Bordeaux En Primeur 2017

The 2017 Bordeaux vintage will forever be known as the forgotten vintage, but should it? The winners of 2017 were champions in both the vineyard and the winery. However, only a few really pulled this off.

 

The years of 2015, 2016 and 2018 produced some of the highest regarded wines this century and probably in the history of Bordeaux. The weather was near perfect and with improved knowledge in the vineyard and cellar, it was difficult to produce bad wines during these years. 2017 was a different story, it will always be remembered for certain frosts that hit the region late in April, and it did not get any better from there. Some estates had access to Helicopters, heaters and windmills to prevent these frost from damaging the vines, however, most lost significant crop, some lost up to 90% of their crop. The total wine produced was down by around 40% compared to the 2016 Vintage. A moment of thought should be spared for those smaller estates who lost 90% of their vintage, and hence income for that year. Imagine earning only 10% of your salary in 2017? Well, this is what the situation was like for a significant amount of small producers without the means to combat the frost. Following the frost, the second fruit started to germinate, which caused uneven ripeness later in the season. Does it get better in the second half? No!

 

The summer was dry, sunny but cool which did not help to ripen the grapes, September had more rain than average, which in turn caused issues for potential dilution in the final blend. The right call was not to pick early and pick as late as possible, for those who did, they were able to get the ripeness as good as it could get. Once the fruit arrived at the winery, grape selection was critical, along with slow extraction of flavours. This was the most challenging vintage since 2013, however, winemakers learnt valuable lessons which they applied during this vintage. So how did it all turn out?

Most wine critics believe that 2017 turned out quite well, not as impressive as the surrounding years but still a very good effort. I tend to disagree. I tasted close to 60 2017s last week and I left feeling the wines produced were in general drinkable, yet showed very little character, and at the price at which they were selling was unreasonable for the consumer to pay. In general the wines were selling around 15-20% less than 2016. Hence you would expect the quality was around 15-20% off right? Nope, I would say around 40% which means the price should be corrected accordingly. This certainly gets under my skin, Bordeaux is struggling to properly price off-vintage wines and I believe they will seriously struggle to sell these wines through, and I expect the secondary market will show a significant drop in price.

 

So the wines were bad? Nope the wines were good, enjoyable and showed potential, yet not to the level at which consumers were paying. There were some exceptions though, I was highly impressed by Château Canon-la-Gaffelière and Léoville Poyferré who were able to produce wines full of character and true to their names.

 

Bordeaux is of course known for its reds, however, their whites should not be overlooked. 2017 was one of the best years for its whites in recent memory. Chateau Haut Smith Lafitte showed how it was done and produced a stunning white, full of character and elegance. The Sauternes showed good concentration, however, less impressive than other recent vintages.

Bottom Line

2017 was, in general, an underwhelming vintage with most wineries producing average wines. However, for me it was not the quality of the wines but the prices which really got to me. Bordeaux needs to really start thinking about the price of their wines in off-vintages, if they do not, then consumers will go elsewhere. There were some success stories as you will see below, and the Bordeaux dry whites should not be missed! 

Château Smith Haut Lafitte Blanc 2017

96 points

I have a slight preference for the SHL compared to Pape Clement today, however, it is close. This showed tropical fruits of pineapple and star fruit, Asian pear along with grapefruit, orange blossom, the palate was multilayered with waves of tropical and citrus fruit, rich, full and intense this had you going back for more, the finish was straight and long. This has a great life ahead, happy I have a case of this.

Château Pape Clément Blanc 2017

95 points

Another 2017 white worth talking about. the nose was shy, however quickly turned into pineapple, ginger, orange blossom, peach the palate was rich and spicy yet with bright acidity, ripe stone fruit and tropical notes, along with vanilla bean, nutmeg and a long long finish. Wow!

Château Canon-la-Gaffelière 2017

95 points

 

WOTN! I was not expecting having tasted close to 80 wines this would come in at No.1. But it did and to be honest, most wines tasted tonight were fine, there was nothing wrong with them. There was just a lack of complexity, personality and a feeling of wow I love Bordeaux.

