Château Brown 2007
This weekend I decided to pull a bottle from a vintage that, in Bordeaux, I do not visit very often. The vintage in question was 2007, one of several 'difficult' vintages in the first decade of the 21st century. My cellar is graced with a number of wines from this vintage, but in the case of Bordeaux these wines tend to be Sauternes (it was a good vintage here, fresh and acid-rich, and it seems to have fattened up in bottle, a welcome development). Beyond Bordeaux it was a very good vintage in other regions, not least - sticking with one of my specialist subjects - the sweet wines of the Coteaux du Layon and Quarts de Chaume in particular, as was made clear by this tasting of sweet wines from the Loire Valley I published a year or so ago.
As for the red wines of Bordeaux, however, it was far from a prodigious vintage. The growing season was dire, with wet and miserable weather dominating the first few months, and there was a constant threat from mildew in the vineyard. Nevertheless, with better weather as harvest approached, and a better understanding of the work required in such a vintage, ultimately the harvest went well. The resulting wines were never set for greatness, although it would have been hard to know that from the prices that the Bordelais asked, which were high from the outset. The most appropriate strapline for the 2007 vintage is over-priced, although this is a great shame, as the Bordelais did well to snatch victory from the mildew of defeat. That the wines were at least drinkable, and in some cases were actually quite decent, despite a wash-out vintage that twenty years ago would have been an all-round disaster, should have been a cause for celebration. If the prices had reflected the moderate quality level, this would have been fine a vintage for drinkers to buy and enjoy; a drinker's vintage. Instead, it is the least well-represented recent Bordeaux vintage in my cellar.
So why should my hand land on this particular bottle this weekend? There are two reasons; first, the wines of this vintage are not keepers, and I would advise checking in early if you have any. If you have a lot, be prepared to be drinking many of them sooner rather than later. Second, this weekend I completed the introductory section to my new guide to Bordeaux with a soundbite-report on recent Bordeaux vintages. Not being interested in regurgitating other's opinions, my Bordeaux Vintages at a Glance article looks back as far as 1981, as this far back I have personal and direct knowledge of the vintages in question. I have tasted many older wines, especially from 1978, 1975, 1970 and 1961, but at this point the gaps in the knowledge are larger than the knowledge itself, and so I called a halt to it at 1981.
I fairly happy to have completed this, not only because I think it is a useful addition to the site for those learning about Bordeaux, or those simply wishing to brush up on their knowledge, but also because I can know move on to look at the many different regions of Bordeaux. This will come after a brief detour to Madeira, however, as I have a four-page guide to that region to publish first following my recent visit to this vinous paradise. But then it will be on with Bordeaux. In order to celebrate, I though a bottle from a vintage less familiar would be appropriate, and that meant 2007. The 2007 from Château Brown in Pessac-Léognan has a remarkably well-coloured yet fresh appearance, still with plenty of dark red pigment, and not the lazy, already maturing hue found in some wines of the vintage. The scents on the nose are very evocative, the most prominent fruit aromas being suggestive of the bitter skins of dark plums, but more prominent are the aromas of liquorice, soot, charcoal and oak. There is a supple texture to the start, with good substance, and a solid feel through the middle of the palate, leading up to plenty of bitter fruit skin notes in the finish. Quite elegant and reserved in style, but with freshness and flesh too, features not universally present in the vintage. It culminates in a long and quite energetic finish. All in all, an impressive 2007. 15.5/20 (26/8/13)