La Mission Haut-Brion Rouge 2017 released at €240 ex-négociant (29% down on 2016), which will likely result in a UK release price of c.£247 (c.25% down on 2016), and a lower Quality score: 949 (vs 981).
You can download the slide here: Wine Lister Factsheet La Mission Haut-Brion Rouge 2017
If you hadn’t already heard about the frost in 2017, you soon will. It was the word on everyone’s lips during last week’s en primeur tastings in Bordeaux. Production volumes were down 40% across the wine region as a whole, with some properties losing their entire crop. Meanwhile others escaped entirely, making Bordeaux 2017 a vintage where both quantity and quality vary greatly from château to château.
The April frost was a “snob”, according to Will Hargrove, Head of Fine Wine at Corney & Barrow, because the very top vineyards were often spared (Petrus and Ausone for example). However, illustrious châteaux such as Cheval Blanc and Figeac might beg to differ. Nonetheless, such less lucky châteaux expended considerable resources to manage frost damage.
Véronique Sanders, Managing Director of Château Haut-Bailly, called it “the vintage of ice and fire”, referring to the dry summer months that followed. Indeed, the weather conditions resulted in many very good wines in 2017, especially suiting Cabernet Sauvignon, which as a result features in greater proportions than usual at many châteaux.
“I will not try to tell you that 2017 is at the level of ’15 or ’16, but if they are great vintages then ’17 is very good.” Those were the words of Olivier Bernard, owner of Domaine de Chevalier and President of the Union des Grands Crus de Bordeaux. “It will be a lovely wine to drink, I promise you,” he continued. The Wine Lister team is in full agreement.
Throughout our six days of tasting, in the Médoc, the Graves, and on the right bank, we were pleasantly surprised over and over again by the quality of the wines, and positively stunned by some, inter alia Les Carmes Haut-Brion, Cos d’Estournel, Figeac, La Fleur-Pétrus, Petrus, Pichon Comtesse de Lalande, Vieux Château Certan. (We can’t wait to find out what our partner critics think, and will add their scores to the website as soon as they’re released).
Part of the Wine Lister team kicking off their week of en primeur tastings at Petrus. Photo © Wine Lister Limited
While it is not an easy vintage to generalise about, the Bordeaux 2017s tend to boast vibrancy and freshness. This allows the unique character of each wine to shine through. “I think people understand that Bordeaux is not one style,” reflects Edouard Moueix, Managing Director of négociant Jean-Pierre Moueix, declaring that 2017 is “the archetype of the expression of that diversity,” with “each terroir overexpressed almost”.
The wines have less density and concentration than the 2015s and 2016s, but nonetheless possess the structure to carry them well into the future (while in most cases also being approachable quite early). Finding a comparable vintage is tricky. Analytically speaking, both the excellent 2005 and the difficult 2013 were cited by winemakers, but upon drinking the wines they resemble neither.
At Mouton-Rothschild, Philippe Dhalluin says the wines are somewhere between 2014 (“for the energy”) and 2015 “for the softness”. On the right bank, Moueix describes the 2017 as “like a 2006 with more controlled tannins, while Hubert de Boüard, co-owner of Angélus and consultant oenologist to dozens of other properties, is reminded of 2001 and has named the vintage “l’éclatant” (radiant, or sparkling).
“It’s certainly the best vintage ending in 7 since the famous 1947,” declared Emmanuel Cruse, co-owner of Issan and Grand Maître of the Commanderie du Bontemps, Médoc, Graves, Sauternes, and Barsac. To a hall full of Bordeaux château owners and trade at the annual Ban du Millésime dinner, Cruse confirmed that the general feeling about the 2017 vintage was “What a great surprise”. But will it be enough to catalyse a successful en primeur campaign?
Part II of this en primeur round-up will look at the upcoming campaign, considering likely timing, pricing, and volumes, and including views from Bordeaux and the international wine trade. Watch this space.
Our annual Bordeaux study will be released to subscribers in early May. Follow us on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, and the Wine Lister blog for real-time analysis of the 2017 Bordeaux en primeur releases.
Bordeaux is renowned for its reds and sweet whites, but its best dry whites should not be forgotten. While the majority of Bordeaux’s top dry whites are not the flagship wine of their respective châteaux, they still achieve overall Wine Lister scores that are amongst the strongest or very strong on Wine Lister’s scale. Furthermore, as part of some of the most prestigious châteaux in Bordeaux, they all achieve Buzz Brand status.
Leading the way is Château Haut-Brion Blanc, with a score of 902. It is by far the most expensive at £569 per bottle. This puts it 62% above the current market price of Haut-Brion’s red, presumably because just one sixteenth the number of bottles are produced each year.
In second place is Château La Mission Haut-Brion Blanc (891). Relabelled in 2009, this was formerly Laville Haut-Brion. It has the best Quality score of the group (908), the result of very strong ratings from each of Wine Lister’s four critics and the longest ageing potential of the group – the last six vintages bottled under the Laville Haut-Brion label will still be drinking well until at least 2020.
Next comes Y d’Yquem with a score of 887. Whilst it can’t match the quality of the botrytised Sauternes for which the château is best known – not many can – it is available at a 34% discount, making it an excellent way of enjoying an iconic producer on a different occasion.
Margaux’s Pavillon Blanc achieves the fourth-best score (878). The only straight Bordeaux AOP in the group, Pavillon Blanc comprehensively outperforms its red counterpart in the Quality category (895 vs 771). That said, Pavillon Rouge has a stronger Brand score (944 vs 831) and Economics score (953 vs 920), in spite of a slightly lower price (£122 vs £138).
Confirming the dominance of the Graves when it comes to Bordeaux’s best dry whites, the last spot is filled by Domaine de Chevalier Blanc (868), the third Pessac-Léognan wine of the group. By far the cheapest of the five (£59), it is an absolute steal given its consistent high quality and ageing capacity. It also achieves the best Brand score (909), thanks to outstanding restaurant presence – it is visible on 23% of the world’s best wine lists.