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Bordeaux En Primeur 2017 Report

Bordeaux En Primeur 2017
Is it four in a row for Bordeaux?

 

When it comes to questions about Bordeaux 2017 it seems, the answers often begin with ‘Yes, but…’ Langton’s was on the ground in Bordeaux again this year to taste the wines en primeur. Jeremy Parham, Langton’s General Manager, and Florian Thoelke, Langton’s Senior Buyer enjoyed (or survived) a whirlwind week of barrel tastings, Château visits and meetings with negociants. What they discovered on the ground in Bordeaux was a relatively low-yield vintage full fresh wine, in very good condition.  

“The En Primeur wines were great, really fresh and approachable. You won’t have to wait long until they’re ready to drink. It’s four in a row for Bordeaux!”
– Jeremy Parham, Langton’s General Manager

Jeremy Parham, Langton’s General Manager and Florian Thoelke, Langton’s Senior Buyer

Jeremy Parham and Florian Thoelke

Jeremy’s and Florian’s report from Bordeaux is backed up by many others from leading critics. Everyone seems to be a little bit reticent to say, definitively, what this vintage is and how it stacks up against previous vintages great and good. There seems to be little in the way of unanimity of opinion, except that the impact of frost has been overstated. There is a growing confidence about the 2017 vintage and that is certainly shared by our Bordeaux En Primeur team.

"Comparing it to any other year isn’t all that helpful, 2017 is its own vintage. And the wines are very good."
– Florian Thoelke, Langton’s Senior Buyer

Most winemakers and châteuax, growers and negociants, merchants and reviewers were able to say what the 2017 vintage isn't. It isn’t ‘14, it isn’t ‘15 or ‘16 but it isn’t a departure from this incredible run of vintage, the like of which we may not have seen since the 1940s. The 2017 vintage is better than good but isn’t an iconic vintage like 1982 or 2010. As a sculptor worries away at a block of marble slowly revealing what it is they are trying to show, we are getting a greater understanding of what 2017 vintage is, and how it will be remembered, as we hear more opinions from around the wine world.

So let’s try to answer a few questions and address a few points about Bordeaux 2017, and get closer to the truth of this delightfully enigmatic vintage.

“Don't mention the frost”
– Julia Harding MW, Jancis Robinson Bordeaux 2017 primeurs report

I read that Bordeaux has just experienced the worst frost for 50 years?

Yes, but many of the vines escaped the worst ravages of the frost, especially those planted on slopes where cold air simply drains away, or near waterways that moderate air temperatures.

The talk of frost for the 2017 vintage was warranted. There was frost, the worst for 50 years, and there was fear of the impact it would have and some of those fears were realised. Some of those growers, as a consequence, had fewer grapes to sell or to make wine.

However, every year, in the lead up to the en primeur tastings, there is often, frankly, little to talk about. Like any grand final, this great tasting is anticipated by so many and waiting can cause minds to wander. We pick through the minutiae to find that which we can talk about, trying to anticipate the vintage en primeur and focus on those points of note. The frost event was certainly noteworthy and we talked about it as we should but, perhaps, a little too much.
 

Barrel room at Chateau Kirwan Bordeaux

Barrel room at Chateau Kirwan Bordeaux.

Even so, winemakers can’t undo frost damage.

Yes, but many of the vines escaped the worst ravages of the frost, especially those planted on slopes where cold air simply drains away, or near waterways that moderate air temperatures.

 
So can we say, Bordeaux 2017 is very good vintage?

Yes, but not in all cases. Many of the wines we tasted were sensational but we don’t anticipate the centurion scores of the great vintages. 2017 is characterised by youth, freshness and vibrancy. Indeed you may see the 2017s on tables before some previous vintages as that youthfulness will mean early drinking and, thankfully, less waiting.

 

There’s been some talk of the similarity of 2017 and 2014. Is that so?

Yes, but there are differences. Yields are lower for one, so we can expect prices south of 2016 but certainly not the bargains to be had from 2014.

There’s also the issue of the composition of the wines. With some varietals being affected to greater or lesser degrees by the frost, the materials winemakers have had to work with were not necessarily in the same proportion as 2014. There may be a little less Petit Verdot in some and little more Cabernet in others. The Châteuax have made their owns calls: different compositions without compromising on quality or style or lower outputs remain compositionally similar to previous vintages. The 2017 wines aren’t better than 2014, they're different but they are good.

“When you’re in Bordeaux, you realise how much investment has gone into the Châteaux. Whatever nature throws at them, they get the best out of every vintage.”
– Jeremy Parham, Langton’s General Manager
Chateau Pavie St. Emilion, Premier Cru Classe A

Chateau Pavie St. Emilion, Premier Cru Classe A

Is Bordeaux 2017 a minefield vintage?

This is where the ‘yes, but’ trend ends. Bordeaux 2017 isn’t a minefield but it is perhaps something of a maze. It’s worth at this stage remembering the on-the-road, in Bordeaux observation from our own Jeremy Parham.

This is what you have to remember with Bordeaux today. Reputation has never been more important and never more tenuous as wine has never had the scrutiny it does today. The stakes are simply too high for the great Châteaux to make, let alone release, sub par Bordeaux wines without the most explicit caveats. And the great houses set the tone for the vintage each year. Producers at all levels look for the ‘First Growth’ tide to lift all of the boats of Bordeaux. 2017 is no different.

 


More about the vintage

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Full payment will be processed at the time of purchase. Prices are inclusive of all taxes. No additional costs upon arrival. Unless otherwise stated, all wines are 750ml. You will not be charged freight on En Primeur 2017 purchases. Delivery will be in the second half of 2020. Standard Langton’s Terms & Conditions apply. Any purchase represents acceptance of these terms.

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