Anson on Thursday: Bordeaux 2007, Ten Years On

Jane Anson finds out how the Bordeaux 2007s are tasting and recommends several of the best wines to seek out...

Bordeaux 2007: Ten Years On

I think I can speak for everyone when I say that expectation levels had been set to low when we walked in to the Bordeaux 2007 ten years on tasting.

Held at Bordeaux Index (BI) on Hatton Gardens in London, a number of the tasters had recently been appraising the 2013s, and been reminded that there are vintages when even the Bordelais can’t magic up a win.

  • See Jane Anson’s tasting notes below

Before 2013, it was the 2007s that were seen as the whipping boy of the past decade, for the red wines at least.

The weather got off to a good start in April but was cool and wet for most of the summer making it tough for all but the best-draining soils. Châteaux needed plenty of canopy cover early in the season to use up the excess of water and then to have cut enough of it off early enough to capture the sunshine and ripen the grapes when it showed its face.

The best weather didn’t arrive until September (actually August 30th, after one last downpour the day before).

In this, the 2007 is not dissimilar to the 2014s, another vintage I have been re-tasting recently and that benefitted from a beautiful harvest after a dreary summer – although it’s clear that overall the 2014 is a stronger year.

In 2007 the whites were exceptional, particularly the stickies from Sauternes and Barsac. It was probably the best vintage of the new century for them, and still taste incredibly young.

But we were here to taste the reds that suffered in perception from a combination of difficult weather and ‘punchy’ pricing (and, perhaps, the curse of the 7, with 1977, 1987 and 1997 all producing below-average wines). Châteaux were unwilling to drop down after 2005, and the issue was compounded when the 2008 financial crash meant the prices looked even more out of kilter with market reality.

Today things look a little different. The average price rise of 2007, according to Liv-ex, is 69% since release, meaning it has outpaced the broader Bordeaux 500 market that has increased by 41.9% over the same timescale. And for a vintage that underperformed, they are remarkably hard to get hold of.

‘The last few years have seen a huge amount of opening and drinking of this vintage,’ Giles Cooper of BI told us during the tasting,

Sylvain Boivert of the Conseil des Grands Crus Classés in Bordeaux agreed with this assessment, but added that much of the stock had also headed east. The Financial Times reported on Chinese buying the 2007 vintage way back in 2009, after the financial crisis, and it’s a pattern that has been repeated several times since then (not least after our own self-created sterling crisis of the Brexit vote).

‘We have seen the Chinese market showing a huge interest in the so-called ‘off-vintages’ like 2007, 2004 and 2011,’ Boivert told me this week, ‘because they offer good value and can be drunk young’.

Bordeaux 2007 wines

If these wines really are hard to get hold of, it’s a shame, because the line-up showed some seriously enjoyable bottles.

We tasted just under 70 wines from the top names across both sides of the Garonne and Dordogne rivers. As was noted at the time, those who were sensible in their extractions had captured some beautiful fruit character, and the wines showed reasonable alcohol levels throughout, rarely reaching about 13.5% abv even on the Right Bank. Only five hit 14% in the entire lineup – L’Eglise Clinet, Pavie, Pavie Maquin, Canon and Larcis Ducasse, all of whom chose to risk a longer hang time for the grapes.

This again means a general focus on fruit rather than power, although it reflects necessity rather than choice in many cases, particularly as there was some chaptilisation in 2007, something that is almost unheard of in more recent vintages (2013 apart).

Overall, as was clear from the beginning, the Cabernet Sauvignons did well when they were able to fully ripen, and there are many classic, even luscious, drinking clarets on the Left Bank. When they couldn’t, or when people set the extraction too high, there is bitterness and a drying finish.

The best estates are flattering and succulent, and to capture this plump fruit I would strongly suggest waiting no more than another few years. In the last two ‘Ten Years On’ tastings of 2006 and 2005, I left thinking that well over half the wines should be set away for a good few years yet. This time it was more about selecting the ones to crack open and enjoy.

No doubt lower down the scale, many wines in this vintage have had their day, so I wouldn’t start rounding up any 2007s you can get your hands on, but if you have been worried about any of the good quality names that you are holding on to, I would relax and find a corkscrew.

So, what did we learn?

The Firsts Growths are all holding up extremely well, and although this is recognised as a Cabernet Sauvignon year, all the ‘First Growth or equivalents’ on the Right Bank were absolutely singing, particularly Petrus and Le Pin.

There were some interesting bits of history on display – the style of Château Pavie in 2007, for example, was still in pedal-to-the-metal mould. Pape-Clément was similarly charged, but has aged more gracefully. Pichon Comtesse was in a lull in 2007 that really does highlight how brilliantly it performs today. This is also true for Belgrave, Armailhac and Clerc Milon – back in 2007 they were just on the beginning of the trajectory that has led to the excellent wines being crafted since 2010.

Pichon Baron in contrast was tasting wonderful – even though I appreciate that they have worked since on tightening the selection process for the first wine with optical sorting coming in from 2010 and the addition of an extra wine to further tighten the grapes that make it through. This 2007 might be more old-school Baron, but it is great claret, one to really savour.

This is one of the fascinations of Ten Years On tastings – it shines a light not only on the wines and how they are holding up, but also puts them into context against recent performances.

The wines: Five to enjoy today, and five to hold on to… just not indefinitely

Wines listed by score from high to low