En Primeur, Day Five: The 2013 Wine of the Vintage

Plus read ratings and reviews from Saint-Julien, Pauillac, Saint-Estèphe and Haut-Médoc.

The vineyards of Château Calon Ségur.

After tasting through hundreds of 2013 barrel samples at this year’s en primeur, there’s one dark horse that stood out: the 2013 Château Calon Ségur, a Saint-Estèphe Third Growth farthest from Bordeaux city.

Rarely reviewed until only recently, Calon Ségur beat out some of the best wines from Montrose, Mouton Rothschild, Cos d’Estournel, Palmer, Pétrus and Cheval Blanc. I’m excited to name it the wine of the vintage.

And now that the best has been established, let’s tackle the most buzzed-about topic in Bordeaux this week: price.

“The price will have to be realistic to motivate a purchase ahead of the wine’s release, and I’m not sure I see that price on every producer’s horizon,” said Daniel Greathouse, President of Heidelberg Distributing Company in Ohio.

Anthony Barton, owner of Château Leoville Barton in Saint-Julien, concurred, saying that the 2013 vintage is no 2009 or 2010. “But you wait and see—in five or six years these will be lovely drinkable wines.”

Gérard Perse, owner of Château Pavie in Saint-Émilion, said that he has never spent so much on a harvest before, but his neighbor Jean-Luc Thunevin, owner of Château Valandraud, cautioned, “even if it was an expensive vintage, we need to lower our prices.”

Many buyers would agree.

“My feeling is that prices need to be lower for this campaign to gain traction and excitement,” said Chuck Hayward, brand and communications senior manager and fine wine buyer (Australia and New Zealand) of Oakland-based online American retailer JJ Buckley. “But given the fact that most wineries have less wine to sell, the pressure to drop pricing is not a priority. What I do know is that this year, our job is to sell wine, not just to take orders.”

I predict that wines made from small crops that scored 95 points or above will have high prices to match, while those that scored below 95, regardless of the production, will have lower prices. Considering the weather woes, Bordeaux producers could’ve done much worse

“I think the vintage is impressive for the hard work and the uncompromising effort that went into it,” said Mathieu Chardronnier, managing director of négociant CVBG.

A snapshot of the 2013 grand cru successes.

•    Saint-Estèphe: No rainfall during harvest resulted in ripe wines packed with dense fruit and balanced tannins.
•    Pomerol: Harvesting early helped producers dodge late rain, allowing Merlot to shine.
•    Sauternes: These white wines are packed with botrytis and balanced with acidity.
•    Pessac-Léognan: White blends of Sauvignon Blanc and Sémillon showed crisp and herbaceous, yet fruity flavors.

Regions where producers suffered most.

•    Pessac-Léognan: Reds are rough due to overextraction.
•    Margaux: Heavy rains at harvest resulted in great crop loss for many.
•    Saint-Émilion: Too many wines are overextracted by producers who didn’t pay attention.

Today’s tasting went to the heart of some of the best 2013 wines: Saint Estéphe, Saint-Julien and Pauillac. Here are the top 10 of today’s tasting. The wines are sorted by score and alphabetically. 

96–98 Château Calon Ségur 2013 Barrel Sample (Saint-Estèphe).
96–98 Château Mouton Rothschild 2013 Barrel Sample (Pauillac).
95–97 Château Léoville Las Cases 2013 Barrel Sample (Saint-Julien).
95–97 Château Montrose 2013 Barrel Sample (Saint-Estèphe).
94–96 Château Cos d’Estournel 2013 Barrel Sample (Saint-Estèphe).
94–96 Château Lafite Rothschild 2013 Barrel Sample (Pauillac).
93–95 Château Léoville Barton 2013 Barrel Sample (Saint-Julien).
93–95 Château Lynch-Bages 2013 Barrel Sample (Pauillac).
93–95 Château Pichon Longueville 2013 Barrel Sample (Pauillac).
93–95 Château Pontet-Canet 2013 Barrel Sample (Pauillac).

En Primeur 2014, Day One: Pontet-Canet Price Sets Tone >>>
En Primeur 2014, Day Two: Complex Right Bank Wines >>>
En Primeur 2014, Day Three: Fantastic Whites and Fair Reds >>>
En Primeur 2014, Day Four: Big-Name Bordeaux Producers Take Back Seat >>>
n Primeur 2014, Day Five: The Wine of the Vintage >>>

Read Wine Enthusiast's continuing En Primeur coverage >>>

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