Continuning my summing up, here comes the next part of my Primeur Picks report from behind the paywall. See part one here if you have not already read it.
Bordeaux 2017: Primeur Picks
Even focusing on the most successful domaines and appellations, while the wines are very good, the quality in 2017 does not match that seen in 2016 and 2015. This much is reflected in my scores, which hit a peak with the 96-98 range for a small handful of top-flight wines from both the left and right banks, with one exceptional wine at 97-99 points, but with the majority of top-scoring wines coming in at 95-97 or less. This is not a vintage in which we are going to find spine-tingling 100-point wines (and I deliberated long and hard about that 97-99-pointer too, it has to be said). If we are to score wines at that level in this vintage, where on earth would we all go in truly excellent years such as 2016, 2010 or 2005?
On the other hand, I have also discovered many less convincing wines in this vintage. They come principally from the frost-affected regions, including the St Emilion and Pomerol lowlands, as well as those vineyards on the left bank which were too far from the protective influence of the Gironde. While the warm and dry weather ripened the first-generation fruit admirably, ridding the top wines of any hint of green pyrazine aromas, the same cannot be said of many of the wines which have been built – presumably with no alternative – around second-generation fruit. This fruit was usually picked at the very end of harvest, and it is clear that even picking at this late stage the fruit was still not phenolically ripe. I think if you were to visit Bordeaux on a luxury wine tour, calling in on only the top domaines, you could come away with the impression there is no ‘greenness’ in this vintage. But having spent eight days tasting in the region, looking at wines from all appellations and all levels, I have found any number of wines at the entry-level in St Emilion, as well as basic Pomerol and some well-known names in Graves and Margaux, not to mention in the Médoc and Haut-Médoc appellations, which are herbaceous, leafy and overtly green. Some wines tasted more like off-vintage efforts from an under-performing Loire Valley co-operative than from leading Bordeaux winemakers.
So while this is a very good vintage (in parts), it is not a great vintage, and it is not a ‘buy blind’ vintage. It is a vintage in which purchasing decisions must be fully informed.