Bordeaux 2007: Parker slams with faint praise

  • Friday 2 May 2008

American wine critic Robert Parker has released his 2007 Bordeaux en primeur scores. He has awarded only three wines up to 100 points - all of them white; among the reds, only four achieved up to a potential 95.

Chateaux Pape Clement Blanc and Haut-Brion Blanc both earned 96-100, while Climens (tasted by Neal Martin) was awarded 98-100. The top possible mark for the any first growth was 94 - with Margaux earning 92-94; Haut-Brion, 91-94; and Mouton-Rothschild,90-94. Chateaux Lafite-Rothschild and Latour both earned 90-93.

Among the rest of the reds tasted were precious few bright spots.

Only Bellevue Mondotte earned 94-97, while just two achieved up to 95 - Leoville Las Cases (92-95) and Parker's beloved Pavie (93-95). Indeed, only a dozen or so were awarded up to 94, including Ausone (91-94) and La Mission Haut Brion (90-94).

Parker’s prognosis for whtles was better, with Laville-Haut-Brion Blanc earning 93-96, Smith-Haut-Lafitte Blanc 94-96 and a handful more achieving up to 94.

He dubbed Sauternes a 'silver lining' to the vintage's cloud, with taster Neal Martin awarding Chateau Climens 98-100; Yquem, 96-98; and Doisy Daene l’Extravagant, 97-98. Several more Sauternes - as well as dry whites - hover in the mid-90s.

Notably, however, Parker has not posted any individual tasting notes. He chose instead to summarise his thoughts per region and highlight a handful of properties. Prompting several UK merchants to suggest that he was being dismissive of the entire vintage.

'What is he saying,' said Simon Staples of Berry Brothers, 'that they are all rubbish? I've been campaigning for years for him to just post tasting notes, they are much more meaningful and the points just confuse people.'

Concluding that the vintage is not as poor as 1992, Parker calls it an 'improved, modern-day version of 1997'. The best he can say is that the top wines are 'flattering' and 'fruit-forward' wines - gluggable even as barrel samples - that most consumers will love, though they lack long-term ageing potential. He says what's on everyone's mind, posing the rhetorical question, who will buy and at what price?

In first growth territory of Pauillac, he concedes to top growers' rigorous selection, calling the wines, overall, 'flattering, charming, and easy to taste.'

He offers kudos to Grand-Puy-Lacoste (89-91), Duhart-Milon-Rothschild (86-88), Batailley (87-89) and the 'brilliant' Pontet-Canet (91-94) for being 'good value'. He also praises Roederer-Deutz - the new owners of Pichon Longueville Comtesse de Lalande (88-90) - for improving the quality.

Of the St Estephe properties, only Cos d’Estournel and Montrose topped 90 points, achieving 90-93 and 89-92, respectively. Parker singles out Lafon-Rochet (85-87) - saying that despite a paint job that makes it stand out like a 'brothel' – the wine is 'top-notch, going from strength to strength.'

Indeed, by the time he gets to St Emilion, Parker appears to have run out of energy altogether for the 2007s. While singing the region's praises in general and mentioning the positive influence of the garagistes, he doesn't highlight a single 2007.

Not surprisingly, many UK merchants are bearish on the vintage and say price will be the only factor in a buying decision.

'These scores are even lower than peoples' worst expectations,' said Gary Boom of Bordeaux Index.

'In fact they’re shocking, really. Lafite and Latour [both 90-93] have been low for years. To achieve even a fair price in the market, the chateaux would have to come down at least 35% to get UK merchants to offer them, and that's highly, highly unlikely. Demand is likely to be weak indeed.'

The Friday before UK bank holiday Monday was far from disappointing, however, as many merchants spent the day working the phones, flogging earlier vintages - notably the 2005s - to an eager clientele.

Boom said he had made £2m ($3.95m) before 10am.

Parker's other ratings include: Angelus (90-93), Cheval Blanc (88-91), L'Eglise Clinet (91-94), Leoville-Barton (87-90), Palmer (91-93), Petrus (90-93), Le Pin (91-93), Rauzan-Segla (89-91) and Vieux Chateau Certan (89-91).

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