Bordeaux 1997: Tasting in 2003
The early 1990s were lean times for the vignerons of Bordeaux. Successive vintages – 1991 and 1992 in particular – were dismal failures where only a small number of acceptable wines were produced. There followed 1993, another wet year, although interspersed with dry periods, and as a consequence there were a number of drinkable wines. And then 1994, another patchy year. I have heard many wines from this vintage criticised as charmless, although others think of them as ‘classic’.
Little wonder, then, that the Bordelais took full advantage of favourable conditions in 1995 and 1996, to produce some good to excellent wines. And, naturally, to jack the price up as much as the consumer would stand. During this two year period prices of some wines doubled.
The 1997 vintage started well, with an exceptionally warm Spring, and very early, although somewhat irregular and prolonged, flowering. Unfortunately this resulted in vines bearing grapes of differing maturity, and this was exacerbated by erratic Summer weather – a hot June, a cool July, and a hot and humid August. Early September saw heavy rain, but by the middle of the month the sun was shining once more. Those who picked early harvested wet, swollen, diluted grapes of variable ripeness, whereas those who delayed at least stood a chance. Nevertheless, despite the long period between flowering and harvest, there was not great concentration in any of the grapes, thanks simply to the poor weather throughout August. These were never going to be wines for long ageing. At worst, dilute and unripe. At best, attractive, approachable, for early drinking.