Tasting notes on Bordeaux 2017 – a “7 with a difference”

The muted enthusiasm for this vintage is unmerited, says our Wine Director Tom "WineChap"  Harrow for FT How To Spend It.
Frosts. Terrible frosts. Worst since 1991. This will be the most that many with a passing interest in wine have heard about Bordeaux’s 2017 vintage so far, and are thus approaching with muted enthusiasm. There has also been an uncharacteristic lack of bombast from the Bordelais preceding last week’s en primeur tastings, surely a further sign that the vintage is not one to get excited about? In reality, tasting the wines supports a different and much more positive conclusion.

Weather & Harvest

A warm winter and early-bud burst beginning at the end of March was followed by a largely dry April (including a forest fire in the Médoc on the 21st) but then rains on the 24th and 25th were followed by temperature drops below freezing over the next four days. The compound effect of this severe period of frost reduced potential production across the region by 40 per cent (CIVB estimate), with Entre-Deux-Mers and Barsac, the southern Graves and satellite appellations of Pomerol, and vineyards on the plain of Saint-Emilion being the worst affected. However, Cru Classé vineyards in the Médoc, especially those close to the Gironde river, and sites on the plateau of Pomerol and Saint Emilion, were largely unaffected.
After a very dry summer with heat spikes in July and August, an unwanted burst of hail in Graves and light rains at the end of August, harvest began – ­and then continued throughout September, allowing even fruit from the secondary budding on frosted vines to achieve varying degrees of ripeness. Pauillac actually ended up with its highest yields since 2009 and Philippe Blanc, managing director of St Julien’s Beychevelle, said it was the château’s largest harvest in nearly 20 years.
Two important points to note here are: a) for the many fortunate producers, after picking there were plenty of grapes from which to make the severest selection of only the best fruit, and b) as observed by Charles Fournier, Pichon Lalande’s commercial marketing director, communication about the vintage prior to tasting has been muted not because of a lack of enthusiasm over quality, but in recognition of the severe difficulties faced by others in the region. Diplomacy rather than disillusion has tempered communication for a number of châteaux that have made some excellent wines. The reports of Bill Blatch and Gavin Quinney are highly recommended for those interested in a comprehensive analysis of vintage conditions.

Style and comparisons…

While it is difficult to offer generalisations, stylistically certain characteristics kept cropping up in tastings of the best wine...
Read the full article in FT How To Spend It