Our first day of Bordeaux En Primeur 2017 and we brought the rain with us! Our wet morning began driving to the most Northern part of the Left Bank, St Estèphe, to cover the top estates before travelling south just across the border to taste in Pauillac. Both St Estèphe and Pauillac are appellations where there are highs and lows. However, both appellations profited from the influence of Gironde estuary, which saved them from the frosts in April 2017; others further south were not as lucky.
First up we tasted the three leading Châteaux of St Estèphe one after the other, Calon Ségur, Montrose and Cos d’Estournel. All three of these wines have a distinct and individual style; the difference between them in 2017 split opinion across our camp.
Calon Ségur has been under new ownership since 2012 and they completed the new winery in 2016. The new winery was certainly needed in 2017 as selection was key. The quality here is certainly on a roll. The Grand Vin represents 1/3 of the crop and has a great percentage of Cabernet at 76%. Cool fruits; cherry, violets, kirsch, sweet savoury tobacco. Plush, fruit driven and approachable. Perhaps it lacks the concentration and power it normal holds. However, it’s well made for the vintage.
The power at Montrose is in the soils and the challenge is to harness this and balance it with finesse and elegance. They have a new range of tanks, 90 in total now, allowing them to vinify all 110 parcels separately. This allows excellent selection of the best parcels; key in a vintage such as 2017. Again, another large proportion of Cabernet here in the blend too, 76%, this is the highest since 2006. Huge depth and complexity to the fruit, but tightly wound. This showed real class and was very much a stand out wine for us all.
Cos d’Estournel is one of the great names in Bordeaux, always trying to rival its first growth neighbour on the opposite hill. Only 40% of the crop was used, proving how critical selection has been in this vintage. The style of the 2017, for me, goes back to the classic terroir based wines that I used to love. The wine was served a touch cold and once it evolved and opened, the pure and polished cool silky fruit spilled out. Lovely layers of silky fruit, touches of Asian spice and that old world refinement and elegance I’ve missed. This wine split our camp, but I really enjoyed it.
We then moved on to a Goedhuis favourite Lafon Rochet, what a pleasing wine Basil and his team have made. If you are looking for something that is going to be a great drinker in 2017, then buy this. You will not regret it. Thumbs up from the whole team.
On to Pauillac and first up was Haut Batailley, which was purchased by Jean-Charles Cazes in 2017 – this will be the first vintage under his ownership and guidance. His made a cracker, very fresh, silky and beautifully balanced.
On to the rest of the Lynch stable: Ormes de Pez was rich broad and offered a lovely density of fruit. Always great value. However, it was Lynch Bages itself that really shone; to be honest it knocked our socks off! Super fine, great texture and ripe sweet fruits, wrapped up in an elegant silk glove. Stunning. What a high to leave on. Bravo Jean-Charles!!!
Pichon Baron shows its power in 2017. Its old vines have performed very well. Great concentration, beautiful complexity of fruit with a lovely underlying mineral drive. Integrated tannins. Really intense and really rather good.
After lunch we hit Grand Puy Lacoste and then onto Lafite Rothschild. All change at this historic first growth, with Jean-Guillaume Prats having recently taken over as wine director and also new to the estate is Saskia Rothschild who has helped her father with the winemaking since 2008 and is now part of the team. Selection was key. 96% Cabernet Sauvignon. Elegance was the word here and it was more open knit than normal. They have produced an extremely harmonious wine. Very refined and polished.
Onto the next First Growth, Mouton Rothschild. Yes, we are packing in the Grands Vins!! What a stunning set of wines they have produced. They really delivered across the board, the consistency in a vintage that was not easy shows the skill in the winemaking here. The whole stable is worth your attention; d’Armaihac, Clerc Milon, Petit Mouton all really sang. However the top plaudits go to Mouton. It had such sexy ripe fruit, great drive and was really juicy. No cool sultry elegance here. Gorgeous floral notes, violets, Cherries and plush ripe aromas. Beautiful concentration with a mineral core and mouth-watering salinity. Bravo Mouton. Excellent.
Next up was Mouton’s neighbour, Pontet Canet. This is a very nice wine, but lacks the power of previous vintages. Off we went, powering through to our last two châteaux.
The gorgeous Pichon Lalande – Nicolas Glumineau arrived at Pichon Lalande in 2012, he has been working hard and in 2017 seems to have found the winning formula. This wine was totally knockout. Very sexy and sensuous. Gorgeous velvety texture with lots of fruit concentration and complex layers of ripe, sweet Cabernet, accounting for 70% in total. You can seriously see the quality of this vineyard bursting through. This was such a seductive wine, beautifully made and very polished. Exquisite!! This could easily be the wine of the day. A worthy mention to its second wine, you must look out for this; Réserve de la Comtesse, as this too has the beauty of its Grand Vin and comes highly recommended.
Last up Latour, and it didn’t disappoint, what an exquisite set of wines. This is winemaking at its very best. It’s just so disappointing they don’t release En Primeur!
After tasting today it was very noticeable how well the Cabernet Sauvignon in St Estéphe and Pauillac has done for some of the major estates in 2017. All of the great wines tasted today had a very high percentage of Cab Sauv, many with historic levels, which has resulted in some fantastic wines. Fruit is fresh, aromatics strong and the tannins are velvety soft, sweet and well integrated. They may not cellar for decades and selection is certainly key, but they will give great enjoyment in their youth. The word for the best wines was ‘balance’, and all of the very best offered just that with their own individual character.