Then comes along Stephan von Neipperg, who kept smiling all evening knowing what little gem he had brought with him. I asked him why his wine was so different, then for 10 minutes he went on and on and on about how Cabernet Franc was the star of 2017 but no one was talking about it. It added not just a backbone but wonderful freshness and fruit purity. This wine was really on game, like really on the game, with notes of black fruit, violets, pepper, cassis and a little smoke, the palate was so fantastically structured and fresh with dark black fruit, crushed stones, black pepper and a little spice. The finish was long, elegant and precise. I am not buying any 2017 reds but this one is making me think again.

Château Léoville Poyferré 2017

95 points

Finally, a producer who excelled in 2017. I always say anyone can make good wine in 2015 or 2016 in Bordeaux, however, 2017 was going to show the real winners. Leoville Poyferre really shined through this year with an explosion of black fruit, cassis, blackcurrant, chocolate and tyme the body was full-bodied and lush with ripe fruit, velvety silky tannins, good concentration and weight yet with a clean and precise finish.

Château Les Carmes Haut-Brion 2017

94 points

Most 2017s are lacking structure, my two top red wines today had significantly more Cabernet Franc, hence Cab Franc really seemed to be the hero in 2017.

Les Carmes showed a beautiful dark ruby colour with floral, black cherry, cassis and pepper on the nose, there was a wonderful freshness on the palate yet with structure, along with dark black fruit, pepper and spice, the finish long and precise. Fantastic job, this 'might be' one of the few wines I would buy. However with 2016 and 2018 at a similar price point, I would probably just go for them instead.

Domaine de Chevalier Blanc 2017

94 points

One of the top whites for 2017 this showed aromas of orchard and stone fruit along with citrus peel and vanilla, the palate was fresh and bright with Asian pears, ripe peaches a touch of lemon zest and sweet spices. The mid-palate showed a slightly creaminess with a very long and elegant finish.

Château Rieussec 2017

94 points

 

Best Sauternais of the evening with apricots, sweet spices, dried fruit, peaches and tropical fruits, long elegant finish. Not up to the 2015 but still a strong showing.

Château Valandraud 2017

93 points

 

Very full-bodied and serious with lush black fruit, plums, dark cherries, cassis, smoke, vanilla with structured tannins and a lingering finish,

Château Lynch-Bages 2017

93 points

 

 

Very herbal on the nose with mint and thyme, along with dark black cherries, cassis, mocha, black pepper. The palate showed a good concentration of fruit, medium+ tannins and a medium finish, needs time but shows great potential

Château Pavie Macquin 2017

93 points

This showed very nicely tonight and probably one of my favourites, plush black fruits, cassis, plums and bitter chocolate with soft fine tannins. The finish was soft and long. Certainly more character than other 2017s. 93+

Château Rauzan-Ségla 2017

93 points

My Margaux WOTN. I am hesitating between 93-94, will go with 93 with uptake to 94 in 8 years or so. Wonderful purity of black fruit, cassis, liquorice, vanilla, cedar, the palate was pure and elegant with finely integrated tannins and a medium-long clean finish.

Château Canon 2017

93 points

With such amazing vintages of 2015,2016 and 2018, there is no reason to buy the Canon 2017 unless you are an avid collector. Does this mean this is a bad wine? Absolutely not, compared to most wines tasted this evening it showed how even in a bad vintage this wines comes up tops. With a core of black fruit, dark plums, chocolate and vanilla notes the palate was lush and deep, missing the wow of other years but still very nicely wound together, with a rich and structured finish. Good job!

Château Clinet 2017

93 points

Clinet was one of the only wines which showed its true personality, with its distinct plush black fruit, cacao, cedar strains, stone structure a full and lush palate it just fell mid-palate with integrated tannins and a soft finish. It could only be Clinet but not that of 2015 or 2016. Still a solid effort.

Château Troplong Mondot 2017

92 points

 

A very elegant wine with quite a floral profile along with cassis plush and rich black fruit along with a chalky texture, crushed stones, fresh herbs, violets and a rich finish

Château Duhart-Milon 2017

92 points

 

Quite a lot of smoke and meaty characteristics on the nose with a little blackberries and currents, the palate was full-bodied with chalky tannins, herbs and dusty earth rounded up the palate, a lot more savoury compared to the St. Juliens just tasted yet the fruit held it's it part and the tannins more refined.

