Here is the final instalment of my Primeur Picks report, brought out from behind the paywall. See part one, part two and part three if you have not already read them.
OK, so if 2017 is not as good as 2016 and 2015, it must be a bit like 2014?
Another undeniable human characteristic is the fallibility of our memory. Even if we ignore the devastating frost, and focus solely on the quality and character of the best wines in 2017, there still isn’t a recent vintage that serves as an ideal comparison. The majority of people I spoke to in Bordeaux accept that 2017 isn’t as good as 2015 or 2016, so attention naturally turns to the next good-but-not-great vintage, which is 2014. The problem with 2014 is that it has in my opinion been generally over-rated, being a ‘saved’ vintage light on texture and strong on acidity (except in St Estèphe, where it was much stronger). It belongs with the ‘also ran’ vintages such as 2012, 2008, 2006 and 2004, years that gave us nice wines but which are nothing to write home about. The 2017 vintage is (in parts at least) better than that.
What we have in 2017, even in the best wines, are elegantly medium-bodied wines with ripe tannins and equally ripe flavours. They are not huge, rich or textural wines, which has led several in Bordeaux who could look back beyond 2014 to suggest 2001 as a match, and I can see why. The 2001s are polished wines, elegant but correct, and at release they were unfairly overshadowed by the preceding vintage just as 2017, with its ‘frosted’ reputation, is likely to fade in terms of repute compared to 2016 (this might help to moderate the pricing…..well, fingers crossed). Another vintage that comes to mind is 1985, always elegant, persistent on the palate but with a silky shimmer. I always enjoyed my encounters with wines from the 1985 vintage, so pure and finely drawn, and I could easily see the best wines of 2017 evolving in a similar style. If only they were priced like the 1985s. Speaking of which…..
Buying En Primeur
It seems almost inevitable that, for the majority of wines, prices are going to come down for the 2017 vintage. I wish I could say I was clairvoyant, but at the time of writing a good number of châteaux have already released, in some cases with prices 20% lower than the corresponding release price for the 2016 vintage. So it is not as if I am sticking my neck out in making this statement. Of course, this still means that the wines may be more expensive than previous releases, as in many cases the releases in 2015 and 2016 were significantly more pricy than preceding years. Even with reductions between 10% and 20% in 2017, the release prices may not compare favourably with prices of other vintages on the market such as 2012, 2011 or 2008, all of which are physically available and which are well on their way to being ready for drinking.
While lower release prices are always welcome, the relatively modest reductions we have seen so far will be insufficient to create the necessary interest in the vintage, either from drinkers or investors. While the relative success seen in the 2016 and 2015 en primeur campaigns showed that the interest is still there when there are great wines up for sale (even if it falls far short of the fervour that surrounded 2009 and 2010), the reputation of the 2017 vintage is simply not at the same level. Having said that, there are clearly some very good wines in this vintage, and if some desirable wines were to be released at the ‘right’ price I would expect a flurry of interest from merchants and consumers alike. If we don’t see such a response then it tells us one thing; it is not that consumers are not interested, nor is it evidence that en primeur is dead and defunct. It is simply that the price was not right. In that case, the Bordelais will rely on the négociants and their expansive warehouses to soak up the stock.
Read my full vintage review, including 15 regional tasting note reports as well as a weather and harvest report, in my Bordeaux 2017 report.
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