Monday, April 7, 2014

Bordeaux 2013, a plea for a light (and affordable) claret

Time to dust off the blog.

I'm writing this with a glass of Giscours 2007. One of my last bottles of this difficult vintage. Plenty of famous years to choose from here, but I've clearly too often picked a 2007 already...

I'm a lover of light reds, and I love Bordeaux. Thus a 'classic' lean vintage like 2007 is something that makes me happy. When looking for a Bordeaux in a restaurant, I look for 2007 because it's truly a vintage to drink. With that attractive freshness. Exactly like this delicious Giscours.

Well, it's clear where I'm heading at: 2013! Another light Bordeaux vintage. And what a negative sentiment around this year!


Horse in a newly planted l'Evangile vineyard, Pomerol 4 April 2014

Of course, 2007 was too expensive, and it looks like 2013 might be going to be too expensive as well. To me the biggest issue with 2013 is not the quality, it is the price.

Something strange in the logic? No, a lighter vintage - even if you dig it - should simply be more affordable. Because these are drinking wines, just as a Chinon, a Villages Bourgogne or a supple Jura.

Early approachable drinking wines should also be financially approachable. For the grands vins de garde it is okay to pay a bit more, and we will drink those monumental wines with our children.

So, I really hope that the prices will be good! That they will come down significantly and match this lovely vintage.

I should be more precise: this difficult vintage in which we see a number of lovely wines. Unfortunately we have tasted many failures as well. That's the downside of a difficult vintage. At the same time: it make it much easier to pick out the good wines!


Relaxed tasting at Château Haut-Brion, 31 March 2014

This year our list with offers will be shorter than in the previous years, and we will use the coloured "P"s again (yellow, orange and red) to pick out the most interesting primeurs.

In this posting I will not dive into the details of the 2013 growing season, you can read about that everywhere on the internet. But I do want to share with you what was discussed at Château Margaux. Thibault Pontallier, son of Paul Pontallier, presented his Pavillons, and the grand vin.

Like all others he told about the sudden rot that attacked the berries towards the end of September, as a result of tropical (warm and humid) weather. There was no choice but to harvest fast, very fast, with a huge team of pickers.

Pontallier told about technical ripeness - the amount of built up sugars - and phenolic ripeness - the ripeness of skin and pips. Without the latter one can end up with a wine that has green, vegetal tones.


Early shoots at Latour, in conversion to biodynamics, 3 April 2014

What was harvested in 2013 was ripe in a phenolic sense. Thanks to a warm summer, but also thanks to the fragility of the fruit, the thinner skin - in its turn the result of the difficult start of this vintage during the flowering. Technically the grapes were less ripe than in a 'great vintage': the sugar levels weren't that high yet.

That's why most châteaux practiced chaptalisation. Adding sugar "to improve the balance of a wine". It is in fact quite a harmless method, especially when practiced in a reserved manner. At the same time: there are also winemakers that still didn't chaptalise in 2013.

Pontallier stressed the beautiful freshness of the 2013, to which I fully agreed. Mainly the result of early picking, he stated. Upon my suggestion to always pick a bit earlier he said that the team at Margaux had been discussing exactly that. Good news perhaps for future vintages...

In my next posting I will highlight our favourite wines - I already put these on Twitter last week. My favourites are always the elegant, unforced wines. From winemakers who followed the vintage characteristics.

Winemakers who tried to squeeze something 'grand' out of this delicate fruit simply missed the point. I suggest they look for another profession.

To be continued...

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