Bordeaux 2013: judging on a case by case basis


Photograph: Jason Lowe

Photograph: Jason Lowe

In his final report from Bordeaux 2013, Jonathan White finds that this is a vintage where blanket statements and generalisations won’t cut it. There’s youthful charm, interesting stylistic departures and good quality to be found for those willing to do the legwork and taste, taste, taste.

Low yields, historically low production, rigorous selection and careful judgement of extraction have been the regular messages we received from winemakers this week in Bordeaux. Some have been highlighting the inability of their Merlot to ripen, while others have been telling us about how careful management of their vines or simply the fact that their Merlot, Cabernet Franc or Cabernet Sauvignon is planted on the best terroir, has meant it produced fruit which was of good enough quality to be used in their Grand Vin.

What is clear, is that Bordeaux 2013 has been a challenge for everyone, however, good terroir and good winemakers have created good wines from this vintage. This is pleasing and somewhat surprising, considering that the vintage was written off by some, even before a wine was tasted. Several of these wines come close to the high expectations their previous vintages have set, and our scores out of 20 will aim to set a benchmark for which they can be judged.

This is not a great vintage and, across the board, we may not even be able to class 2013 as a good vintage. But what is unfair, is to judge every wine as a collective. In years such as these it is important to taste as many wines as possible and judge them on their merits, while meeting the winemakers to hear about the difficulties they face and learning how they overcame them. We will also provide our customers with an opportunity to do the same at our En Primeur Tasting during July in London.

In some cases, the wines are stylistically different to those of the most recent years. What is certain, is that they are to be enjoyed young: the weather quite simply made it very hard for anyone to make really complex wines of layered intensity, and in most cases they will be ready during the next 10 to 15 years.

What has been a recurring theme is that these wines, where successful, have been pretty, rich, elegant and soft. It is quite certainly a vintage with very attractive perfume and the best wines offer a generosity of fleshy fruit on the palate which seems to have been difficult to achieve – many suffered as a result of over extraction or just simply grapes which weren’t quite ripe enough.

On the team’s return to the UK, we will be posting tasting notes and scores on Keep up to date with the latest releases and those wines we will be offering from Monday.