The closest link between the people that make wine and the people that drink it
The air of expectancy that greets each new Bordeaux vintage reaches its annual climax during the week of tastings organised in early spring each year throughout the region by the Union des Grands Crus. Commercial necessity and the need to be among the first to register an opinion and a report about the new wines means that anyone who is anyone is in Bordeaux during that week.
It is hard to see the pattern being broken, ingrained as it is by habit and expectation, but is this actually the best time to judge the wines? It is often the case that a later tour of the châteaux can yield a few surprises.
It has been my habit for about a decade to visit Bordeaux in late May or early June. The advantages are manifold. There are fewer wine merchants about, more time to talk to the movers and shakers and samples are fresher, as those for the Union tastings are drawn well in advance to cope with the volume of visitors. Most importantly, the wines have shaken off their cold weather demeanours and taste easier and brighter. Any problematic malolactic fermentations have been completed, the wines sit more comfortably with their oak and are more indicative of the true personality of the vintage. Even more importantly, there are tables available in Bordeaux’s best restaurants!
The week-long visit this year, to taste the 2007 vintage was no exception. It should be said that the early impressions formed by the first observers during the Union tastings were not askew. This is, indeed, a light, charming and attractive vintage for early drinking, but during our visit, the successes of the year demonstrated something extra, perhaps not profundity, but certainly a level of intellectual engagement beyond our expectations. Highly impressive wines were found at Latour, Pontet-Canet, Ausone, Conseillante, Margaux and, against initial impressions, Lafite where Charles Chevalier again bemoaned the need to present his wines so early in the year. Lafite is a difficult wine to read when young at the best of times. The 2007 blossomed as generously during our tasting as M. Chevalier’s smile.
Our tastings were not exhaustive, but increasingly positive notes are found at Mouton, across the range including d’Armailhac and Clerc-Milon, Pichon-Baron, Figeac and Domaine de Chevalier, the latter in both red and white. From Sauternes, Ch. Climens was inspiring.
The success of any Bordeaux En Primeur campaign is defined by the balance between demand and supply, with demand being fuelled by the year’s reputation or pricing. In 2007 the pricing did not offer enough differential between the excellent 2006s, not helped by the decline of the Pound against the Euro. Writing this now, we know that the market for the 2007s is subdued, but let me offer a word to any canny Bordeaux watchers reading this. Do not dismiss the red wines of 2007 in Bordeaux because of a slack En Primeur campaign. When the wines are bottled and shipped, they will not cost any more than they do now. There are some very good bottles indeed in this vintage, and some will be better than expected. They will be delicious to drink before the 2005s and 2006s, and the dry and sweet wines are outstanding. I anticipate even more pleasant surprises await us. On reflection, Bordeaux 2007 may have something worthy to offer the Bordeaux devotee after all.
To read the full reviews of the properties visited during Berrys’ recent trip to Bordeaux, click here.