With 360 wines tasted from the 2013 vintage in Bordeaux last week, it’s clear to me that this is the weakest red wine vintage for quite some time. I think we need to go back to 1997 as both 2007 and 2002 has more complete wines on average. Maybe we even need to go back to 1994. What many wines lack in 2013 is depth, many are hollow and many lacks aftertaste and length. Complexity is not a term you use a lot in the tasting notes. But those that are complete have a charm and even a certain grace. They are a style of Bordeaux you haven’t tasted before. It’s almost like the Chambolle’s and Gevrey’s of Grand Jours a few weeks back have come to Bordeaux. There is a much more red fruity character to the wines than usual, strawberries or rather raspberries and many wines show an elegant scented note as well as floral overtones.
If this has been handled delicately with the oak, the wine can be lovely and charming. The acidity feels higher than it is, most wines are just above 3,5 in PH which is fairly typical, but the tannins are softer and fewer, as gentle extraction was a key factor for grace this year. If you extracted too much, unripe notes and “scar tissue” aromas from hail and/ or disease damage could be extracted very easily. Alcohol levels are down, many wines are between 12 and 13% alcohol and that is even after many including the greatest growths chaptalized. The body is leaner and sometimes even thin, making the acidity stand out and again the wines get a Burgundian feel to them. Most wines, except for some over extracted attempts, have a lovely nose. Body wise all are on the lean side, some Saint-Emilion’s are rich and big, but most are hollow and lacks real stuffing behind the sweet fruit. Many wines are hollow mid palate but less green than expected. They just lack substance. The aftertaste is short as well in a huge number of cases.
So the winners are those who managed to make complete wines with balance, fruit and body and aftertaste. And these wines will be charming if not typical in style of Bordeaux. But many manage to retain a sort of house style even so. Many will give short time pleasure over the next five to maybe as much as fifteen years, and the main problem remains price. The prices on the released wines so far are too high. When you can get a 2012 for the same money, it’s a no brainer unless you need a complete series of vintages for your collection. You may even go out and buy a 2008 for less from many properties making buying these wines utter nonsense. The prices will go down; the market will not buy at these levels. It’s too much 2010, 2011 and 2012 available. And even if the production is low, owning a château is no guarantee to make money every year. The sensible owner would write off this vintage as a loss and give his customers a fairly price. That would have been a long term wise decision. Unfortunately they seem to be more concerned with the price of their neighbour and don’t want to lose face and keep up the appearance, and prices. But they lose face to the market instead, and that should worry them more.
Whites are a different question. They are crisp, detailed, less tropical and more focused and mineral than normal. There have been many great white vintages lately and they get better and better. For a while a game of overripe Sauvignon Blanc seems to have been a trend, to get rid of all green notes and cats pie aromas. Now it seems the trend is more towards refining the wines. These and Sauternes are the wines I would buy primeur this year. They are some of the most food friendly whites on the planet and seriously undervalued by the market. The production is fairly low and the wines tend to find buyers among those who know. Sauternes are delightfully refreshing and nuanced this year. Very long aftertastes and a purity of fruits that is unusual. Very detailed and nuanced. They may lack a little something to be among the very greatest like the 2001’s, but they are not far behind either. Sauternes have made some of the best wines they’ve ever made in the last decade, and unfortunately people drink far too little of them. They are refreshing and vigorating while young and during their ageing until they change into a drier style with age, changing the fresh fruits to more caramel and dried fruits. But there is absolutely no reason not to enjoy them during this change. My tasting notes will follow over the next days.