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Bordeaux 2013: The Decanter verdict

Forget about buying Bordeaux 2013 en primeur, says Decanter consultant editor Steven Spurrier, but our experts say there will still be plenty of wines to enjoy in this 'drinking vintage' - with Sauternes and dry whites scoring well alongside strong individual performances from the reds.

Tasters descended on Bordeaux for en primeur week with some trepidation following a difficult 2013 growing season that wine consultant Stephane Derenoncourt described as a ‘war against nature’.

Perhaps it was inevitable that many would be pleasantly surprised.

See all of Decanter’s tasting notes for Bordeaux 2013

Yields are drastically down, and 2013 will not enter the Bordeaux hall of fame, but a combination of gadgets and guile in the vineyard and the cellar means ‘there’s much to like’ in the wines, according to Steven Spurrier.

In a comprehensive list of scores and tasting notes published by Decanter.com today (14 April), Spurrier, James Lawther MW and Jeannie Cho Lee MW offer a guide to the best of the left bank, right bank and Sauternes respectively.

Only a few grands vins on the right and left banks broke through the 18-point barrier, but this included all the first growths, which each scored 18.25 for their reds. Chateau Leoville LasCases in St Julien equalled that total, while other notable left bank successes were Ducru-Beaucaillou, Montrose in St Estephe. In Pessac-Leognan, La Mission Haut-Brion was the highest scoring red after Haut-Brion itself, with 17.75.

On the right bank, Pavie and Lafleur topped the rankings for St Emilion and Pomerol respectively, also scoring 18.

Behind those, Petrus, Cheval Blanc and Ausone achieved 17.75, while Angelus – promoted to St Emilion Grand Cru Classe A status in late 2012 – came in at 17.25. Two Grand Cru Classe B chateaux, Valandraud and Larcis-Ducasse, scored 17.5.

Spurrier noted the lack of greenness in the grands vins, something which Thomas Duroux at Chateau Palmer attributed to warm, sunny weather in July and August. Palmer scored 17.75.

For all of the intrigue surrounding the tricky 2013 vintage for Bordeaux’s reds, some observers have pointed to Sauternes and dry whites as the real stars.

Chateau d’Yquem and Chateau Haut-Brion’s dry white topped the Bordeaux 2013 ratings, each with a score of 18.5. Several other Sauternes also performed well in a year when botrytis was quick to take hold in the vineyards.

Two unclassified Sauternes chateaux mixed in with the appellation’s best; Chateau Raymond-Lafon, located just down the hill from d’Yquem, scored 18, and Chateau des Fargues got 18.25.

Other high scorers were Clos Haut-Peyraguey and Guiraud, which both got 18.25, and Rieussec, which got 18.

Overall, Spurrier described the Bordeaux 2013 vintage as one of money and terroir. ‘The châteaux that lacked both could do nothing with the bad hand dealt to them by nature.’

He said the 2013 vintage is unlikely to work as an en primeur purchase, predominantly because various back-vintages are available at attractive prices.

That said, pricing will be key, and many chateaux are yet to release. Of those who have released, Pauillac-based Lynch-Bages – which scored 17.25 – dropped its price by 17% versus 2012, making 2013 its cheapest vintage available on the market. ‘It looks like a good deal for the consumer,’ said Oliver Sharp at Bordeaux Index.

Montrose, meanwhile, has drew criticism from merchants for holding its price level with 2012, even though buyers praised the quality of the estate’s wine.

Summing up, Spurrier said, ‘While there are many pleasant wines, more than a few are interestingly different from each chateau’s previous vintages and will be fascinating to track over their drinking lifetime.’

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