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Bordeaux 2017: Weathering the Storm
By Robert Whitley
Mar 24, 2020
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Editor's Note: This column, the first of two on the 2017 vintage in Bordeaux, first appeared almost two years ago during the annual Bordeaux primeurs barrel tastings. The 2017 vintage will be hitting U.S. wine markets this spring, making this look back at first impressions especially timely.

BORDEAUX, France – Although Bordeaux produces the world’s most expensive and arguably its most sought-after wines, the journey from bud break to harvest is often fraught with peril for the region’s vineyards. Vintage 2017 was fairly typical; a roller-coaster ride that started with an early spring followed by a devastating frost, followed by cool weather that delayed ripening, and ending with a wet autumn.

Under the circumstances, it would be reasonable to assume 2017 was a bad year for the wines of Bordeaux. And first impressions appeared to confirm that. The annual Bordeaux Primeurs evaluations, organized by the Union des Grands Crus de Bordeaux, kicked off with the wines of Graves and Pessac-Leognan, where lean and sometimes green seemed to be the order among the reds. The whites also tended to be austere.

What saved these two districts from disaster was careful selection by the better chateaux and a delicate hand on the throttle by a majority of the regions winemakers, helping avoid the sin of too much extraction and the green, mouth-puckering tannins that result.

On the other side of the river, in the Right Bank communes of Saint-Emilion and Pomerol, the vineyards escaped the worst of the growing season’s pitfalls and produced wines that were considerably riper and fleshier and with considerably more near-term and long-term potential than the wines of Graves and Pessac.

The wines presented for evaluation in advance of sale on the Bordeaux “futures” market were barrel samples and thus in the earliest stage of evolution. Nevertheless, elements of ripeness, structure, depth and, ultimately, potential are readily in evidence. These are my notes from the UGC’s first official day of tasting.

Wines are rated on a 100-point scale. Wines are chosen for review because they represent outstanding quality or value, and the scores are simply a measure of this reviewer's enthusiasm for the recommended wine.

Graves blanc

Chateau de Chantegrive – Pretty peach, good balance and persistence. 93.
Chateau Ferrande – Tart, lacking ripeness. 80
Chateau Rahoul – Lovely white peach, good acid, nice length. 92

Pessac-Leognan blanc

Chateau Latour-Martillac – Good balance between richness and minerality. 93
Chateau La Louviere – Excellent minerality and length, well-balanced. 94
Chateau Malartic-Lagraviere – Tart green apple with a grassy note. 88
Chateau Olivier – Green apple, white peach and a touch of minerality. 90
Chateau Bouscaut – Tart green apple, lacks length. 86.
Chateau Carbonnieux – Good richness, peach note, good length. 94
Domaine de Chevalier – Good minerality, well balanced, good future. 94
Chateau Larrivet Haut-Brion – Lean, almost austere, wet stone, minerals. 89
Chateau Pape-Clement – White peach, good ripeness, well-balanced, excellent length. 95
Chateau Picque Caillou – Good balance, notes of white peach and apple. 89
Chateau Smith Haut-Lafitte – White peach, good richness, balanced with good length. 94

Graves rouge

Chateau Ferrande – Red fruits, firm tannins, green notes. 80
Chateau Rahoul – Red fruits, fine tannins, good balance and length. 88

Pessac-Leognan rouge

Chateau Bouscaut – Red berry nose, firm tannins, hint of green. 87
Chateau Carbonneiux – Excellent minerality, modest tannins, touch of green. 86
Domaine de Chevalier – Earthy, good minerality, red fruits, modest tannins. 90
Chateau de France – Lean, lacks charm, lacks depth. 81
Chateau Larrivet Haut-Brion – Minerality, red fruits, fine tannins. 88
Chateau Latour-Martillac – Lean, shows red fruits, minerals, fine tannins. 90.
Chateau La Louviere – Pretty red fruits, minerals, firm grape tannins, good potential. 91
Chateau Malartic-Lagraviere – Firm grape tannins, good balance, pretty red fruits. 91
Chateau Olivier – Good minerality, red fruits, well balanced, good potential. 90
Chateau Pape Clement – Good minerality, red fruits, fine tannins, touch of green. 88
Chateau Pique Caillou – Red fruits, fine tannins, good richness. 91
Chateau Smith Haut-Lafitte – Excellent richness, minerality, balance and length. 94

Saint-Emilion Grand Cru

Chateau Balestard La Tonnelle – Black and red fruits, fine tannins, good richness and balance. 91
Chateau Berliquet – Lean, tight, minerals, red fruits, some potential. 89
Chateau Canon – Lean, with red fruits, minerality and fine tannins. 90
Chateau Canon La Gaffeliere – Richly layered, plum and currants, fine tannins balanced. 95
Chateau Cap de Mourlin – Good richness, balance and length, black & red fruits. 93
Chateau La Couspaude – Floral nose, red fruits, light-bodied, modest tannins. 87
Chateau La Dominique – Good richness, fine tannins, floral, red fruits, nice balance. 91
Clos Fourtet – Good richness and weight, red fruits, fine tannins, minerality. 93
Chateau Franc-Mayne – Good richness and palate weight, red and black fruits, fine tannins. 93
Chateau Grand Mayne – Lean, slightly green, thin. 84
Chateau Larcis Ducasse – Good richness with minerality, complex fruit aromas, firm tannins. 91
Chateau Pavie Macquin – Bright red fruit, richness, lush tannins, good potential. 93
Chateau Soutard – Lean, minerality, firm tannins. 87
Chateau Troplong Mondot – Good richness, lush fruit, round tannins, good balance. 93.
Chateau TrotteVieille – Good richness, red fruits, touch of minerality, modest tannins. 90
Chateau Valandraud – Good richness, medium body, minerality, fine tannins. 89
Chateau Villemaurine – Lean, floral, minerality, light-bodied. 86
Chateau Beauregard – Plummy, round, fruity, balanced, nice. 90
Chateau Le Bon Pasteur – Firm tannins, plummy, floral, medium body. 91
Chateau La Cabanne – Minerality, red fruit, firm tannins, medium body. 88
Chateau Clinet – Minerality, plummy fruit, firm tannins, potential. 89
Chateau La Croix de Gay – Lush, plummy fruit. Good balance and palate weight. 91
Chateau Gazin – Floral, plummy, good palate weight, excellent balance. 93
Chateau Rouget – Plummy, good richness, supple tannins, soft. 90

Follow Robert on Twitter at @wineguru.