Bordeaux 2017 High Flyers
The chateaux below are some of the smartest addresses in all of Bordeaux, encapsulating the pinnacle of viticulture and winemaking. Still at their release prices this is a brilliant opportunity to snap up some stellar wines to lay down for future drinking.
Arguably the greatest of the second growths, Las Cases often nudges into first growth territory for its quality and longevity. The wine has a deep purple colour, with aromas of dark cherries and graphite on the nose. There is cool, steely control underneath the fine, exquisite tannins, and a savoury salinity in its length. Tightly wound in its youth, this wine is a marriage of power, elegance, and complexity.
The 2017 Léoville Las-Cases was picked between 15 September and 4 October, cropped at 37hl/ha and as usual, comes from the oldest vines that average around 50-years old. This year there is 13.28° alcohol. It is matured in 90% new oak and contains 7.5% vin de presse. It has a very clean and precise bouquet with blackberry, just a touch of blueberry, violet and a hint of bay leaf. This gains intensity with aeration but it is not as detailed as last year’s 2016. The palate is medium-bodied with more supple tannins than usual (that word is apt – there is nothing “soft” about this Saint-Julien). It has great depth with layers of black fruit laced with graphite and a pinch of white pepper, whilst it delivers fine salinity on the sappy finish. Excellent. 2022 - 2050
The 2017 Léoville Las Cases, a blend of 79% Cabernet Sauvignon with 11% Cabernet Franc and 10% Merlot from 50- to 90-year-old vines, is deep garnet-purple in color and simply sings of crushed blackcurrants, wild blueberries and plum preserves with notions of wood smoke, cigar boxes, crushed rocks and beef drippings. Medium-bodied with wonderful intensity and vivacity, it gives a firm, fine-grained frame and a densely packed mid-palate, finishing long and earthy. This should age incredibly!
Very dark with black core. This invites you in but doesn't say much in terms of aroma. It is dark, intense and sober at heart but with flashes of colour to suggest a future revelation. Super-fine texture, so much finer than I remember earlier vintages, especially at this young age. Seems almost delicate already but has amazing and effortless concentration. Already elegant. And unexpectedly juicy on the finish. Very very long. Fruit purity persists to the end. (JH) Drink 2027-2045
This is very muscular with formed and bright tannins that give the wine super drive and length. The tannins build on the finish with a lovely integration of black fruits. Serious for the vintage.
The 2017 Léoville Las Cases is remarkably elegant and polished for this typically brutish Saint-Julien. Persistence more than power is the key element that distinguishes the 2017 from most other vintages and most other Saint-Juliens as well. The classic Las Cases flavor profile is very much in evidence, but in a wine that is silky, nuanced and exceptionally polished. In 2017, Las Cases is truly magical, and one of the most complete wines of the Left Bank. In a word: sublime. Don't miss it. Tasted two times.
One of the very few wines in this vintage that truly stains the glass with its wonderfully vibrant anthocyanins. This is an exceptional wine - Léoville just knows how to knock it out of the park again and again. An early vintage meant everything was blended and in barrels before Christmas, with 7.5% press wine, so this has had some time to settle down already. There's huge persistency through the palate, very similar to last year. It has presence and a grip that doesn't want to let go, and you don't want it to either. It continues to reveal itself over the course of the glass, showing slate, cassis, blackberry and charcoal. It's not as powerfully knitted as the 2016, but watch out for those tannins. I expect this will be a wine that, like the 1996 and 2016, will close down and evolve extremely slowly. Stunning aromatics. 90% new oak. 3.72pH. Drinking Window 2027 - 2042
A song to Cabernet Sauvignon and this time, Cabernet Franc is the main backing singer. The density of fruit is superb and yet there is a depth and a power here, without necessarily being heavy, which is superb. The oak is lovely, adding a layer of complexity which doesn’t interfere with the fruit. Long and supple and not seemingly a wine which requires decades to get going, this is a stunning and fruit-driven Las Cases.
This Lynch deserves special attention; it was one of the most exciting wines we tasted all week. The texture of its tannins is distinctly layered: silky and fine, they build in momentum. Accompanying these are elegant aromatics of violets and dark berries, with a concentration of inky cassis fruit and a creamy freshness on the palate. It is a highlight of the vintage, and once again far outpaces its fifth growth classification.
