Last week three of the Goedhuis team went to Bordeaux to taste through 2007 barrel samples for the upcoming en primeur offer. Three more of our team will be there next week. 2007 is a particularly controversial vintage due to the unusual weather patterns – an early warm spring prompting early bud burst pre-empted a cool, rainy summer which lasted until late August which was then followed by a dry, sunny September and October. While a normal growing season lasts a firm 100 days from flowering to harvest, 2007’s unusual summer prolonged the season to 130-140 days – a first to be seen in modern Bordeaux history. One phrase that has been coined for 2007 is “The Turnaround Vintage” emphasising the drastic weather change that occurred on 29 August which enabled Mother Nature to work her magic by carrying out the maximum possible ripening.
The key to 2007 was exceptional vineyard management, rigorous selection of berries, low yields and later harvesting to ensure the ripest fruit possible. Several châteaux including Lafon Rochet carried out an amazing 4 green harvests alternated by leaf plucking (for better exposure to the sun) to eliminate mildew and concentrate the sugars in the vine. For many châteaux, it has been the most expensive vintage ever produced due to all the extra effort.
But vineyard work was not their only tool. Experienced winemaking was particularly evident as many wines were notably polished, even velvety in their structure with upfront, forward fruit. However, quite a few displayed overtly herbaceous characteristics making it was fairly clear who worked less hard in their vineyards and who carried out less gentle winemaking extracting less ripe flavours. Most wines will be for earlier drinking - before the 2006s and most certainly before the 2005s. Nonetheless, there is some evident structure as well particularly with the heavy hitters such as Latour, Léoville Las Cases and Cheval Blanc which will require a bit of patience before tucking in.
On the left bank, Cabernet Sauvignon is the definite stand out variety and most of the top wines contain a higher percentage than normal. Though all communes found some success, those areas that had better draining and warmer soils tended to fare best overall. The Right Bank had less rain, and so less dilution though good ripening was still not obvious. For sweet wines, however, it was another story. Sauternes had one of the best vintages in the last 10 years. Yquem compared 2007’s vintage conditions to 1997, an excellent year with lots of botrytis.
Due to these challenging vintage conditions, there are notable variations in quality so meticulous selection will be paramount before purchasing. Despite this, most Bordelais were content with the overall quality due to better knowledge of vineyard management and winemaking. As they said over-and-over, “Fifteen or twenty years ago, [the quality of] 2007 would have never been possible.”
So we come to the big question. Price? Most 2006s were released at higher prices than anticipated, and similar to last year, the châteaux are not strapped for cash. We have the very strong euro to contend with. We can only hope that they will price the wines sensibly without unpleasantly “˜testing’ the current and emerging markets for support. This is the vintage to buy if the price is right as there will be some nice wines on offer. Some Chteaux are saying they will come out at the same price as last year which actually means at 15% price rise in sterling terms.
As far as the timing is concerned in recent years most Chateaux have waited for Mr Parker’s assessment. He was in Bordeaux recently and we can expect his scores at the end of April early May so its likely that the campaign will not begin until then. Another factor is Vinexpo Asia in Hong Kong at the end of May. Last year many Chateaux did not release until that was over and came out in June.
We will be sending our full list of wines with tasting notes and price estimates in due course but any early indications of the wines you might be interested in, subject to reasonable pricing, would be very helpful.
Here is our preliminary list of the best wines of each appellation followed by some value recommendations:
Médoc: -value: Poujeaux
St Estèphe: Cos d’Estournel, Calon Segur
-value: Lafon Rochet
Pauillac: Latour, Mouton Rothschild, Pontet Canet
-value: Grand Puy Lacoste, Haut Batailley,d’Armailhac, Batailley
St Julien: Léoville Las Cases, Léoville Poyferré, Léoville Barton
-value: Langoa Barton, Gruaud Larose,Talbot
Margaux: Margaux, Palmer
-value: Issan, Giscours, Du Tertre
Pomerol: Evangile, Le Pin, Vieux Château Certan
-value: Petite Eglise
St Emilion: Ausone, Cheval Blanc, Figeac
-value: Larcis Ducasse, Moulin St Georges
Graves: Haut Brion, Haut Bailly
-value: Domaine de Chevalier, Chapelle de La Mission
Sauternes: Yquem, Doisy DaÃ«ne, Guiraud, La Tour Blanche
-value: Doisy Védrines, Filhot