Bordeaux 2017: The Sweet Spot

By Robert Whitley

April 7, 2020 8 min read

BORDEAUX, France — The 2017 vintage of Bordeaux will be arriving in the U.S. retail wine market this spring. I tasted many of the wines from barrel at the primeurs tastings organized by the Union des Grands Crus de Bordeaux in the spring of 2018, when the wines were only available for purchase on "futures" contracts, with delivery in approximately two years. My evaluation of the vintage and the many fine wines it produced follows.

The annual en primeurs event often proves a chore, as everyone muscles through hundreds of young, tannic wines in an attempt to assess their quality and potential.

It may come as a surprise to some, but tasting barrel samples is work. The astringency of young red wine presents a daunting challenge to even the most experienced wine professional. Because many Bordeaux wines are sold well before their release, the primeurs tastings are of tremendous interest to those who sell Bordeaux wines, as well as those who consume them.

While I have my reservations about a number of wines in the difficult 2017 vintage from the Graves and Pessac-Leognan district, I found the wines of Pomerol and Saint-Emilion, on the Right Bank, encouraging. They were riper, fleshier and less austere than many of the wines from Pessac and Graves.

But nothing I had heard about the difficulties of the vintage prepared me for the wines of the Medoc, on the Left Bank. Chateau Beychevelle, one of the stars of Saint-Julien, was absolutely stunning, showing rich layers of fruit, excellent balance and smooth, supple tannins that suggest Saint-Julien may well be the sweet spot of Bordeaux 2017.

Following are tasting notes on wines from the Medoc, a vast region that includes the great terroirs of Margaux, Pauillac and Saint-Estephe.

Wines are rated on a 100-point scale. Wines are chosen for review because they represent outstanding quality or value, and the scores are simply a measure of this reviewer's enthusiasm for the recommended wine.

Listrac-Medoc

Chateau Clarke — Good concentration, floral, firm tannins, good balance. 91

Chateau Fonreaud — Medium-bodied, moderate tannins, good structure. 89

Chateau Fourcas — Good concentration, black fruits, moderate tannins. 88

Chateau Fourcas Hosten — Floral, red and black fruits, moderate tannins. 88

Moulis-en-Medoc

Chateau Chasse-Spleen — Good concentration, firm tannins, good potential. 90

Chateau Maucaillou — Reeks of brett. 75

Chateau Poujeaux — Red and black fruits, firm tannins. 88

Chateau La Lagune — Plummy note, moderate concentration and tannins. 89

Chateau Latour Carnet — Good concentration, moderate tannins. 88

Chateau La Tour de By — Good concentration, moderate tannins, floral note. 89

Haut-Medoc

Chateau Belgrave — Floral, good concentration, richness, minerality, complex. 91

Chateau Cantemerle — Tart cherry fruit, moderate tannins. 89

Chateau Citran — wood spice note, good concentration, length. 90

Chateau Coufran — Good concentration, red and black fruits, moderate tannins. 89

Margaux

Chateau Brane-Cantenac — Floral, ripe fruit, supple tannins, immediate charm. 92

Chateau Cantenac Brown — Good concentration and ripeness, sweet fruit, supple tannins. 91

Chateau Dauzac — Good concentration, a bit too extracted but solid potential. 88

Chateau Desmirail — Floral, spicy, good concentration, moderate tannins. 89

Chateau Durfort Vivens — Floral, medium-bodied, pretty fruit, moderate tannins. 90

Chateau Ferriere — Floral, good concentration, excellent weight and depth, moderate tannins. 93

Chateau Giscours — Good concentration, moderate tannins, good balance. 90

Chateau Kirwan — Floral, good concentration, red and black fruits, moderate tannins. 92

Chateau Labegorce — Concentrated and complex, minerality, firm tannins, good potential. 92

Chateau Lascombes — Good concentration and complexity, shows finesse and elegance, moderate tannins. 94

Chateau Malescot Saint-Exupery — Floral, elegant, concentrated, charming, moderate tannins. 94

Chateau Marquis de Terme — Concentrated, good depth, firm tannins, good potential. 93

Chateau Monbrison — Floral, complex fruit profile, moderate tannins, good potential. 92

Chateau Prieure-Lichine — Good concentration, floral, spicy, moderate tannins. 92

Chateau Rauzan-Gassies — Good concentration, some heft and richness, moderate tannins. 92

Chateau Rauzan-Segla — Good concentration, depth, complexity, moderate tannins. 92

Chateau Siran — Floral, complex fruit aromas, wood spice, moderate tannins. 93

Chateau du Tertre — Medium-bodied, lacking charm, modest tannins. 84

Saint-Julien

Chateau Beycheville — Textured and elegant, supple tannins, excellent concentration, richness and depth. 96

Chateau Branaire-Ducru — Good concentration, medium body, moderate tannins. 89

Chateau Gloria — Good concentration, spice, red fruits, moderate tannins. 91

Chateau Gruaud Larose — Well-balanced, medium body, moderate tannins. 88

Chateau Lagrange — Medium body, floral, spicy, good potential. 90

Chateau Langoa Barton — Good concentration, depth, richness, moderate tannins. 91

Chateau Leoville Barton — Good concentration, well-balanced, spicy, moderate tannins. 91

Chateau Saint-Pierre — Floral, medium body, spice, moderate tannins, good potential. 90

Chateau Talbot — Floral, spicy, good concentration, excellent potential. 92

Pauillac

Chateau d'Armailhac — Concentrated, elegant, firm tannins, depth of fruit, good potential. 93

Chateau Batailley — Floral, complex fruit aromas, fine tannins, good length, excellent potential. 94

Chateau Clerc Milon — Good concentration, medium body, firm tannins. 88

Chateau Croizet-Bages — Floral, spicy, medium body, fine tannins. 90

Chateau Grand Puy-Ducasse — Good concentration, complex fruits, moderate tannins. 88

Chateau Haut-Bages Liberal — Good concentration, minerality, firm tannins, potential. 90

Chateau Lynch-Bages — Excellent ripeness, richly layered, well-balanced, dark fruits, moderate tannins. 94

Chateau Lynch Moussas — Good concentration, minerality, length, moderate tannins. 89

Chateau Pichon Longueville Comtesse de Lalande — Good concentration, moderate tannins. 91

Saint-Estephe

Chateau Cos Labory — Floral, good concentration, supple tannins. 91

Chateau Lafon-Rochet — Ripe fruit, excellent depth, plush, supple tannins. 91

Chateau Ormes de Pez — Excellent concentration and depth of fruit, structured, well-balanced, good potential. 92

Chateau de Pez — Concentrated and layered, excellent depth, good balance, great potential. 94

Chateau Phelan Segur — Concentrated and layered, dark fruits, good structure and balance. 92

Follow Robert on Twitter at @wineguru. To find out more about Robert Whitley and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.

Photo credit: Quadronet_Webdesign at Pixabay

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