The 2017 Lynch Bages was picked from 18 September with the young Merlot vines and finishing on 30 September. It was cropped at around 50hl/ha. It is aged in 75% new oak for 18 months. It offers good intensity on the nose, not as precise or as mineral-driven as the 2016 last year, with cedar and pencil shaving infusing the black fruit. The palate is medium-bodied with supple tannin, very refined, a touch of white pepper and cedar with impressive depth on the finish. This will be an approachable Lynch Bages, probably pre-destined to be overshadowed by the magnificent (if nascent) 2016 but it will certainly give 20 to 25 years of drinking pleasure. Tasted four times with consistent notes. 2022 - 2042
Deepest crimson. Lovely classic aroma of cassis and graphite with an attractive dusty/mineral overlay. Deep and still elegant, with refined dark fruit, super-fine tannins and a long harmonious finish. Shapely and elegant. (JH) Drink 2027-2040
This is an excellent Lynch that starts off slowly and then drives at the end with dark fruit and hints of hazelnuts. Strong and focused tannins. A beautiful young wine.
The 2017 Lynch-Bages is a wine of impeccable balance and class. Deep, fleshy and inviting, the 2017 should be ready to deliver pleasure with minimal cellaring. All of the Lynch-Bages signatures come through in a very pretty, deceptively medium-bodied wine loaded with personality. Lynch-Bages is never a huge wine, but like most of his colleagues, proprietor Jean-Michel Cazes opted for especially delicate extractions.
They've had their foot on the extraction pedal here, but the extremely dark fruit has great finesse. It is broad-shouldered and savoury-edged, and each time I tasted this wine it seemed a little richer and more complete, over-delivering for the year. This is going to age extremely well. 2% Petit Verdot makes up the blend. 75% new oak. Drinking Window 2025 - 2038
A stunning nose which combines density and also exuberance, this is a lovely if full wine with bold richness and also length and complexity. The detail is superb and there is impressive control on the finish, too. Superb.
Every year when we taste the Clarence Dillon wines, our big conundrum is which do we think is best, La Mission and Haut Brion. As is so often the case, it was a split decision this year, but I loved La Mission! Shining bright purple colour, this is full of bramble fruits on the nose. This beautifully poised and balanced wine blends an initial richness and sweetness with subtly layered tannins providing complexity and nuance. A total charmer and everything I look for in La Mission: subtle exuberance with gravelly structure. Unquestionably one of the stand-out wines of the vintage.
The 2017 La Mission Haut-Brion was picked from 4 to 29 September and matured in 68% new oak with 14.1° alcohol. It has a more broody bouquet than previous years: dark berry fruit, brown spices, warm gravel and later, a touch of orange rind. This can sometimes be sultry out of barrel and the 2017 falls into that category. The palate is medium-bodied with very fine tannin. This La Mission Haut-Brion is built around a wonderful structure and symmetry. It feels precise with a detailed, saline finish that lingers in the mouth. I can see Jean-Philippe Delmas’s comparison with the 2001 though I find the tannins finer in the 2017. Superb. 2023 - 2050
The 2017 La Mission Haut-Brion, blended of 56% Merlot, 39.6% Cabernet Sauvignon and 4.4% Cabernet Franc, is very deep garnet-purple in color and scented of crushed blackcurrants, blackberries and chocolate-covered cherries with suggestions of cigar box, bay leaves, Indian spices and dusty soil. Medium to full-bodied with very firm, grainy tannins and a racy backbone supporting the taut, muscular fruit, it has bags of mineral and earthy suggestions layering the very long finish.
Deep cassis colour. Gorgeous restraint of fine dusty dark fruit. Definite graphite/mineral aroma undergirded by fragrant cassis and a light herbaceous note. Delicious pure black fruit, super-fine texture, the tannins fine and supple. Juicy even with its serious elegance. Succulent, long and precisely balanced. Persistent, too. Intensity without weight. All waiting in the wings. On second tasting, the oak shows a little more on the finish but it is in place, not dominating. (JH) 14.1% Drink 2027-204
This is a very tight and focused young La Mission with a pretty center palate of dark fruit and flavors of oyster shell and hints of fresh tobacco. Serious and precise on the finish. 56% merlot, 40% cabernet sauvignon and 4% cabernet franc.
The 2017 La Mission Haut-Brion is a wine of total finesse and class. Pliant and expressive, the 2017 is beautifully layered from start to finish. Bright red cherry, plum, mocha, pomegranate and blood orange all add to an impression of grace and freshness. This is one of the most refined, understated recent vintages of La Mission I can remember tasting.
When I picked up the glass, I said under my breath, ‘this is heavier’, and it is – cue much mirth. The statistics above prove this and the colour is much darker than the second wine, but the real clue comes from the nose, which is dense, foresty, spicy and unyielding. The graphite tones are riveting and the tannins are powerful and upright. A long-lived wine with obvious structure and density, this is a quite different style to La Chapelle, which has clearly taken all of the red-fruited material and left the dense and bold grapes for this wine. Do not approach it for a decade, because there is both graininess and also dryness here, which creeps forward on the palate and you must let it retire right the way back to the finish to achieve balance. This is undoubtedly a remarkable wine and one which sits a little outside of the vintage. The only real clue to its year is the devastating acidity which brings shocking drama to the whole. Along with its stablemate, this is one of the wines of the vintage.
