Bordeaux 2023 - En Primeur

A serious vintage for serious times

After a series of solar vintages that gave us some of the most concentrated and powerful wines of this century, the 2023 vintage marks a return to classicism, producing well structured wines with finesse and precision. They display fresh, bright red fruits, textured tannins, terroir expression with moderate depth, acidity and alcohols. It is not as homogeneous as 2022 but the best wines are seriously good  with multi dimensional complexity. The main critics tend to be on the same page when sharing their thoughts. The scores reflect their view

Climatology A ‘tropical vintage’ according to Olivier Bernard, the owner of Domaine de Chevalier. After a warm start to Spring and early flowering came a period of tropical-like wet weather (the 4th most rainy vintage in 25 years with 959 mm of rainfall) and high temperatures (hottest vintage on average after 2022). Mildew spread sporadically in a few early ripening merlot plots around Margaux, Pessac and Entre Deux Mers.

HarvestThe lack of sunshine was a a conundrum for growers because the temperatures were warm. Whilst acidity levels remained high and potential alcohols low, some growers feared that phenotypical or complete ripeness would not be achieved without effeuillage (removing leaves). Actually, the heat waves and late Indian summer ripened the grapes fully and intensified the aromatics. A long harvest ensued under serene conditions. Alfred Tesseron of Pontet Canet, mentioned that this was the longest harvest since 1949 which contributed to the complexity and finesse of his successful grand vin.

The harvesting of each variety and ripened lots, allowed winemakers to work vat by vat sequentially with gentle extractions. The ‘victory of ripeness’, as Derenoncourt consultants put it, is what is needed to make wines with intense aromas, plush fruit and silky tannins. Modern Bordeaux can be enjoyed young aswell as mature these days.

On the Left bankthere are some beautiful Cabernets with structure, class and terroir typicity. Highlights tried include Pontet Canet, Léoville Barton, Brane Cantenac, Haut Brion, Lafite, Talbot, Montrose and Pichon Lalande.

On the Right bankthere are some amazing fresh and vibrant Cabernet francs adding complexity to the blends. The leading merlot producers in Pomerol made profound, velvety reds that are poised and occassionally cerebral. Highlights include Cheval Blanc, La Conseillante, Ausone, Figeac, L’Eglise Clinet and Vieux Chateau Certan.

The whites are clean, fresh and vibrant. Some of the Sauvignons were firm with high acidity. We preferred the sémillon blends, which gave floral aromas and soft richer fruit characters. The Sauternes and Barsac dessert wines have power, depth and freshness. Highlights include Haut Brian Blanc, Domaine de Chevalier, Smith Haut Lafitte, Coutet and Guiraud.

The global economy is suffering so prices for this vintage need to be sensible for the campaign to be a success. So far the early release prices from Léoville Lascases, Pontet Canet and Lafite are favourably close to 2019s, which were priced low during the pandemic years.  We feel that the 2023s have the edge in quality but both are seriously good vintages for serious times.