At the half way point of our trip we are starting to get a really good picture of the vintage. We have tasted some excellent wines and also some that sadly don't live up to expectations. Bordeaux 2017 is a vintage informed by a warm winter that led to early budbreak. This left the vines susceptible when frost struck late in April. Some estates lost as much as 90% of their crop. The summer that followed was warm and dry allowing the remaining grapes to ripen well; those that were left tended to be of very high quality. As is typically the case, we do note the importance of being selective in vintages such as 2017, so that will indeed be reflected in our offering and recommendations when the wines release.
The vintage style is classical in a positive sense, low alcohol (often under 13.5%) bright pure fruit, fresh minerality and ripe but structured tannins. The wines to look out for are those that achieved optimal ripeness and resisted extracting heavily or overly oaking. In essence, those achieving balance and comfortable in their own skin.
We have travelled widely and are forming an understanding of where the quality is to be found. The plateau of Pomerol and selected pockets of St Emilion were particularly successful, although in tiny quantities. Wines of particular note from the Right Bank are; La Conseillante, VCC, l'Eglise Clinet, Tertre Roteboeuf and Ausone. Of the wines tasted so far on the Left Bank, itis a patchier picture. Margaux was difficult, but St Julien is consistently strong. The stand out wines were largely those we expected them to be: Lynch Bages, Malescot St Exupery, Beychevelle, Gloria, Leoville Poyferre, Leoville Barton, Calon Segur and Montrose.
There are some lovely wines to be found at the more affordable end of the spectrum too, delicious perfectly formed wines that are set to be enjoyed in the medium-term. We will provide a comprehensive list at the end of our week in Bordeaux. Although tasting thus far is limited, the whites and wines of Sauternes enjoy the same freshness as the reds, without being over blown.
The clear stand out for us and a clear contender for wine of the vintage again, is Chateau Lafleur. The estates position on the famed Pomerol plateau helped of course, but it is the love, care and knowledge of the wonderful team at the estate which created the perfect result. Using multiple weather stations across the region as early warning against frost, they lit 1,500 smudge pots at 3am across the vineyard on one occasion to warm the vines and avoid any losses. Baptiste Guinaudeau and Omri Ram place the quality alongside 2015 and 2016, extraordinarily high praise, but warranted. Their choice to severely prune reduced yields but ensured the utmost quality and concentration. It moves through the gears effortlessly, showing a beautiful complexity and soft, elegant mouthfilling tannins. Baptiste notes the difference between a good wine and a great wine is "weightlessness with power" going on to describe his wine as a "flying carpet". Simply stunning.
We still have lots of wines to taste from Bordeaux 2017, but so far the news is good.
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