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.
This wine is a showstopper. Marielle Cazaux continues her success at this estate, which has confirmed its reputation as a star of the Right Bank with a string of excellent recent vintages. This blend of 85% Merlot and 15% Cabernet Franc has a heightened aromatic drama, with hints of eucalyptus, mint and bursting red berries. Gentle extraction has yielded sinuous tannins and graceful length. Its perfumed elegance sets it apart from its peers. Standing ovation.
The 2017 La Conseillante contains a little less Cabernet Franc than usual because four or five rows were damaged by frost. It has a classic Pomerol bouquet with touches of truffle and incense infusing the broody black fruit that take a few minutes to unwind in the glass. The palate is medium-bodied with fine tannin, well balanced with a subtle sprinkling of white pepper and fennel. The Cabernet Franc, despite its diminished contribution, is quite expressive towards the balsamic-tinged finish that shows plenty of energy and decent persistence. It is less powerful than the 2016 at this stage but it is clearly a very well crafted, almost sensual Pomerol by winemaker Marielle Cazaux. Tasted twice with consistent notes, this may well settle at the top of my banded score once in bottle. 2022 - 2045
The 2017 La Conseillante displays a deep garnet-purple color and simply sings of crushed blueberries, mulberries and ripe plums with suggestions of violets, chocolate box, rose hip tea and a waft of menthol. The palate is medium-bodied with impressive richness at this elegant weight coupled with vivacity and supported by plush, velvety tannins, finishing with great length and energy. This is an arrestingly beautiful expression of this vintage!
Tight and precise with focused tannins and a lovely texture to this young wine. Medium to full body. Compressed and serious. Some salty and dark fruit at the end.
The 2017 La Conseillante is a wine of total finesse and class. Bright, floral and beautifully lifted, the 2017 is exceptionally polished and nuanced from start to finish. Despite its mid-weight, gracious personality, the 2017 has real staying power. Technical Director Marielle Cazaux gave the fruit about 2 days on the skins, with no SO2 at crush. Cazaux added that the malos were quite fast. The blend is 85% Merlot and 15% Cabernet Franc. Frost reduced production by around 15%, while drought further reduced yields in the Franc by a further 10%. As for the wine, well, the 2017 was magnificent on each of the three occasions I tasted it.
Organically certified from this vintage. Winemaker Marielle Cazaux was elated about her 2017. The temperatures dropped to -2C and so they rented a helicopter (which hovered at a height of 30m) and this took the temperatures back up to 0C. On the Cheval Blanc side, the temperature dropped to -3.5C and they lost 15% of fruit which was destined for Duo. A very early vintage, with veraison happening at the end of July. They started picking on 5th September and so Marielle had to cut her holiday short! They stopped for rain and then finished everything on 29th September. The Cabernet Franc berries were very small, very spicy and of great quality. Pure, complex and totally refreshing, this is a stunningly energetic La Conseillante with lovely definition and class. This is all about length rather than depth and while it is forward and clear, it will hold well on account of the stunning acidity. This is a completely different wine to the 2015 and 2016 and it is very worthy of its place in this fabulous trio of vintages.
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.
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.