The SOMM Journal

May 2014

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18 { THE SOMM JOURNAL } JUNE/JULY 2014 18 { THE SOMM JOURNAL } JUNE/JULY 2014 { letter from london } THE 2013 VINTAGE IN BORDEAUX WAS SUMMED UP by Domaine de Chevalier's Olivier Bernard, President of the Union des Grands Crus (UGC), at the splendid opening dinner for the International Press at Chateau Pavie as "the most challeng- ing in 30 years." My report in Decanter on the 2012s noted that Emmanuel Cruse found the results "a lovely surprise," while Charles Chevallier of Château Lafite-Rothschild described this vintage as "a difficult year that we do not like to see too often." He did not get his wish, for 2013 was much more difficult and success- ful wines were only achieved through unrelenting attention to the vineyard throughout the growing season, rigourous selection at vintage time and the human and financial resources to guarantee both. In fact, the key words for 2013 are "terroir" and "money": the châteaux that lacked both could do nothing with the bad hand dealt to them by nature. Bordeaux University's Faculty of Oenology has five pre-requi- sites for a great red wine in Bordeaux and while 2012 mostly satis- fied the last two—hot weather in August to complete the ripening and little rainfall during harvest—2013 satisfied none. A cold and wet spring caused late flowering and widespread coulure (shot berries), destructive storms in early August further damaged the bunches and the wet, mild weather in September and October precipitated the development of rot before and during the har- vest, to make 2013 the smallest vintage since the frost-ravaged 1991. While there are many pleasant wines, more than a few are interestingly different from each château's more robust vintages and will be fascinating to track over their short to medium term drinking lifetime. Both alcohol and tannin are way down, but there is surprisingly little "greenness" due to a sunny and bright July, producing, according to the Faculty, being "small quantities of pleasant red wine able to please Bordeaux wine lovers." For Decanter, I cover the Left Bank, James Lawther, MW cov- ers the Right Bank and Jeannie Cho Lee, MW does Sauternes. Jeannie was the lucky one, for the humid autumn conditions that plagued the Cabernet and Merlot grapes helped the Semillon and Sauvignon to develop the pourriture noble necessary to make fine sweet wines and produced a good crop into the bargain. Yquem did not produce any 2012, but the 2013 is a masterpiece by any standards. This apart, my best marks went to Rieussec, followed closely by Coutet, then Rayne-Vigneau, Suduiraut, Lafaurie- Peyraguey, La Tour Blanche and Guiraud. Seven different barrels tasted at Climens showed great potential and from a vertical of wines in bottle my favourites were 2010, 2008, 2005 and a surpris- ingly lovely 2004. Dry whites, due to early harvesting, were relatively success- ful, with Haut-Brion (Montrachet) and La Mission Haut-Brion (Chevalier-Montrachet) standing out above Domaine de Chevalier, then Marlartic-Lagravière, Pape-Clément and Smith Haut-Lafitte. The lesser white Graves will make lovely early drinking and both Pavillon Blanc de Château Margaux and Aile d'Argent de Mouton- Rothschild made (for me) their best ever wine. For the Right Bank, James Lawther found the wines rather light-weight and missing concentration, noting that 20 years ago the vintage would have been a total write-off. For him Pomerol came off best, due to early harvesting of the dominant Merlots, St-Émilions on clay and limestone soils produced some serious wines, Lalande-de-Pomerols were generally light, while Fronsac and Canon-Fronsac, thanks to clay-limestone soils saw good wines from technically proficient producers. Decanter asks us to select Five Personal Favourites (on a reasonable budget) and the Five Most Improved Wines, James's being respectively La Gaffelière (St-Émilion 1er GCC), Nénin (Pomerol), Grand-Corbin-Despagne (St-Émilion GCC), Clos Badon-Thunevin (St-Émilion GC), Les Trois Croix (Fronsac) and Berliquet (St-Émilion GCC), Franc-Mayne (St-Émilion GCC), Clos Cantenac (St-Émilion GC), Moulinet (Pomerol) and La Vieille Cure (Fronsac). For the Left Bank, I personally like the leafy, restrained texture of the Pessac-Léognans, but in 2013 these are not for the long-term, the same châteaux as in white doing well, along with Haut-Bailly. In the Médoc, Margaux came off worst and St-Estèphe best (again, clay soils helped), St-Julien as reliable as usual, Pauillac a bit up and down with a 100% Cabernet Sauvignon from Pichon-Comtesse, Listrac better than Moulis. I gave each of the very different first growths 18.25/20, the only other wine to get this being Léoville-Las Cases and only two 18s: Ducru-Beaucaillou and Montrose. Calon- Ségur, Pontet-Canet and Palmer clocked in at 17.75. My personal favourites were: Potensac (Médoc), Lalande-Borie (St-Julien) d'Armailhac (Pauillac 5CC), Durfot-Vivens (Margaux, 2CC) and Domaine de Chevalier White (Graves CC); my most improved were: Boyd-Cantenac (Margaux 3CC), Mayne-Lalande (Listrac), Grand-Puy-Ducasse (Pauillac 5CC), Tronquoy-Lalande (St Estèphe) and La Croix de Beaucaillou (St-Julien). And the market? James Lawther says it all: "2013 is basically not an 'en primeur' year; enjoy selectively once in bottle." Bordeaux 2013 A DIFFICULT VINTAGE RESULTS IN SOME ENJOYABLE WINES FOR SHORT-TERM DRINKING by Steven Spurrier The village of St. Émilion on Bordeaux's Right Bank, where some serious wines were produced despite the challenging vintage. Great Wine, Simple Pleasu s S a v o r t h e D i f f e r e n c e Somm Journal June/July.indd 18 5/9/14 12:07 PM

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