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Bordeaux 2007: the early verdict

Bordeaux producers are struggling to generate excitement over the 2007 vintage, with visiting press and trade wary of both the quality of the wines and the likely prices.

The vintage, which by September was all but written off following a dreadful summer and a month of rain in August, was partially saved by a spectacular Indian summer.

Despite the reprieve, however, the Bordelais have yet to convince commentators that the vintage is anything better than mixed.

As the gathered throng of critics, merchants and negociants approach the midpoint of the week’s tasting, the most consistent – and arguably most positive – reaction to the wines is that they offer soft, primary fruit for early drinking.

‘The best wines have charm and finesse and are very approachable,’ said Decanter consultant editor Steven Spurrier.

‘The style of the vintage is fruit-driven, with charm,’ added contributing editor James Lawther. ‘It doesn’t have the depth or fruit of 2005 or the acidity or staying power of 2006, and it’s rounder and softer than 2004. It’s definitely for early drinking, so one hopes that it’s priced at an affordable level.

The key challenge facing producers was the normally early-ripening Merlot, which by the start of September was still some way off maturity. As the month progressed, and heat developed, the grapes attained what Petrus’ Christian Moueix described as ‘artificial ripeness’, leaving growers in a quandary as to whether to pick or wait.

The late heatwave should favour wines with more of the later-developing Cabernet in the blend, but Lawther claims making a prognosis is not that simple.

‘Basically it’s a vintage which comes down to money,’ he said. ‘Those who could afford to send two or three teams into the vineyard to deal with the milldew will have made good wines. Otherwise, the grapes will have been immature and the wines will be vegetal and green.’

Some properties on the Right Bank, he added, had tried to compensate for the conditions by over-oaking and/or over-extracting, which was a mistake. ‘The vintage was saved by the bell. That doesn’t mean you can hide its deficiencies and turn a wine it into a world-beater.’

With most of the Medoc wines still to be tasted, the main focus has been the variable Right Bank wines (wines from the plateau of Pomerol received favourable reaction), and those of the Graves.

In the latter appellation, praise has been heaped on the dry whites, with veteran critic David Peppercorn MW labelling them ‘among the most consistent I’ve ever tasted’ and lauding their acidity and terroir character. However, the red Graves mostly disappointed. Peppercorn termed them ‘short and thin – lacking their normal structure’ while Beverley Blanning MW said they were ‘hollow’ with ‘no weight of fruit’.

Tasters were unanimous in their praise of the sweet wines of Sauternes though. Blanning called them ‘very rich, clean, with lots of botrytis’.

Written by Guy Woodward in Bordeaux

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