The 2013 vintage in Bordeaux was officially introduced to the U.S. last year; now that it has had some time to age a bit, I decided to check it out. The Institute of Masters of Wine organizes an annual Claret Tasting of last year’s newly released vintage every year in November at Vintners’ Hall in London, and so, in early November, I traveled across the pond. I saw the 16 new Masters of Wine being inducted in the evening, but spent the day tasting through 70 red Bordeaux wines.
I also tasted twelve 2013 Sauternes and Barsac wines, but I will not describe them here in detail, other than to mention the standouts: Château d’Yquem (no surprise there); Château Suduiraut; Château Doisy Daëne; and Château Coutet. (Château Climens and Château de Fargues were unavailable.) Château Doisy Daëne was the surprise of the group; it was outstanding, definitely overachieving in 2013, and clearly the best value in the group. The general opinion is that Sauternes and Barsac are the class of the vintage in the Bordeaux region in 2013, along with Bordeaux Blanc.
I tasted most of the red Bordeaux Classified Growths, including Four First Growths and Château Cheval-Blanc (Château Latour and Petrus were unavailable). I will not report on all 70 red Bordeaux wines…just those that I thought stood out. But first, I will pass on my general comments about the 2013 vintage in Bordeaux:
The 2013 vintage was a challenging, uneven vintage in Bordeaux, due to the weather. A cold, wet spring affected the flowering, and led to the smallest grape production in over 25 years. The crop of early-ripening Merlot grapes was especially small, particularly on the Left Bank. The vintage was saved from disaster by a very warm July and August. September had uneven weather, with heavy rains towards the end. In general, the Right Bank, especially the better properties in St.-Émilion and Pomerol, were the best areas in 2013 for red Bordeaux. The wines are softer and more drinkable than most of the highly acidic wines on the Left Bank--although St.-Estèphe, receiving less rain than the other Haut-Médoc districts, fared quite well on the Left Bank. As usual the well-established Châteaux with more resources available to deal with difficult vintages generally performed the best in 2013.
Château Haut-Brion: 50% Merlot, 45.5% Cabernet Sauvignon, 4.5% Cabernet Franc. Haut-Brion usually shows better when it is young than the other First Growths. Aromas are still a bit closed; tannins are well integrated with the fruit, and riper than the Haut-Médoc wines. A very good, but not a great Haut-Brion. 94
Château Smith Haut Lafite: 55% Cabernet Sauvignon, 35% Merlot, 10% Cabernet Franc. Fleshy and rich, with lead pencil and cedar aromas, ripe plum flavors. Delicious even now. A complete wine, and a success in a difficult vintage. 93
Château La Mission Haut-Brion: 45% Merlot, 45% Cabernet Sauvignon, 8% Cabernet Franc, 2% Petit Verdot. Lead pencil aromas; very minerally, with great depth. It is still very tight and austere now, as La Mission usually is in its early stages. It needs six or seven years of aging to develop. 92
Domaine de Chevalier: 65% Cabernet Sauvignon, 30% Merlot, 5% Petit Verdot. Classic Chevalier style; good concentration of fruit. A more full-bodied, fleshy structure than I expected, with a long finish. 91
Château Malartic-LaGravière: 56% Cabernet Sauvignon, 38% Merlot. 4% Cabernet Franc, 2% Petit Verdot. Soft and fleshy, with rich flavors. This is a Bordeaux to enjoy now; long finish. Best Value of the 2013 Pessac-Léognan wines. 90
Château Margaux: 94% Cabernet Sauvignon, 5% Cabernet Franc, 1% Petit Verdot. This First Growth seldom disappoints, even in a challenging vintage. Silky texture, with great depth and balance. A perfect wine, alive with acidity and energy; ripe black fruit flavors, but not overripe. An outstanding Bordeaux. Drink or hold. 96
Château Brane-Cantenac: 84% Cabernet Sauvignon, 14% Merlot, 2% Cabernet Franc. Dark fruit flavors, good concentration and freshness. A bit too acidic. Supple texture. 90
Château Rauzan-Ségla: 58% Cabernet Sauvignon, 39% Merlot, 2% Petit Verdot, 1% Cabernet Franc. Ample, ripe Merlot somewhat compensates for the high acidity present here and in so many 2013 Haut-Médoc Bordeaux wines. 90
Château D’Issan: Shows harmony and richness plus depth of acidity and concentration. Tannins are still unresolved. D’Issan should be ready to drink in a few years. 89
(Château Palmer was unavailable)
Château Montrose: 68% Cabernet Sauvignon, 29% Merlot, 3%Petit Verdot. Big, rich, and concentrated, with firm acidity. Dark berry fruit. Solid, a classic St.Estèphe Bordeaux. It will be ready to drink sooner than usual for Montrose--within five or six years. 91
Château Cos D’Estournel: 78% Cabernet Sauvignon, 20% Merlot, 2% Petit Verdot. Lots of richness but disappointedly soft at its core. Powerful structure, but not meant for the long haul. It should be ready to drink soon. 89
Château Calon Segur: 85% Cabernet Sauvignon, 7% Cabernet Franc, 6% Merlot, 2% Petit Verdot. Very concentrated and fresh, with some depth. Lighter-bodied than usual, but has the ability to age for five or more years. 89