A blend of 90% Cabernet Sauvignon, 9% Merlot and 1% Cabernet Franc. The winemaking team here made the most of the drawn out four week harvesting period in September to select the very best fruit for the Grand Vin. A wine true to the Mouton mould, deep garnet in colour, it has a joyous, open aroma of luscious, dark, wild fruits. The palate is broad, coating the mouth with flavours of cocoa, Arabian spices and fresh coffee beans. A full and generous style, with a lovely Pauillac drive and tannic edge, finishing beautifully bright and fresh.
The 2017 Mouton-Rothschild was picked from 7 to 29 September and matured in 100% new oak. This First Growth is driven by the Cabernet Sauvignon, as you would expect given the high percentage, expressive pencil lead and cedar that infuse the slightly introspective black fruit. Dare I say that it actually reminds me of Latour in style? The palate is medium-bodied, finely tuned and precise, a more masculine Mouton-Rothschild compared to the last three vintages, fresh with a sustained, lightly spiced finish that lingers in the mouth. That backbone is accentuated more during my second visit in mid-April. It is a cliché but this Mouton-Rothschild is unashamedly “classic” in style, perchance “le petit frère” of the 2010 Mouton-Rothschild that also contained a lot of Cabernet Sauvignon (though before you search the archives, yes, the 2011 and 2012 contained the same proportion!) Tasted twice with consistent notes. 2022 - 2050
The 2017 Mouton Rothschild has one of the highest percentages of Cabernet Sauvignon ever at 90%, with 9% Merlot and 1% Petit Verdot. Very deep purple-black in color, the nose is already singing of crushed black currants, warm blackberries and chocolate-covered cherries with hints of violets, star anise, cinnamon stick and cloves plus wafts of pencil lead and unsmoked cigars. Medium-bodied, wonderfully delicate yet intense in the mouth (gaining some richness in the mid-palate on my second taste two and a half weeks later), it has super fine-grained, smooth tannins and incredible freshness, finishing very long with tons of tightly wound layers. Wow. This vintage is going to be very long-lived in the cellar!
Healthy, glowing deep crimson with soft cherry rim. Rocky/smoky cassis lift to the aroma. Fragrant with sober and non-exotic fruit. Serious. Super-fine texture, appears gentle but is very persistent, so fresh and effortless and yet intense and long. Refined and accessible but long term too. (JH) Drink 2027-2047
This is a very shy and tight Mouton with blackberries, blackcurrants and hints of terracotta. Full body and very integrated tannins that are extremely polished and beautiful. Spicy and white-pepper finish. Sexy and exciting. So long and refined.
The 2017 Mouton Rothschild is a powerful wine for the year, probably because of the high percentage of Cabernet Sauvignon in the blend. Dense and closed in on itself, the 2017 is likely going to require quite a bit of time to soften. Raspberry jam, pomegranate and blood orange add lift and perfume with time in the glass. There is quite a bit of energy and brightness in the 2017, but not as much immediacy as is common for the vintage. That may ultimately turn out to be a positive for the wine's long term prospects. The blend is 90% Cabernet Sauvignon, 9% Merlot and 1% Petit Verdot. "After the frost, which did not really affect us, the major challenge in 2017 was heat stress," Mouton Technical Director Philippe Dhalluin told me. "We had no rain until the end of June. Then, in September, when we needed a bit of rain again, we got more than double what would have been optimal. The September rain affected the Merlot and Cabernet Franc, while the Cabernet Sauvignon was able to take advantage of the last 15 days of the growing season, which were much more favorable. In the cellar, we opted for longer macerations at lower temperatures, as we wanted to avoid extracting the type of hard tannins that mark other vintages with very dry summers, such as 2011."
Vibrancy is one of the key themes of the year in the most successful properties, and this has bright, plump fruit and good depth of colour, even if it's less concentrated than the past few vintages. The Pauillac first growths have done a great job in 2017, and it's hard to question the depth of fruit and richness here - there's no doubting that this is a great Mouton. Cassis and blackberry notes are delivered with precision, but there is a clear restraint that is another signature of 2017, and perhaps doesn't reflect Mouton's personality as much as some of its neighbours. There's not the same weight of tannins as 2016 (around 70 IPT this year, still a high amount), but it's a beautiful, persistent, gorgeous wine that will age gracefully. 100% new oak. (Image is the 2015 bottle; the design for the 2017 label will be revealed later). Drinking Window 2027 - 2042
Considering the dominance of Cabernet in this wine the nose is surprisingly fruit driven with both red and black fruit tones. There is some superb tannin here and it is sprinkled throughout the palate from the very first moment until the very last. This is a calm and centred wine with little fuss or fanfare and yet it has a lot of concentration and style about it. Perhaps not the DNA for superstardom, this is still a very harmonious and exciting Mouton.
