von Bernhard Hlavicka
Der beste 7er seit 1947?
Okay, 2017 war sicher kein einfaches Jahr. Sowohl der Witterungsverlauf als auch die Lese stellten die Weingüter vor gröbere Anforderungen. Der Frost im April forderte wenige prominente Opfer. Chateau Figeac hatte die Hälfte der Ernte zu beklagen. Bei Christian Moueix kämpfte man erfolgreich mit tausenden Kerzen in der Weingärten und blieb verschont. Generell war die Nähe zum Fluss ein Vorteil, so dass Saint Éstephe und Pauillac die besten Karten besaßen. Der Sommer war heiß und es entwickelte sich ähnlich wie 2003 und 2015. Dann kam im September allerdings Regen, der dem Jahrgang die entscheidende, elegante Richtung gab.
Die meisten Beobachter und Kenner des Bordeaux sehen den Jahrgang als ungewöhnlichen Klassiker. Und damit hat es Bordeaux wieder einmal geschafft. Trotz allen Unkenrufen gelang das Kunststück, einen Topjahrgang mit einer einzigartigen Stilistik zu schaffen. Jane Anson vom Decanter brachte es auf den Punkte: „2017, the best ´7 Vintage since 1947?“
Der Jahrgang zeigt generell eine ungewöhnliche, bezaubernde Eleganz. Viele Weine scheinen geradezu einen schwebenden Balance-Zustand zu erreichen. Die Tanninwerte sind eher auf einem moderaten Level. Frische und Balance heißen die Zauberworte für 2017. Die Verkostung zeigt durchaus packende Weine, die voraussichtlich keine Langstreckenläufer sein werden, sondern schon nach einigen Jahren ihr Potenzial offenbaren werden und frühen Trinkspaß garantieren.
von Lisa Perrotti-Brown
27th Apr 2018 | The Wine Advocate | 236 (Apr ‘18)
Bordeaux 2017 in a Nutshell
I arrived in Bordeaux for the first set of visits on March 12th and stayed for twelve days. At that time, I proportioned my visits pretty evenly across Sauternes, Pessac-Léognan, Saint-Émilion/Pomerol and the Médoc, to get a solid overview. For all but one of the properties I have visited, I was the first journalist to taste the 2017s. My presence here so early had absolutely nothing to do with being “first” to rush my scores out. It had to do with taking time. Mid-March was the calm before the storm. Winemakers and growers had more time to reflect on the vintage and candidly discuss with me the unique characters I discovered from place to place. The properties that I chose to visit in March tended to be those that make their final blends early—in January or February—and the blends had already been in barrel a few weeks.
I returned to Bordeaux on April 2nd for another twelve days of visits and tastings. This was to ensure that the wines I had tasted in March were tasted at least one more time and to conduct tastings at properties that made their blends later. Most of my visits to the top Châteaux were by appointment, but I also conducted a number of unannounced visits. Nearly every wine in my report has been tasted two to four times over the course of four and a half weeks.
A Final Word on the 2017 Ratings
I’d like to finish by reiterating what I said in my 2015 Bordeaux report published in February this year: I firmly believe that greatness exists across a broad range of valid styles...as does mediocrity and all-out failure.
Greatness is not linked to any particular wine style. When I assign ratings to wine, I consider a wide range of factors: fruit ripeness (especially tannin and flavor ripeness), mid-palate intensity, balance, complexity (on the nose, palate and finish) and the nature and persistence of the finish. Another key factor—one that is particularly important when considering Bordeaux wines—is the wine’s ability to age and develop in bottle over time. So, this does not mean that the most concentrated, powerful, high-octane wine gets the highest score. Or vice versa.
