• Alexander Smith

How bad was the 2017 Bordeaux Vintage?

Last week I published my full report on the 2017 Bordeaux Vintage including around 60 wines which I tasted here in Montreal, Quebec. The full report can be found here: https://www.pointsonwine.com/bordeaux-en-primeur-2017

Following this article I was inundated with messages from both consumers and producers in Bordeaux asking why I was so scathing on this vintage. So this post is a summary of my overall thoughts of the vintage:

- The weather was a challenge throughout the growing season: Frost, cool summer, rain in September

- Harvest was critical and those who picked too early ended up with wine which was simple, easy drinking yet lacking structure.

- Cabernet Franc did well in 2017, with Château Canon-la-Gaffelière and Château Les Carmes Haut-Brion really shining

- Bordeaux whites should not be overlooked and even if the reds had an average year, the whites were on fire.

- The vintage is probably a 6/10. Certain wine critics are scoring this vintage way too high.

- Prices are too high, Period. For the quality of the wines produced, the wines are just too expensive.

2017 is a fine year, not a great year and not a disaster. The wines are for early drinking and will always have softer tannins and less structure compared to 2015,2016 and 2018. The wines themselves are actually quite enjoyable and whilst waiting for my 15s,16s and 18s to come around I would be happy to go buy a bottle of 2017. However this is my main issue: COST. The wines themselves entered into the market way too expensive. We are not talking around 5% too expensive, I feel they should have come in around 40% less than that of 2015/2016. I hope the prices will come down in the secondary market, at which point I might be a buyer, but at these prices I will not even think about the 2017 vintage.

Some producers did a fantastic job in 2017, and at the right price point I will be a buyer in the secondary market, but for now I am happy with my 2015s,2016s and 2018s.

As a reminder my top wines for the Bordeaux 2017 vintage are:

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 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.

I hope Bordeaux producers have learnt their lesson and future off-vintages they will price at a reasonable price point.

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