Killing two birds with one stone here. After a week in Bordeaux – a non-stop week – I have to write my notes up. And I want to write something about the week I’ve had, the vintage, Bordeaux, the wine market and all sorts of other tosh. But, first off: my top three. Buy these and you will be pleased that you did so. Wines with character; wines with a sense of place. Wines that are – and I apologise for the facility of the description – a bit special.
2013 Ch. Pichon-Lalande, Pauillac
This is my wine of the vintage. It’s not alone at the top, though the nature of its neighbours on the podium: Ausone, Lafleur, et cetera, mean the prize goes to the Comtesse. 2013 is a year where Pichon-Lalande is punching right at the top. I was so impressed by this that we had to go back to taste it again, just to be sure.
“This is more closed than the Reserve. Not giving much away at all. A touch of regal austerity on the nose. A bit Latour-esque in its sense of breeding.. Very tight. And very, very serious in the mouth. Punchy. And this is very, very classy. Not the sunshine-fruit punch of a big vintage but more a Savile Row class. Breeding. Patrician: a very sober and immaculately well-cut suit. Cistercian. This is the bar. And goes on and on, and it’s the fruit that goes on. A saline edge in the finish. Really quite excellent”
And, for what it’s worth, note two:
“This is hiding a little on the nose. Clean. Pure. A hint of pencil lead. And depth. Compactness. And finesse and length. There is a great deal here. This is Pauillac.”
2013 Ch. Calon-Segur, St Estephe
The very first wine I tasted from barrel was 2000 Calon-Segur and I can still remember it bouncing out of the glass like a puppy. It’s been one of my picks of the vintage more often than not. They’ve always made wine at Calon-Segur – not some Frankenstein commodity – and they still do, which is a relief. An honourable mention should go to Capbern Gasqueton, which was brilliant, and screams for some large-format purchases. Calon itself in 2013 is hauntingly good. And I mean hauntingly: there’s some energy in this wine.
“A little muted on the nose. Clean and very fresh. Very pure and lifted in the mouth. An energy here. Floral. Something sylph-like here: there is a little bit of magic in this. This is a bit special. Goes on and on and the purity and lift of the fruit is beautiful. Excellent.”
2013 Ch. Lafleur, Pomerol
OK. This is a bit like filing your Burgundy report and saying that you should buy Clos St Jacques from Rousseau: we all know that it’s exceptionally good but not all of us can buy it. That said, this is a very special wine. One of those poetry moments. The thought of high windows…
“Bright crimson. A depth here. Cherries. And deep Pomerol clay mocha with a garland of fresh lift. Clearly something underneath. And in the mouth, as Bud says, chocolate cake with cherries. And I don’t want to spit this. A “grand cru” depth: this is Burgundian. Deliciously fresh. And lifts and lifts toward the finish. I’m struggling again to spit. Multidimensional. Crunchy.”
Fin: 2013 Bordeaux. There are some nice wines and a handful of “grands vins”. Some are delicious. Some will be worth buying, some won’t. Contrary to what some in the UK press appear to believe, no one will force you to buy them. The Bordelais themselves (n.b. “Bordelaise” implies the women of Bordeaux) are a bit snookered. From 2005 to 2011 their wines were commodities, and commodities that the market wanted. This is over, and some of them haven’t quite swallowed this yet. This is not a year to buy commodity Bordeaux unless it is as cheap as chips, which it won’t be. But it is, I think, a vintage to buy a bit of wine. A few double mags for a laugh. A few drinkers for the cellar and a few of the wines right at the top if they get their numbers right.
And what is notable about my top three is this: they’re all made by men who talk about the soil, the vines, the grapes, the juice. Not about the market, the prices, the negociants, the costs. The success of the 2013 Bordeaux “campaign” will be decided by the bean counters. The successful wines were made by vignerons.