The greatest 2017 wines are generally medium-bodied, elegant, and perfumed with beautifully ripe tannins and fully expressed aroma/flavor compounds. They possess the structure and intensity of fruit to evolve incredibly and be very long-lived. I’m explaining all this because I was taken aback during my tastings to hear many winemakers talking down their own extraordinary efforts because the wines weren’t more concentrated, weightier and powerful like the wines produced in some of the more consistently great—and also hotter and drier—vintages of recent years. True, some vintages want to give concentrated fruit and richness, and when everything else comes together with these attributes, an extraordinary wine can result. But this is not the only expression of greatness. And this is not the expression of greatness in 2017.
von Jane Anson
Decanter | 26. April 2018
You have gathered by now that Bordeaux 2017 is not the easiest of vintages to describe. It’s a year where technical details count, and where there is a deserved sense of satisfaction in winemakers when they have done a good job, as well as guilty relief in many who were not affected by frost.
As potential drinkers and buyers of these wines, we can feel bad for them, but our main concern is the results in the glass. Overall, I would say 2017 is a bronze to silver year, in the Decanter World Wine Awards ratings, with some clear pockets of gold. There are some wonderful wines, but it is not a vintage to buy blind.
The range of my scores go from 80 (I don’t really bother going below unless there is a clear fault, because I think that is low enough to get the picture without being needlessly unkind) to several at 98 and just two potential 100 pointers, both white wines. It’s a year when 90 and upwards are really worth looking out for – and the ones that have headed over 94 or 95 and upwards are truly exceptional.
If the price reflects this, it’s a year when I would definitely recommend careful buying – there is no reason at all to let the difficulties of the vintage obscure the fact that there is an awful lot of pleasure and success out there.
Hard to generalise appellations
Appellation-wise, although not easy to generalise, there are some key takeouts. If you taste just the big name Pauillacs, you would be hard pressed to understand that this has been a challenging vintage. St-Estèphe and St-Julien also had many successes (the quality/value prize with the reds this year might have to go to St-Estèphe in my opinion).
You’ll find plenty of muscular tannins in these appellations, flexible in the best cases, hard in others. Generally the strip of châteaux along the Garonne river was hugely lucky (look out for some lovely aromatics in Margaux), but things were tougher for the Médocs on the western side of the peninsula, further away from the protective influence of the Garonne, so Moulis and Listrac are not as consistent as they have been over the past two years.
And this is also true over on the Right Bank, where there is a real range of results over in St-Emilion, Pomerol and the Cotes, as well as down in Graves, all the places where the frost hit particularly hard.
But perhaps because of the nature of the vintage, you don’t have to go to the biggest names to get brilliant wines. Some of my favourites came from estates that should be selling at between £10 and £40 consumer price, including Liliane Ladouys, Clos Debreuil, Montlandrie, la Dauphine, Lamarque, Lacoste Borie, Ormes de Pez, Potensac, la Garde and Clos Floridène. Those are just a few names among the many ‘good value buys’ that I noted down.
The precision winemaking on display was impressive – 99% new oak at Lafite, 6% new oak at Cos d’Estournel Blanc, 0.1% Petit Verdot in the blend at Latour. Carefully thought-out choices were clear everywhere, and the vast majority of estates employed extremely skilful extraction that emphasised the drinkability of the year.
And perhaps the prize for this maniacal approach needs to go to Latour, who carried out a blind tasting of the berries in the cellars for three weeks before harvest – something they found particularly useful for the vines outside of the main L’Enclos where the terroir is more varied.
Apparently, the difference between expectations of ripeness and actual results were sometimes huge, and significantly changed their picking schedule.
Finally it’s worth pointing out that a lot of estates are changing their styles anyway at the moment – part of the more general move away from extreme levels of oak and towards more nuanced winemaking, often influenced by green initiatives such as those undertaken as a whole by the appellation of St.-Emilion.
Taken together with the enforced stylistic differences of a frost year makes style changes particularly complicated, and it is certainly worth trying to stay up to date with the philosophy of winemaking at your favourite properties.
