Bordeaux 2017 Vintage: The Surprises of En Primeur

As Bordeaux’s annual En Primeur barrel tasting comes to an interesting close, there are a few shining stars among the reds from Saint-Émilion, Pauillac and Saint-Julien.
Photo by Alain Benoit

Bright fruit, soft tannins and intense acidity: that’s the summary for the reds of Bordeaux’s 2017 vintage. Concentrated and beautifully ripe is the summary for the excellent whites and superb dessert wines.

It just isn’t the greatest year for Bordeaux’s best. Growers and buyers—gathered these past few days for the annual En Primeur barrel tasting marathon—agree the 2017 wines are not like the exceptional 2015 or 2016 vintages. It has been fascinating and it has often been fun, but electrifying moments have been few and far between.

There have been some good surprises, such as the wines from the Right Bank’s Saint-Émilion appellation. Estates that did not lose crop from the April frosts did end up producing wines with generous fruit and perfumed Cabernet Franc. The Médoc’s Pauillac and Saint-Julien appellations had successes in the world of Cabernet Sauvignon. As always, the best terroirs made the best wines, a fact that really showed in 2017.

Then comes the question of if, and what, you should buy? Los Angeles wine specialist Andre Holmes rated the 2017 vintage “much better than I expected. But last year [2016] was incredible.” He added, “I am not sure I will be buying.”

My advice is that you should buy if you really want a particular wine (i.e. you’ve been a loyal follower of a specific chateau for years). Keep in mind, that wine could be in short supply because of smaller quantities this year. And why not buy if you are curious to taste wines where the traditional blend has been radically altered due to crop loss?

Anthony Delsener, president of A.H.D. Vintners in Detroit, says, “The tragedy is [the lower] quantities and with reduced wine, how can you sell for less?” To sell, practically speaking, prices should be moderate, especially when Bordeaux’s biggest market, the U.S., has a waning dollar.

European Editor Roger Voss reports live from Bordeaux En Primeur to talk about his recommendations on what vintages you should buy.

What would I do? Wait until the wine is in bottle. Many importers who normally make big en primeur offerings will restrict their listings of this vintage. Instead, buy more of the 2015 and 2016 bottlings and then wait until the 2018 vintage is released.

Now, let’s end this week on a high note. The experience of tasting these new wines fresh from the barrel is always a revelation. Evan Hansen of Detroit’s Selden Standard and first-time en primeur visitor says, “It is very exciting to refine my own palate and focus in on the wines in a way you never can when you taste in bottle back home. It is a great opportunity for us to bring things into the market that aren’t typically available in Detroit.”

My Wine of the Bordeaux Vintage 2017

A Wine of the Vintage has to be a standout by definition. In tasting, it has to sing and shout.

For me, that wine was Château Léoville-Barton in Saint-Julien. It is proof that one of the Médoc’s finest vineyards can always produce a great wine, even in a lesser vintage. It is a star in 2017’s lightly populated firmament.

Château Léoville Barton 2017 Barrel Sample (Saint-Julien); 95-97 points. This is an impressive wine, full of both plush fruit and firm tannins. It is rich, generously structured supporting layers of ripe black fruits. It is concentrated, yet elegant with a full mouthfeel. This is a wine to age. Drink this major wine from 2024.

Ten of my favorite wines of the 2017 Bordeaux vintage

Red Wines

Château Pichon Longueville Comtesse de Lalande 2017 Barrel Sample (Pauillac); 95-97 points. Certainly a fine wine, this has ripe tannins that are balanced by the fine, black fruits. With its smoky and black currant character, it has the structure for aging, as well as the attractive fruitiness of the vintage. Drink from 2024.

Vieux Château Certan 2017 Barrel Sample (Pomerol); 95-97 points. Rich yet fresh, this is a beautifully balanced wine. Its tannins act as a support to the great fruit and juicy acidity. Ripe, classic and sophisticatedly rich, it will certainly age well and shouldn’t be opened before 2025.

Château Bélair-Monange 2017 Barrel Sample (Saint-Émilion); 95-97 points. Structured and dense, this wine has power, rich fruit and layer upon layer of firm tannins. It has power while also having elegance and the balance that is a characteristic of the vintage. The juicy finish introduces some freshness to this very fine wine. It will age over many years; don’t drink before 2025.

Château Pavie 2017 Barrel Sample (Saint-Émilion); 95-97 points. This wine has a fresh lift that prior releases didn’t necessarily boast. That freshness lends elegance to the wine, coupled with the fine fruity richness of the terroir. It is finely structured and cut by great acidity and spice. Drink from 2026.

Château Durfort-Vivens 2017 Barrel Sample (Margaux); 93-95 points. Firmly tannic, but also rich in ripe black-fruit tones, this is going to be a fine wine as it develops. The pure berry flavors shine through the structure and acidity. Drink from 2024.

Château Larose-Trintaudon 2017 Barrel Sample (Haut-Médoc); 91-93 points. Intense and with fine concentration, this wine that comes from a vineyard just outside Pauillac is a good summary of the vintage: It has accessible black fruits, ripe tannins and plenty of juicy acidity. Drink from 2022.

White Wines

Château Malartic-Lagravière 2017 Barrel Sample (Pessac-Léognan); 94-96 points. Rich and warm, this generous wine balances a strongly mineral texture and acidity with ripe quince, apple and pear flavors. It is a wine for aging, likely to be ready to drink from 2023.

Château Latour-Martillac 2017 Barrel Sample (Pessac-Léognan); 92-94 points. This is a classic wine, lightly herbal, textured, crisp in acidity and with an undertow of ripe yellow fruits. It will age well. Drink from 2023.

Dessert Wines

Château Coutet 2017 Barrel Sample (Barsac); 95-97 points. This wine shows great balance and poised elegance. Its botrytis fruit gives it rich intensity, with a ripe orange-marmalade flavor and layers of tight acidity. This will be a wine for serious aging and not ready to drink before 2024.

Château de Fargues 2017 Barrel Sample (Sauternes); 94-96 points. A fine wine, with great richness and botrytis flavor, this is opulent and full-bodied, with flavors of ripe apricot and bitter orange marmalade that’s hit by ample acidity. All these elements produce a fine structure that will let it age for many years. Drink from 2025.

See more en primeur barrel tasting ratings and reviews.

Learn more about Roger Voss’ first impressions of En Primeur in Day One coverage.

Learn about the unique blends at En Primeur in Day Two coverage.

Read about which white and dessert wines shined at En Primeur in Day Three coverage.

Follow @wineenthusiast on Instagram #WEtasteBDX #EnPrimeur for more of my updates from the frontlines.

Published on April 12, 2018
Topics: En Primeur
About the Author
Roger Voss
European Editor, Reviews wines from Portugal and France

Roger Voss covers Bordeaux, Burgundy, Champagne, the Loire and South-West France as well as Portugal. His passion is matching food with wine, bringing the pleasures of the table to wine lovers. He has written six books on wine and food, and was previously national correspondent on wine for the London Daily Telegraph. He is based in the Bordeaux region. Email: rvoss@wineenthusiast.net




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