The Wine Hotline Hits the Road: Bordeaux
As we gear up to focus on Bordeaux for the month of September it seems fitting to recap the annual Binny's en premier trip.
The new vintage is a year of importance but not in the same way as 2015 and 2016. This year the importance on everyone’s tongue was identity of a come back vintage and of change. The change is the revolving seat of Bordeaux writer in the post-Parker world and the vintage is 2017.
Initial reports of the 2017 vintage had cause for concern with a capital F. The growing season started warm, encouraging early budding but dropping temperatures brought on a dangerous frost. Many vineyards were damaged, some completely decimated. Luckily another breadth of warmth encouraged a second generation of fruit. For most this saved the vintage, yet other chateaux were still not able to produce a 2017.
The result is different than recent ones and not in a bad way. Over the last 5-10 years many of the Bordelais have identified and isolated small plots throughout the vineyards. Most of the properties we visited had maps of this on display. The knowledge gained from this parceling equips the winemakers and vineyard managers with the ability to be more in tune with how to manage the needs’ of the vines. This also gives more blending components making it easier to react if a piece of the puzzle is missing due to something like, FROST for example. The style of the vintage is fresh from beginning to end, carrying fruit upfront and displaying terrior on the clean finish. This style shines in 2017 with the use of less oak and extraction.
When we arrived in Bordeaux the rumors of a year to ignore turned into the barrel reports of a year of intrigue. That’s not to say that the 2017 vintage is a sure thing. Overall, the wines are better than expected but there is a fair amount of variance between regions and chateaux so buying across-the-board not the way to go. To help, here are the regional breakdowns and a list of the top performers.
-St. Estephe was largely untouched by frost resulting marvelous wines at Calon Segur, Montrose and Cos d’Estournel earning them a potential 100 point score and talk of being ‘Wine of the Vintage.’
-Pauillac fared well with the weather. Lafite showed lovely wines; a deliciously layered Duhart-Milon and a Grand Vin that will last 2 decades but is reasonable to drink starting in 5-8 years instead of 15-20. The Mouton collection stood out for texture with an interesting Clerc-Milon including Carmenere this vintage.
-Margaux probably had the widest range of inconsistency. The obvious ones, Margaux & Palmer, of course did better than good. There were big surprises among the mid-tier properties.
-St. Julien produced reliable wines across the commune with a midterm drinking window. There is greatness to be had the Leoville’s and Ducru-Beaucailou, which stand taller than their neighbors and have longer life expectancy, but will still enjoy an early accessibility like the rest.
-Pessac-Leognan would be my choice if I were to be forced to only buy one region as it is best suited for the vintage. I always find Pessac to have the clearest terroir signature. In a year that is about freshness and purity while dialing back oak & extraction these wines are showstoppers. The only thing out of normalcy was the texture which maintained tannic structure and acidity but was softer and more supple in way that made them not only approachable but down right enjoyable, even in its infancy.
-Pomerol was a mixed bag of highs and lows, literally. The higher elevations were not as effected as severely as the lower lying vineyards. The two wines that stood out most were Vieux Chateau Certan and Clinet. VCC was like liquid silk, and described as ‘cerebral’ by Neal Martin who points out that it has that it has 19% Cab Franc which is what makes this wine so interesting especially with age. Clinet having very little frost, offered excitement across the board with all their wines.
-St. Emilion reacted to the frost with terroir driven wines that lean on the redder fruit profile with refreshing acidity. Quality is diverse and some wines carry green notes due to a combination varied ripeness and second generation fruit. The top wines are easily Canon (for minerality), Figeac (for fruit density), Cheval Blanc (for uniqueness) and Troplong-Mondot (for reinventing itself).
-The Right Bank satellites are not unanimously reliable but wines like La Vieille Cure are as great as ever. For the first time offered at Binny’s, Roc de Cambes is another not to miss.
Ch. Calon Segur, St. Estephe $86.50/btl – Untouched by frost & a favorite of our group
Marquis de Calon, St. Estephe $27.50/btl – The 2nd wine of the above, earlier drinkability
Ch. Cos d’Estournel, St. Estephe $152/btl – Potential wine of the vintage
Ch. Mouton Rothschild, Pauillac - $475/btl - Muted palate but texturally magic
Lafite-Rothschild, Pauillac - $585/btl - Lafite buyers often joke that they won’t live to enjoy what they buy but the 2017 will be enjoyable in 5-8 years, if not earlier. Critically acclaimed as best of the 1st growths.
Duhart-Milon, Pauillac - $60.50/btl – Great example of the region and
Rauzan Segla, Marguax - $74.00/btl – Intense & soft with a long drinking window
Pavillon Rouge du Ch. Margaux, Margaux - $185/btl –A lovely glimpse of Ch. Margaux
Ch. Haut Brion - $475/btl -In my opinion, best of the first growths, it has the fruit, the terrior, aromatics and acid. Truly the whole package now and for the future.
Ch. La Mission Haut Brion - $325/btl - Similar to Haut Brion but more fruit and more supple in texture.
Ch. La Mission Haut Brion Blanc- $625/btl - most flavorful thing I’ve ever tasted. Bucketlist = check!
Vieux Chateau Certan, Pomerol – $235.00/btl – A silky wine to enjoy now over 2-3 decades.
Ch. Cheval Blanc - $565/btl – always a unique standout wine with its high percentage od Cab Franc. This year it stands out from itself with an abnormally high percentage of Cabernet Sauvignon.
Ch. Canon, St. Emilion - $94.75/btl – On a roll with being at or near the top, offering powerful flavors. This is the perfect time to start or continue a vertical of this producer
Ch. Troplong Mondot - $95/btl – Delicious and the first year for a new wine team, ushering is a new more reserved style
Ch. Tertre Roteboeuf, St. Emilion - $139.00/btl – A cult collectible that we rarely see
Ch. Roc de Cambes, Cotes de Bourg - $53.00/btl – 2nd label of the above
Ch. La Vieille Cure, Fronsac - $19.25/btl – An amazing value every year
That’s it for now. Check back in about a week for inside tips on the other non-future wines we’ve selected for our shelves. If you have interests or questions, email me [email protected] or come see the team at Binny's Oak Brook.