The biggest changes are seen in St-Emilion – for example Troplong, Ripeau, Valandraud are all putting in place serious changes that will shape how the wine tastes for years to come. Over on the Left Bank Pontet Canet, Palmer and Latour continue to pursue their more sculpted path.
von James Suckling
5. April 2018
The quality of 2017 is much better than most people might expect. Clearly, as I wrote earlier in the week, it’s not in the same league as the outstanding 2016 and 2015 vintages. Yet, nor is it the largely disappointing 2013. Over the past two weeks tasting in Bordeaux, I rated many wines 90 points or more together with my son Jack. I scored some of the wines from the great names of Bordeaux, such as the first growths and blue-chip Right Bank wines, between 96 to 99 points. Of course, these were the rare exceptions where remarkable terroirs, precise viticulture and winemaking delivered terrific results. The 2017 vintage underlines that vintage variations among the top wines of Bordeaux — like most key wine regions in the world — are much less than in the past.
“The terroir really made the difference in 2017; we didn’t suffer like in many other parts from the frost or the cool weather in the summer,” professes Helene Garcin-Leveque, who owns Pomerol’s Clos L’Eglise, St.-Emilion’s Barde-Haut and Poesia. “The 2017 was a piece of cake compared to the 2013.”
I am still struggling with comparisons to other vintages, but as I wrote before, wines from leading names can be comparable, in terms of quality, to the polished, refined 2012s, or even to the more structured and fresh 2014s. A few wines could be between 2014 and 2015. The top Sauternes and a number of dry whites could definitely be on par with the efforts in 2015 and 2016.
“The 2017 is like 2014 but with a little more,” says Hubert de Boüard of Chateau Angelus, who also manages and consults for dozens of other properties in the region. “We captured the fruit and fine tannins that the vintage gave us. We searched for balance in our wines. 10 years ago, we would have harvested 10 days later and extracted much more in our fermentation. But we are a little less interested in alcohol now and want to be more precise with our fruit and tannins.”
Boüard’s comments that 2017 is better than 2014 only hold true for a select number of chateaux. Even some of the top wines of 2017 — first growths, such as Haut-Brion, or cult Pomerols, such as Le Pin — are rated three or four points off their scores in great years. As I mentioned in my First Impressions of 2017 Vintage in Bordeaux (Right Bank) article, trying to say whether it is a Right or Left Bank year makes no sense in 2017. Nonetheless, out of all the top appellations, I can say that I was really impressed with Pauillac. On the other hand, Pessac-Léognan was a slight disappointment with the exception of its outstanding dry whites.
The terrible frosts in late April last year reduced the volume of the 2017 harvest by more than 30 percent. Some wineries, particularly those in low-lying areas in less prestigious appellations, lost their entire 2017 crop. Some were forced to use part of their grapes from second-generation buds in their new wines. In spite of that, I was surprised — considering the press reports about the frost — that so many of the top wineries we visited (about 60 in total) were unaffected.
Some winemakers in Bordeaux certainly have an extreme sense of optimism for their new wines. “We think that 2017 is better than our 2014,” says Baptiste Guinaudeau, whose family owns the exquisite Chateau Lafleur in Pomerol. “It was very dry in the summer, and we had very small berries. We think that it is comparable to 2005, 2010, 2015 or 2016. It is a great vintage for us. The density of fruit and tannins is really extraordinary. It is rare that we have a trilogy of great vintages like 2015, 2016 and 2017.”
The Lafleur 2017 is clearly a great red and one of the top ten wines of the vintage, but wines like that are very few and far between. “The 2017 was a vintage of dreams but it rained too much in September,” says Claire Lurton, who with her husband Gonzague made some super wines this year from Haut-Bages-Liberal to Durfort-Vivens — which are all made from biodynamically grown grapes. “It would have been a truly great vintage. We had beautiful ripeness. But it didn’t happen with the rain in September. With all the work we did in the vineyard and the winery, we can’t say now that 2017 did not make excellent wines. It was not an ideal year, but we made excellent wines.”
Indeed, this is what makes Bordeaux so special today in the world of wine. It sometimes comes so close to greatness, and then Mother Nature robs some of the quality away at the last minute. The 2017 vintage will always be remembered for the horrible frost, but the top wines of the vintage should also add to the reputation of this unique year.
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