Château Durfort-Vivens 2017

92 points

 

 

Always a favourite with its soft blackberry, black plums, cassis, dark cherries along with a soft palate, fine tannins and round finish. Certified Organic.

Château Grand-Puy Ducasse 2017

92 points

 

I really enjoyed this for the price, it was rich and lush with a fruit-forward profile along with lavenders, crushed graphite, structured tannins and a medium+ finish.

Château Gruaud Larose 2017

92 points

 

A lot of ripe fruit black fruit, with notes of thyme, leather and a little dried meat. The palate was rich and full with good structure, pepper and spice. The finish was focused.

Château Haut-Bailly 2017

93 points

 

Very savoury and herbaceous showing Haut-Bailly with notes of black currents, olive paste, earth, crushed dried herbs, crushed gravel yet with a palate still showing good ripeness and richness, medium+ tannins and a clean finish.

Château Gazin Pomerol 2017

92 points

 

Always a fan of Gazin and how easy this is to drink without too much thought. Very floral with additional notes of cassis, black cherry, truffle, a lush palate with fine tannins lead to a soft and delicate finish. This is an easy style of 2017 Pomerol which will be an easy crowd-pleaser

Château Giscours 2017

92 points

Remembering the vintage Chateau Gisours did a good job with the structure of this wine, core fruit along with black pepper, floral and spice components, but for me, it felt held together, this is clearly not natural structure and a lot of work had to be done however overall a decent effort. Medium+ tannins and a good length.

Château La Dominique 2017

92 points

 

Soft black fruit is integrating nicely with with savoury herbs, spices, a little earth, medium tannins and a smooth finish.

Château Cantenac Brown 2017

92 points

 

A point up from the BRane-Cantenac right next to it, had a little more of everything with good fruit concentration, along with vanilla, floral with a little smoke. The palate was more structured along with being quite dense and complete, fine silky tannins with a medium + finish. Very nice.

Château Beau-Séjour Bécot 2017

92 points

 

Lots of black fruit, ripe, soft integrated tannins, cassis, black plum, tobacco and a little bitter chocolate, missing a little concentration to score higher, but overall a well-balanced wine, just missing that wow.

Château Pape Clément 2017

92 points

Very fresh and ripe with dark berries, black pepper, spice and espresso notes, the palate was fresh with good complexity, structure, medium tannins and an elegant finish.

Château Smith Haut Lafitte 2017

92 points

Quite floral on the nose along with black fruit, fresh herbs with a soft palate, polished tannins and an easy finish. I have always preferred their white and I do not think that will change, however this is a good effort.

Château Pichon-Longueville Baron 2017

92 points

A very solid effort by Pichon-Longueville Baron with a nose of ripe black fruit, graphite, crushed stones, vanilla and smoke. The palate was rich, lush and dense with sweet ripe fruit, finely grained tannins structure and a precise finish.

Château Pichon Longueville Comtesse de Lalande 2017

92 points

 

Aromas of mint and fresh herbs along with ripe fruit on the nose. The palate was lush and very structured with finely integrated tannins, good fresh fruit concentration and a straight finish.

Château Malartic-Lagravière Blanc 2017

92 points

 

Nearly ready to enjoy, full of Asian pears, pineapple, quince, vanilla bean and sweet spices, this had a round but fresh palate and a medium finish. This should be accessible from the gate.

Château Malescot St. Exupéry 2017

92 points

 

One of the more distinctive wines o this eventing, very dark in colour along with strong perfumed aromas, black cherry, cassis, well defined grippy tannins kept the palate together, good ripe fruit and a solid well-defined length. 92+

Clos Fourtet 2017

92 points

 

Small red berries, dark cherries with an underlining of cedar, earth and spice, grippy tannins and medium finish. Nice but not memorable.

