“We’re really happy with what we have for Chateau ________ in 2017.”
This is what we have heard, and will hear, from everywhere. Perhaps that is because we need convincing this year. I’m sure most winemakers in 2016 could just smile and nod during the tasting because all the evidence of a tremendous vintage shows in spades in the glass. But 2017 is a vintage that needs a conversation, a little salesmanship, and for sure a deeper understanding of process and conditions. But either way, we’re constantly greeted with how “happy” folks are with their wines.
And most proprietors have a right to be proud of what they produced - these charming, accessible, and sometimes great wines are a true accomplishment given the challenges at hand. What is interesting is that those challenges have become more broadly discussed as the week goes on. For us, the shine is off a bit and we’ve found ourselves with a vintage that is removed from any conversation having to do with its two preceding vintages.
The issue is a bit more about timing - the conversation is so heavy towards the enthusiasm of 15/16 that everyone is trying to use that lens. Instead the vintage should be seen for what it is in isolation - one that dealt with frost, heat spikes, and a harvest that saw decisions made and hands forced over multiple rains. Ripeness was not an issue, but in some places phenolic ripeness didn’t quite happen. The wines are not hard or angular, but instead immensely accessible in an early-drinking type way. What we have is a large amount of endlessly charming wines that are worth pursuing because skipping out on the vintage would mean missing some gems. And depending on pricing, early action might be limited to a select few.
Variety in Bordeaux is not unexpected. While those of us in the wine trade are more guilty than most of likening one vintage to another, the truth is that each vintage is genuinely unique. And one of the great things about this treasured region is the ability to have a long-term conversation about a wine, one that can not necessarily be as easily had with any other region. How often do you get to broadly taste, evaluate, and experience multiple decades of the same region or label with such immediacy?
-In the meantime, we found a few gems today. Our visit to Malescot today shows that they are holding strong on their title of the best collectible value in Margaux. The 2017 is one of the few wines that needs little introduction or conversation. Labegorce also continued an amazing streak that started in 2014 and will certainly continue with 2017 (albeit with production down 35%). And the down to earth folks at Leoville Barton made another honest and complex wine in this vintage.
Next we will start to come to some real conclusions with Pessac on the docket (Haut Brion, La Mission, SHL, Chevalier), meaning we’ve hit every major region. This will round out the grand tour, but certainly not the tastings. We will take the time to re-evaluate many of what we’ve tasted so that we can come home with some conclusions before the En Primeur campaign starts in earnest.
- Ryan Moses