Château Léoville-Las Cases: 74% Cabernet Sauvignon, 12% Merlot, 14% Cabernet Franc. This Super-Second Growth is always in the ranks of the best wines of the vintage. And yet, in the 2013 vintage, some tasters preferred Léoville-Barton. Lovely cedar aromas, with depth and complexity. For me, an excellent Las Cases, but perhaps not quite as great as usual. 94
Château Léoville-Barton: 85% Cabernet Sauvignon, 15% Merlot. At this point, Léoville-Barton is showing beautifully. Tobacco and cedar aromas, medium-weight, classically styled with depth and concentration of fruit right through the finish. A really fine, rich 2013. 93
Château Léoville-Poyferré: 65% Cabernet Sauvignon, 26% Merlot, 6% Petit Verdot, 3% Cabernet Franc. Perfumed, fruity aromas…supple; an elegant, very fine St.-Julien. Its rather high acidity prevented me from giving it an even higher score. 92
Château Beychvelle: 55% Cabernet Sauvignon, 36% Merlot, 9% Petite Verdot. Fragrant, very concentrated; soft and lovely; harmonious and rich. Beychvelle has come through with a winner in this difficult vintage. 92
(Château Ducru-Beaucaillou was unavailable)
Château Lafite-Rothschild: 98% Cabernet Sauvignon, 2% Merlot. This great First Growth is always excellent, but in the 2013 vintage, it does not reach its usual heights. Tons of depth and finesse, with complex flavors, but leaner than usual. It has the concentration to last for decades. Always, for me, it is the most elegant Bordeaux of all. 95
Château Mouton-Rothschild: 89% Cabernet Sauvignon, 7% Merlot, 4% Cabernet Franc. Big and showy, a more obvious powerhouse than the elegant Lafite (the Princess Grace of Bordeaux, with Mouton more reminiscent of Sofia Vergara). Mouton is soft, ripe, and fleshy, showing well now. Some preferred it to Lafite. 93
Château D’Armailhac: 59% Cabernet Sauvignon, 28% Merlot, 12% Cabernet Franc, 1% Petite Verdot. Surprisingly good showing for this little-known Pauillac. Well-balanced, drinking well now. But acidity is quite high. Good Value. 90
Château Lynch-Bages: 72% Cabernet Sauvignon, 20% Merlot, 6% Cabernet Franc, 2% Petite Verdot. A rather lean Lynch-Bages, showing acidity. Supple, approachable now. 89
Château Grand-Puy-Lacoste: 80% Cabernet Sauvignon, 20% Merlot. Supple wine, less substantial than usual. Acidity quite high. It needs time, at least five years. 89
(Château Latour and Château Pichon-Lalande were unavailable)
Château Cheval-Blanc: 49% Merlot, 48% Cabernet Franc, 3% Cabernet Sauvignon. Full and rich, a thoroughbred. Ripe tannins, with a long, ripe finish. The 2013 Cheval Blanc can be enjoyed even now, and should be superb in ten years. 94
Château Angélus: 62% Merlot, 38% Cabernet Franc. Fragrant aromas, ripe, soft, and harmonious. This is a wine you can enjoy soon. For me, Angélus is overpriced ($300 wholesale), as is even the more expensive Château Pavie. Château Figeac, at one-third the price of Angélus, of similar quality but a different style, is a far better value. 92
Château Figeac: 50% Cabernet Sauvignon, 30% Merlot, 20% Cabernet Franc. Very concentrated fruit, big and full, supple. A great St.-Émilion, always reliable, even in this vintage. It will age well for over a decade. 93
Château Canon-La Gaffelière: 70% Merlot, 25% Cabernet Franc, 5% Cabernet Sauvignon. Soft and approachable; some depth and richness of fruit. A delightful wine to drink soon. 91
Château Trotanoy: 92% Merlot, 8% Cabernet Franc. Classic, as always; elegant, rich, and fleshy. Complex flavors, with a great, long finish. Consistently one of the best Pomerol wines. Quality-wise, on a level with First Growth Left Bank wines. 96
Château La Fleur-Pétrus: 95% Merlot, 5% Cabernet Franc. Wow! A great Pomerol; good depth, firm tannins; great fruit flavors; fresh and delicious even now. This wine has a long future. 94
Château La Conseillante: 80% Merlot, 20% Cabernet Franc. Lovely aromas, reminiscent of raspberries; well-balanced, harmonious, and supple. La Conseillante is always elegant. It is approachable now, but will develop further with a few years of aging. 93
Château La Fleur de Gay: 98% Merlot, 2% Cabernet Franc. Elegant, soft on the palate; another winner from Pomerol in 2013. Drink now, or better, save for five years. 92
(Château Petrus and Château Lafleur were unavailable)
Clearly, 2013 was a good year for St.-Émilion and a very good year for Pomerol, based on this tasting. Conversely, the Left Bank, particularly the Médoc, was very uneven. Much of the Merlot grape crop did not flower because of the cold, wet spring, and this short crop for Merlot affected the Médoc more than the Right Bank wines. The 2013 Bordeaux wines in the Médoc are generally unbalanced with too much acidity and not enough ripe fruit. This scenario was especially evident in Pauillac and Margaux. Surprisingly, St.-Julien managed to produce some good 2013s, perhaps because of superior winemaking. The wines of Pessac-Léognan also fared better than the Médoc wines.
Of the 2013 wines I tasted, the standouts for me were the following, in my rating order: Château d’Yquem, Château Margaux, Château Trotanoy, Château Lafite-Rothschild, Château Cheval Blanc, Château Haut-Brion, Château La Fleur-Pétrus, and Château Léoville-Las Cases.
If you choose carefully, you can find many gems in the uneven 2013 vintage in Bordeaux.