If flamboyant fruit is what you are looking for in your Pomerol, then VCC is not the wine for you. If, however, you covet finesse and balance, this is a no-brainer. Deep in colour, with lovely perfumed blueberry and plum fruit scent. Harmonious, elegant and subtle, with extraordinary layers. One of the highlights of the vintage.
The 2017 Vieux Château Certan was picked in three passages through the vineyard, 12 and 13 September, 18 and 19 September and finally 25 September to 2 October. The yields are 37hl/ha with 14.2° alcohol and a 3.75 pH. It is the first vintage to contain Cabernet Sauvignon for several years. It has a very pure, Merlot-driven bouquet with black cherries, redcurrant and wild strawberry scents, just a hint of iris and incense in the background. The 70% new oak is nicely integrated here. The palate is medium-bodied with edgy tannin, a deep well of black and red fruit interwoven with allspice, truffle, white pepper and a little sage. This Vieux Château Certan manifests more complexity and profundity as it aerates, delivering genuine, spine-tingling mineralité on the persistent finish. It gains even more precision when I return to the property to re-taste it again. Tasted twice, ten days apart at the property. 2023 - 2050
Composed of 81% Merlot, 14% Cabernet Franc and 5% Cabernet Sauvignon, the deep garnet-purple colored 2017 Vieux Château Certan gives up gorgeous black raspberries, crushed black currants and warm black berries on the nose with chocolate-covered cherries, violets and star anise suggestions plus black truffles and wood smoke. The palate is medium to full-bodied with wonderful concentration in the mid-palate and firm, very finely pixelated tannins, with seamless freshness and fantastic length.
Deepest crimson with black core. Not much aroma at first because the sample is cool. Rich, firm, dark and more savoury than usual, darker-fruited. Great freshness. Has impressive depth without weight. Very fine shape, great refinement even now. Feels like it is coiled tightly for the future. Dark beauty with just a very slight char on the finish and a long graphite aftertaste. Cool nights kept the freshness. (JH) 14.2% Drink 2027-2047
This is a dense and compact center palate with a solid and pointed intensity. Full body, firm and silky tannins and an energetic finish. Complete. Harmonious.
The 2017 Vieux Château Certan is a rapturously beautiful wine. Dark, sumptuous and seamless in the glass, the 2017 is going to tempt readers early. This is the first vintage that includes a bit of young vine Cabernet Sauvignon planted in 2012 to complement the old-vine Merlot and Franc that are the core of Vieux Certan. A wine of exceptional balance and purity, the 2017 dazzles from start to finish. There is an element of tension in the 2017 that is incredibly appealing. "We are back to Bordeaux," adds Alexandre Thienpont in reference to the personality of the year as compared to both 2016 and 2015. The blend is 81% Merlot, 14% Cabernet Franc, 5% Cabernet Sauvignon, aging in 70% new oak.
They started harvesting in mid-September and then they waited a week and picked the ‘important stuff’ from 25th September until the 2nd October. This was important to get the tannins right in the skins. This is a much fresher, cleaner and less opulent wine than the last two vintages and Guillaume Thienpont describes it as an ‘intellectual’ vintage. The nose is incredibly bright with very direct black cherry notes and some mineral, stony tones, too. The previous few vintages have been later-harvested but this wine retains the freshness. This wine is born of a dry summer and they luckily escaped the frosts by half a degree. Apparently, 300ha in Pomerol were ‘frozen’. Their situation on the dome of Pomerol helped them. According to Alexandre Thienpont, ‘finesse means weak in English’, so he doesn’t use this word about the 2017 vintage. He prefers the word ‘classic’. The perfume is amazing and the silkiness and tenderness is evident. While the wine is not a heavyweight the colour is intense and this is thanks to particularly small berries. The old vines (in both varieties) and accuracy of work in the vineyards helped amazingly. The young vines had decent yields and the second wine is a success, too (80% Merlot, 20% Cabernet Franc). Two thirds of the yield went into the Grand Vin. The brightness of fruit is the overriding theme here and there is a gloss and freshness ratio which makes this a vitally compelling wine. ‘Academic’ was the last word I heard when I walked out of the cellar. They must have been talking about me!