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Bordeaux 2017: Medoc Is the Sweet Spot
By Robert Whitley
May 8, 2018
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BORDEAUX, France – The annual primeurs event in Bordeaux, which previews the most recent vintage of Bordeaux wine for the trade and press, often proves a chore as everyone muscles through hundreds of tannic young wines in an attempt to assess their quality and potential.

It may come as a surprise to some, but tasting barrel samples is work. The astringency of young red wine presents a daunting challenge to even the most experienced wine professional. Because many Bordeaux wines are sold “en primeur,” well before their release in a couple of years, the primeurs tastings are of tremendous interest to those who sell Bordeaux wines as well as those who consume them.

While I have my reservations about a number of wines from the Graves and Pessac-Leognan district in the difficult 2017 vintage, I found the wines of Pomerol and Saint-Emilion, on the Right Bank, encouraging. They were riper, fleshier and less austere than many of the wines from Pessac and Graves.

But nothing I had heard about the difficulties of the vintage prepared me for the wines of the Medoc, on the Left Bank. Chateau Beychevelle, one of the stars of Saint-Julien, was absolutely stunning, showing rich layers of fruit, excellent balance, and smooth, supple tannins that suggest Saint-Julien may well be the sweet spot of Bordeaux 2017.

Following are my notes from the primeurs tastings. 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.

Chateau Clarke – Good concentration, floral, firm tannins, good balance. 91
Chateau Fonreaud – Medium-bodied, moderate tannins, good structure. 89
Chateau Fourcas – Good concentration, black fruits, moderate tannins. 88
Chateau Fourcas Hosten – Floral, red and black fruits, moderate tannins. 88

Chateau Chasse-Spleen – Good concentration, firm tannin, good potential. 90
Chateau Maucaillou – Reeks of brett. 75
Cheateu Poujeaux – Red and black fruits, firm tannins. 88
Chateau La Lagune – Plummy note, moderate concentration and tannins. 89
Chateau Latour Carnet – Good concentration, moderate tannins. 88
Chateau Lator de By – Good concentration, moderate tannins, floral note. 89

Chateau Belgrave – Floral, good concentration, richness, minerality, complex. 91
Chateau Cantemerle – Tart cherry fruit. Moderate tannins. 89
Chateau Citran – Wood spice note, good concentration, length. 90
Chateau Coufran – Good concentration, red and black fruits, moderate tannins. 89

Chateau Brane-Cantenac – Floral, ripe fruit, supple tannins, immediate charm. 92
Chateau Cantenac-Brown – Good concentration and ripeness. Sweet fruit. Supple tannins. 91
Chateau Dauzac – Good concentration, a bit too extracted, but solid potential. 88
Chateau Desmirail – Floral, spicy, good concentration, moderate tannins. 89
Chateau Durfort-Vivens – Floral, medium-bodied, pretty fruit, moderate tannins. 90
Chateau Ferriere – Floral, good concentration, excellent weight and depth, moderate tannins. 93
Chateau Giscours – Good concentration, moderate tannins, good balance. 90
Chateau Kirwan – Floral, good concentration, red and black fruits, moderate tannins. 92
Chateau Labeforce – Concentrated and complex, minerality, firm tannins, good potential. 92
Chateau Lascombes – Good concentration and complexity, shows finesse and elegance, moderate tannins. 94
Chateau Malescot Saint-Exupery – Floral, elegant, concentrated, charming, moderate tannins. 94
Chateau Marquis de Terme – Concentrated, good depth, firm tannins, good potential. 93
Chateau Monbrison – Floral, complex fruit profile, moderate tannins, good potential. 92
Chateau Prieure-Lichine – Good concentration, floral, spicy, moderate tannins. 92
Chateau Rauzan-Gassies – Good concentration, some heft and richness, moderate tannins. 92
Chateau Rauzan-Segla – Good concentration, depth, complexity, moderate tannins. 92
Chateau Siran – Floral, complex fruit aromas, wood spice, moderate tannins. 93
Chateau du Tertre – Medium-bodied, lacking charm, modest tannins. 84

Chateau Beychevelle – Textured and elegant, excellent concentration, richness and depth, supple tannins. 96
Chateau Branaire-Ducru – Good concentration, medium body, moderate tannins. 89
Chateau Gloria – Good concentration, spice, red fruits, moderate tannins. 91
Chateau Gruaud Larose – Well balanced, medium body, moderate tannins. 88
Chateau Lagrange – Medium body, floral, spicy, good potential. 90
Chateau Langoa Barton – Good concentration, depth, richness, moderate tannins. 91
Chateau Leoville Barton – Good concentration, well balanced, spicy, moderate tannins. 91
Chateau Saint-Pierre – Floral, medium body, spice, moderate tannins, good potential. 90
Chateau Talbot – Floral, spicy, good concentration, excellent potential. 92

Chateau d’Armailhac – Concentrated, elegant, firm tannins, depth of fruit, good potential. 93
Chateau Batailley – Floral, complex fruit aromas, fine tannins, good length, excellent potential. 94
Chateau Clerc Milon – Good concentration, medium body, firm tannins. 88
Chateau Croizet-Bages – Floral, spicy, medium body, fine tannins. 90
Chateau Grand Puy-Ducasse – Good concentration, complex fruits, moderate tannins. 88
Chateau Haut-Bages Liberal – Good concentration, minerality, firm tannins, potential. 90
Chateau Lynch-Bages – Excellent ripeness, richly layered, well balanced, dark fruits, moderate tannins. 94
Chateau Lynch Moussas – Good concentration, minerality, length, moderate tannins. 89
Chateau Pichon Longueville Comtesse Lalande – Good concentration, moderate tannins. 91

Chateau Cos Labory – Floral, good concentration, supple tannins. 91
Chateau Lafon-Rochet – Ripe fruit, excellent depth, plush, supple tannins. 91
Chateau Ormes de Pez – Excellent concentration and depth of fruit, structured, well balanced, good potential. 92
Chateau de Pez – Concentrated and layered, excellent depth, good balance, great potential. 94
Chateau Phelan Segur – Concentrated and layered, dark fruits, good structure and balance. 92

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