bordeaux recently and in this post, I will outline my general opinions of the vintage.
I will include links to our tastings in specific Chateaux on the Left Bank and Right Bank separately, at the end of this post.
A vintage that represents the local character.
In general, a comparison can be drawn between the character of wines from Bordeaux 2017 and the character shown by the vignerons of this area that were hit with the devastation of the early frost in April 2017. In those early weeks of the harvest, most of us had written the vintage off – but to then produce very attractive wines of such quality, shows the true spirit and expertise of such vignerons.
Personally, I love vintages like 2017. Why? Because it is an intriguing one. The majority of wines we tasted showed an attractive aromatic freshness, however, not all of them fit this description. The top wines have retained a certain charm and elegance, with a fruit-palate that is balanced with juicy fresh acidity and silky, refined tannins. Some of the others – not so much.
The wines are not big and concentrated like the 2015 and 2016 but they certainly have the charm and elegance of the 2014 vintage. It is also a vintage that reminds me of the 2001 vintage (and look how well they are drinking now!). Another good note is the alcohol levels, where some have come down to the more traditional 12.5% – 13.5%.
NB: the 2017 dry white wines from Pessac Leognan and around Bordeaux and Sauternes are very attractive propositions.
The 2017 dry white wines from the Pessac Leognan commune and around Bordeaux and Sauternes are very attractive propositions.
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A Review – Not all Chateaux were Affected by the Adverse Weather.
The Bordeaux 2017 vintage started early with an even bud burst that was very promising for all. However, on 27th and 28th April, a severe frost affected certain areas of Bordeaux resulting in many vineyards losing 100% of their production. Most notable of these were: D’Angludet (Margaux), De Fieuzal (Pessac Leognan) and a perennial favourite of ours, de Fonbel (St Emilion).
Some areas certainly fared better than others. St Estephe, Pauillac, and St Julien were not affected at all by the frost nor were they affected by the scattered showers from early September. In fact, the later-ripening Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc benefitted from the later harvesting dates.
The communes of Margaux and Pessac Leognan were affected by the early frost. Inland vineyards in Margaux were affected more than those situated by the river e.g. the production of Pavillon Rouge is at 50%. At our friend, Paulin Calvet’s vineyard (Picque Caillou, Pessac Leognan) production was 20% down on average.
Over in the Right Bank, the plateau of Pomerol, where Petrus sits proudly at the highest point, was not affected at all by the frost. Speaking with Alexandre Thienpont of Vieux Chateau Certan (pictured above), he advised that they escaped damage to their vines only by a ½ degree! Glorious and sumptuous wines are evident from all the Chateaux in this area.
On the sandy soils along the edges of the Pomerol commune, the wines did not show the same promise and appeared to lack in depth and structure. St Emilion was also affected in random areas by frost. Cheval Blanc lost 30% of their crop, whilst their neighbour, Figeac lost over 50% – however, the quality of what remained is beautiful.
Upon the limestone plateau of Pomerol, the glorious vineyard of Canon was not affected at all and the wine they have produced will be top of the list for collectors this year. Neighbouring vineyard, Belair Monange, owned by Edouard Moueix, also produced an outstanding wine this year, keeping the standard of recent vintages on an upward curve.
On a personal note, we had an interesting experience on our first evening in Bordeaux. Monsieur Bruno Borie of Ducru Beaucaillou invited us to an evening showcase of his wines. What was novel was that we tasted 5 wines spanning a 28 year period, in gaps of seven years. Specifically, from 2010, 2003, 1996, 1989 and 1982. On the evening he wondered that if in 2024 (seven years time), will history have remembered 2017 as kindly?
To finish this short review, if you asked me to compare the Bordeaux 2017 vintage to similar vintages from the recent past – I would say that 2017 is comparable to 2001 and 2014. And if asked which bank of the Gironde would I favour? – I would answer neither, because of the even split between both this year, it just makes for an enigmatic en primeur vintage.
Here is a link to my Left Bank Tasting.
Here is a link to my Right Bank Tasting.
By way of experiment, we brought a non-expert with us on our trip to EP17 and here is his account of same.
Green Acres will be releasing the various Bordeaux 2017 en primeur offers to our customers as we receive them from the Chateaux. If you would like to be included in our mailings, please opt-in by contacting me at email@example.com and I’ll add you to our email list.
Thank You – Donal.