Bordeaux 2023: The Critics’ Take

What the world's top wine critics are saying about the 2023 Bordeaux vintage.

Every spring Binny’s dispatches a small group of buyers and store employees to Bordeaux to taste the new vintage. It is the first opportunity for critics, connoisseurs, retailers and restauranteurs to taste the nascent wines from barrel. We always come away with strong impressions and opinions that inform what we will offer during the impending futures campaign and what will eventually end up on our shelves. The wine world’s foremost critics also form and publish their opinions at this annual event. Here is what they are saying.


"...the depth, density and ripe tannin of a sunny vintage but also the vibrant, expressive aromas and flavors of a more traditionally 'Atlantic' season."

William Kelley believes 2023 is a vintage of tension. Tension in the growing season, that was quite warm, like many recent vintages, yet remained largely overcast and punctuated by rain. 

Tension in the bottle, with the ripe fruit of a warm vintage but the acid, tannic structure and hangtime of a cooler, more classically styled vintage. Ripening was moving along at a snail's pace due to the overcast skies, but a late August warm spell spurred phenolic ripening and midpalate plentitude, according to Kelley. 

He sums up the overall quality, writing:

“The best 2023s exhibit the fully ripe tannins and suave, seamless mouthfeels of a sunny vintage such as 2019; yet their vibrant aromas and flavors, evocative of fresh fruits and flowers, are more indicative of a cooler year. Preserving that bright, expressive fruit in all its purity will be critical for successful élevage. But this is far from a frivolous vintage: plenty of tannin and more classical pHs lend the wines serious structure, even if it is generally nicely integrated. Above all, however, the vintage tended to amplify the voice of each estate and terroir, producing extremely characterful wines.”

“...the 2023s may be released at prices as interesting as any we have seen since 2019.”

Although the sun rarely peaked through the cloud cover during the 2023 growing season there is one major bright spot for consumers. Kelley states- “During my tastings, word in Bordeaux was that the 2023s would be released at significantly lower prices than the region’s last three vintages. If that is so, consumers will have the opportunity to acquire exceptional wines for an attractive price.”


"Top terroirs and top winemakers delivered terrific-quality wines..."

James Suckling also points out the inherent tension in the wines of 2023, noting their remarkable structure, vibrant acidities and moderate alcohol coupled with rich fruit. He is particularly impressed by the freshness of Right Bank wines grown on the slopes of Saint Emilion’s limestone plateau. He writes-

“...the best reds show balance and freshness with deep center palates of ripe fruit and a complement of polished tannins. In many ways, I like them better than many of the highly touted 2022s because they are so Bordeaux in their nature with their tensioned mouthfeels and energetic finishes.”

Suckling is also a big proponent of 2023 sweet and dry whites.

“Dry whites are excellent quality in 2023 and perhaps better than 2022 in many instances but I have not evaluated some star whites, such as Haut-Brion and La Mission. Sauternes and Barsac appear to have made outstanding sweet wines again.”

Suckling is also hopeful for a pullback from 2022 pricing. Hubert de Bouard of Chateau Angelus shared his opinion with Mr. Suckling stating-

“It could be 20 percent or more, but it depends on the name of the chateau.”

Suckling himself concludes- 

”Some of the very best wines could see decreases of from 20 percent to 35 percent, or even more, compared with 2022.”

We will all know very soon!


“I titled this report ‘The Dalmatian Vintage’ because spots of astounding quality are scattered from Bordeaux’s head to toe. Outside those spots, then there are all manner of shortcomings... Just as undeniable is that some châteaux pulled out magical wines from their top hat...”

As the above quote makes clear, Neal Martin sees this as a mixed bag vintage with incredible highs spread across the region but also serious missteps by some chateaux. As he points out- “This is a season where terroir, vineyard husbandry and viticultural decisions underpin the quality of wines...”. Most importantly the management of mildew pressure brought on by rain and humidity. Regarding mildew he points out- “Arguably, the most important factor is the lengths that vineyard managers and their teams were prepared...”

Grapes for dry whites were picked in mid-August and displayed moderate alcohol and low pH, promising brisk wines of excellent quality. Merlot started coming in mid-September, followed immediately by cabernet. The weather reports threw in a monkey wrench, promising a downpour on the 20th but what materialized was a moderate and refreshing amount of rain that put hanging cab on track to finish the ripening process strong. Some tried to pick before the rain but those with nerve waited and were handsomely rewarded with top quality cab. Chateaux that did not green harvest a sufficient amount of fruit produced lean wines.  The same conditions that plagued dry wines were a boon for sweet wines, as they promoted the growth of botrytis in the vineyards of Sauternes and Barsac. Quality is excellent here too.

Mr. Martin gives this broad overview of the 2023 vintage-

“The watchword tattooed across 2023 is ‘classicism’. What does that mean? Wines that Socrates would have enjoyed? Perhaps a vintage not molded by tropical temperatures and Saharan rainfall to render wines with a Mediterranean slant. In 2023, it meant lower alcohol levels in the 13-something range, though a number on the Right Bank tip at 14.5%. Certainly, the 2023s do not possess the opulence and Rubenesque bodies of the previous vintage, although intermittently, they convey those traits, not least where the August/September heat wave pushed some Merlots too far. Generally, the 2023s are relatively more tannic than we’ve become accustomed to, more linear and vertical, though endowed with greater fruit concentration than the 2021s. That appeals to my predilection. The best wines embrace these traits while maintaining sufficient fruit and grip, occasionally harking back to the kind of barrel samples encountered in the early days of my career, and I mean that in a good sense.”


“The best 2023 are intensely aromatic and perfumed. Many wines are marked by bright acids, red-toned fruit and linear, vibrant tannins.”

Mr. Galloni’s report on vintage conditions largely comports with what others have said. He emphasizes the variable quality from chateau to chateau in 2023, noting the importance of green harvesting, vineyard management particularly regarding mildew mitigation, picking after the September rain and the all-important access to monetary resources. It is easier to make the difficult choices if you are not concerned with financial ruin.

He emphasizes the move toward smaller fermenters in many cellars, allowing for judicious picking based on phenolic ripeness rather than the need to fill a giant tank. He also sees a major shift in style due to a new generation of consultants that are seeking freshness to accompany the richness promoted by the old guard. He points out that two of the driving stylistic forces of recent decades are starting to take a backseat to the youngbloods- 

“Over the last year or so, both Michel Rolland and Stéphane Derenoncourt have sold their businesses to their junior partners while dramatically scaling back their personal involvement to just a few properties each.”

Mr. Galloni was impressed with the cabernet-based wines of the Left Bank particularly in the communes of St-Estèphe, Margaux and to a lesser extent Saint-Julien and Pauillac where he found great wines but fewer overachievers. 

As for sweet wines-

“This is an epic vintage for Sauternes and Barsac in which many wines overachieve. The 2023 Sauternes are dynamic, mesmerizing wines. It’s a shame modern tastes seem to leave little for Sauternes given that the best examples are so compelling.”

Once again, we see a critic thrilled by the highs but warning to be selective and also holding out hope for significant moderation in pricing.