Of all the Bordeaux vintages I’ve tasted over the last 20 years, 2013 must be the most challenging of the lot for its red winemakers. But, this week's tasting of classified wines in London showed that some chateaux produced enjoyable wines against the odds; here's my top six.
Cold, damp and difficult more or less sums up Bordeaux 2013. At one point, Pichon Baron’s Christian Seely found himself in a muddy rain-sodden vineyard in Pauillac, ‘staring at so much rot in the grapes. It was just thoroughly dispiriting’.
And yet, despite those difficulties, some acceptably decent wines have been made – providing people were able to put the time effort and resources in. ‘Strict selection was the key for us,’ says Seely. ‘And so too was our optical sorter.’
But there was also a price to pay. Pichon Baron made as little as 10,000 cases in 2013 compared to an average of 15,000. However, it has managed to produce one of the best wines of this less than outstanding vintage.
Consequently, most of the 2013s don’t really set the pulse racing. They are early drinking and have good freshness with crisp red fruits but inevitably lack mid palate weight and depth.
The pick of the bunch are charming and fruity and therefore are perfect luncheon wines to be opened and enjoyed sooner rather than later. The whites (dry and sweet) are in a different class though and are much more successful across the board in 2013. Here are some of my favourites:
1. Clos Fourtet, St Emilion 1er Grand Cru Classe
Superbly situated at the top of the St Emilion’s famous plateau, this merlot dominant blend has an aromatic nose, with light, crunchy red cherry and cassis fruits on the palate. Light-bodied in structure, there’s also a hint of leafiness and sandalwood on the finish.
88 points. Drink now to 2020.
Stockist: £310, 12 half-bottles, Millésima UK
2. La Conseillante 2013
Savoury ‘boot polish’ nose with spangly cassis fruit leading to blue-black fruits in the mouth with a lick of coffee and cream. Fresh acidity and fittingly modest tannins mean this is more of a welterweight wine. Well-made, pleasing if not profound.
89 Drink now to 2020
Stockist: £51 per bottle, Fine & Rare marketplace
3. Chateau Pichon Baron 2eme Grand Cru Classe, Pauillac.
Surprisingly deep colour and fine floral nose with ink and red-black fruits. A blend of 82% Cabernet and 18% Merlot, this has more of a red fruit profile on the palate with raspberries, cassis and violets providing lift and focus. The whole ensemble is underpinned by bright crunchy acidity and, for the vintage, impressive tannic structure. Good length too.
91+ Drink 2015- 2022.
Stockist: £45 per bottle, Fine & Rare marketplace
4. La Lagune 2013, Haut Medoc, 3eme Grand Cru Classe
Normally, this is a blend of 60% Cabernet, 30% Merlot and 10% Petit Verdot, but in 2013 winemaker Caroline Frey felt obliged to rip up the rule book and try something completely different. So she produced just 20,000 bottles of La Lagune (as opposed to the usual 120,000) and selected her best Cabernet plots. The result is an especially successful 100% varietal Cabernet which is juicy, fresh, and sweet-fruited with violets, red cherries, cola and plums. The fruit is cool while the tannins are pleasingly ripe without being over ambitious. Very impressive.
92 Drink 2015-2022.
5. Rauzan Segla, Margaux
Charm and elegance personified, this was also showing extremely well. Again, it’s a forward drinking wine with soft easy tannins bright creamy cassis fruit and supple texture. Cropped at just 32 hl/ha, this is a blend of 58% Cabernet Sauvignon, 39% Merlot and a pinch of Petit Verdot and Cabernet Franc aged for eighteen months in 60% new French barriques. A stand-out effort.
92 Drink 2016-2024
Stockist: Millésima, £470 (24 half bottles)
6. Domaine de Chevalier Blanc, Grand Cru Classe, Pessac Leognan
If the reds struggled in Bordeaux in 2013, the whites have shone. None more so than this brilliant effort by Oliver Bernard. A blend of 70% Sauvignon Blanc and 30% Semillon, this is both crisp and weighty with intense flavours of citrus, greengage and sherbet mingling with a creamy, mealy savouriness. Also terrific mouthfeel, balance and length. Great wine.
94 Drink 2016-2026+
Stockist: Fine & Rare marketplace, £46 per bottle
Those are may six top picks for Bordeaux 2013. But, I couldn’t end the piece without a nod to Sauternes, which enjoyed a good vintage. So, as a bonus seventh pick, here is one that I particularly enjoyed at yesterday’s UGC tasting:
Chateau de Fargues 2013, Sauternes
Owned by the Lur Saluces family, this is richly intense and serious with weight, power and gravitas. Super sweet yet with lovely acidity and drying bitterness on the finish, this is exquisitely balanced and long with apricot and marmalade fruit to the fore. A blend of 80% Semillon and 20% Sauvignon Blanc, it is also richly unctuous. NB, this is still a barrel sample as the de Fargues spends between 30-36 months in oak. One for the long haul.
91 Drink 2020-2035
Stokist: Bordeaux Gold, £116 per bottle