The Final Lowdown, Part 3


Here comes the next part of my Primeur Picks report from behind the paywall. See part one and part two if you have not already read them.

Alright, so is it a left-bank or right-bank vintage?

It is understandable to want to categorise the vintage in this manner, but the successes and indeed the failures on both side of the Gironde simply don’t permit it. While there is undoubtedly a quality hotspot in St Emilion and Pomerol, where the top wines from higher ground in both appellations (especially the latter) are simply excellent, there are also moments of brilliance in St Estèphe, Pauillac and St Julien. And while there are some lean and leafy wines from the western Médoc, there are also some equally disappointing wines from the St Emilion and Pomerol lowlands. There is no clear distinction between the two banks, not like there was in 1996 or 1998, left- and right-bank vintages respectively.

Bordeaux 2017

It is only natural for regular drinkers of Bordeaux to want to squeeze a new vintage into a pre-existing system such as the old left-bank-right-bank dichotomy. But if I throw confirmation bias out of the window, and take account of all the data points, the only way I can think of 2017 Bordeaux is as a topography-altitude vintage. What mattered in this vintage was the proximity of your vineyards to the Gironde, or their altitude, both factors that protected the vines from the frost. Some very successful wines without either of these protective factors do exist, for example Château Cheval Blanc, Château Figeac and Domaine de Chevalier, three examples of such wines that piqued my interest, but they are few in number, and they are the product of an extreme level of effort. So after local topography and altitude what mattered was how prepared you were for frost (many who weren’t learnt a lesson in 2017, and new anti-frost devices are appearing all over the region, such as at Château Le Gay, above), and how much effort (which means money) you were able to put into managing a mix of first- and second-generation crops during the growing season and harvest.

To be concluded tomorrow……



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