Domaine de Chevalier 2017

92 points

This was packed with very ripe black fruit, cassis, black olives, cedar and crushed stones, the palate was ripe, fresh and juicy with fine integrated tannins and a medium finish.

Château Beychevelle 2017

91 points

Quite a shy nose with bramble, blackberries and dried herbs, the palate was full-bodied with muscular yet drying tannins, wow this is dry. This will not be accessible early and compared to other 2017s this will need a long time to come around. The finish dropped off early.

Château Bouscaut Blanc 2017

91 points

 

This is showing lots of tropical fruits, orange peel and quite zesty, this takes time to really get going and even though is quite light in terms of textures rounds up nicely. Not overly complex, however still showing well.

Château Branaire-Ducru 2017

91 points

 

Very ripe and lush with cassis, black cherries, blackcurrants, cedar, liquorice and black pepper, full-bodied with fine tannins and a medium finish.

Château Brane-Cantenac 2017

91 points

 

Aromas of soft blackberries. dark cherries, tobacco, leather, dried violets, the palate was lush yet with a savoury undertone, soft medium tannins and a medium finish.

Château La Gaffelière 2017

91 points

 

Well structured mid-palate with black fruit, savoury herbs, crushed stones, fine tannins and a finish which seemed to lack precision.

Château Larcis Ducasse 2017

91 points

 

Plush dark fruit along with fresh earth, violets, herbs a touch of cedar with grippy tannins and a medium finish. Enjoyable.

Château Lascombes 2017

91 points

 

Very light textures of black fruit, cedar and florals. Quite an elegant palate not overly complex but nothing out of place either. Shows nicely the vintage and without too much work in the cellar

Château Kirwan 2017

91 points

 

Quite savoury and herby, yet with good fruit structure, floral and spice notes, certainly more tannic structure than other Margaux wines tasted tonight.

Château La Cabanne 2017

91 points

 

Not always a fan of La Cabanne, this showed quite nicely tonight with cassis, black fruit, liquorice, cloves medium to full-bodied structured palate which had a pleasant finish, easy drinking but with a little more concentration.

Château Léoville Barton 2017

91 points

 

This shows a good core of fruit, density and length, however, the tannins are very dry and unbalanced at the moment. This needs 10 years or so to come around.

Château La Tour-Martillac Blanc 2017

90 points

 

Very light with grapefruit, lemon zest, honeydew melon, the palate was refreshing and bright with little concentration of richness as seen in other 2017s, nice but not at that price

Château Langoa Barton 2017

90 points

 

Very shy nose, the palate had light and soft dark fruit, fine but very drying tannins. Wow these St. Juliens will need time.

Château Gloria 2017

90 points

 

Good core of fruit along with black pepper, spice and some fresh herbs, quite rich body, m+ tannins just lacking concentration and a seamless finish.

Château Talbot 2017

90 points

 

Black fruit-driven nose, lush and soft palate, structured dry tannins, medium finish

Château Rouget 2017

90 points

 

Soft and round with plums, and dark red fruit with a good underlining savoury side of herbs, green pepper, crushed stones and soft tannins, medium finish which tended to drop off

Château Saint-Pierre 2017

90 points

 

Quite smoke and herby with soft fruit and dry cedar tannins, medium body and finish. Needs time

Château Ferrière 2017

89 points

 

This was quite crunchy, minty, herby a little green, ok structure but I just feel it lack fruit purity or something else, a little flabby. Maybe I am giving it the benefit of the doubt with 89..

Château du Tertre 2017

89 points

 

This was fine, however really summarizes the struggles of the 2017 vintage, the fruit was lacking and even though an effort was made in the cellar the wine finished lacking any sort of complexity.

Château Phélan Ségur 2017

89 points

 

Soft fruit, drying tannins this needs time, nothing exciting here. Not a bad wine just not amazing neither

Château Le Bon Pasteur 2017

89 points

 

plump fruit, of plums, dark cherries, mocha, spice yet a little green with lively acidity, medium-bodied and lacking what this Chateau is capable of. Not a great bottle I fear.

Château Siran 2017

87 points

 

This felt very unbalanced and certain not up to the Siran name. disappointing.

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