Pomerol fared slightly better than St Emilion on Bordeaux's right bank in 2013, but yields are 'wildly down' and there is a lot of variation between chateaux in both areas, according to Decanter contributing editor James Lawther MW.
Average yields across the right bank are down by up to 40% in many cases. Poor weather during flowering set the trend for the year, Lawther (pictured) told Decanter.com following his initial look at right bank wines during en primeur week.
‘There’s no getting away from it, this is probably the hardest vintage they’ve had to deal with since 1992, and maybe even further back,’ he said, following a tasting of right bank cru classe wines hosted by Chateau La Pointe.
‘Pomerol came about slightly better, because it’s an earlier ripening area. When you taste St Emilions, you find it’s those on the plateau and the slopes with the clay and limestone soils where you’ve got a better ripeness and better maturity.’
That said, Lawther echoed many producers, consultants and other critics in describing 2013 as a light vintage.
‘There will proabbly be none in the outstanding category in terms of my scores for right bank – so that’s more than 18 points out of 20. There will be some rare scores in the 17 to 18 range, and there will be a lot around 15 to 16.’
But, Lawther added that 2013 for many chateaux will still be a ‘good drinking wine’, and it’s a vintage consumers should look out for in restaurants after the wines are bottled.
Few producers have delusions of grandeur about the wines they have just made, despite the extra pickers and money required.
‘With this type of vintage, nature reminds you that she’s the boss in the end,’ said Olivier Berrouet, head of winemaking and vineyards at Petrus.
‘You know you won’t make the vintage of the Century, so you just focus on the pleasure that people will have when they open the bottle.’
He added that producers needed a ‘gentle touch’ in what has been a delicate vintage to handle. ‘It’s a very Burgundy approach,’ he said.’If you push a vintage when maturuty is not perfect, you will get the green taste form the skin and you don’t want that.’
Pierre Lurton, at Cheval Blanc, described 2013 as a ‘strategic’ vintage. The timing of the harvest was a test of nerve, with rain and rot a constant threat.
‘We did three green harvests for Cabernet Franc and Cabernet Sauivgnon to select the best bunches as possible,’ said Frederic Faye, of Chateau Figeac in St Emilion. ‘It’s expressive and elegant, it’s a charming vintage,’ he said of the premier grand cru classe estates’s 2013 wine.
Several producers believe there is decent ageing potential on the right bank for some 2013 wines, but there is a lot of variation.
‘It’s a very up and down vintage,’ said Lawther. ‘For the better producers, it’s for consuming within five to 15 years plus.’
Written by Chris Mercer