Bordeaux 2018 vintage – the character of the vintage

by Wine Owners

Posted on 2019-04-08


Given the climatic conditions of the Bordeaux 2018 vintage described in an earlier post here – what impact did this have on the wines produced?

Chateau Beychevelle - Wine Owners
The new chai in Beychevelle which was used for the first time in 2016 and which helped to manage the 2018 vintage.
©Fabian Cobb / Wine Owners

The generic statistics fail to reveal the arduous nature of the vintage for the vine growers and whilst the widespread difficulties left their imprint on the wines the essentially dry and hot summer which lasted through to the autumn brought a phenolic ripeness to the fruit and permitted the chateaux to harvest in conditions almost unseen for decades.

The three main issues in the Bordeaux 2018 vintage:

  • Devastating phenomena such as hail which continued late into the year

  • Mildew – a threat which persisted until early summer

  • Drought-like conditions in the summer and autumn

Hail, as large as tennis balls, arrived in Bordeaux in May. The devastation it wrought on some vineyards was total and some estates will produce no wine from this vintage. Others were luckier although it reduced their crop. Some vines, incredibly, although struck by hail, managed to repair themselves. For one estate this was only the third time in 30 years hail had struck the vineyards – not an easy phenomenon to manage.

Given the persistent rain the mildew was extensive in Bordeaux in 2018. The warm almost tropical weather in June followed by further outbreaks in July brought huge casualties across Bordeaux. This was a year of firsts. Managers had rarely if ever seen such extensive ground rot and one estate in Margaux lost two-thirds of their crop overnight. This reduced the remaining crop to one bunch per vine. A common way for estates to deal with the threat of mildew is to de-leaf the vine permitting air to circulate and dry out the plant. However, the canopy might be needed later (as it turned out) and if this effeuillage was too drastic the consequences would be felt later on. Maintaining a canopy might also help to maintain the freshness and fruit. As it turned out, the second half of the year needed to use the resources (water) of the first part. Without this water it would have been a very different vintage.

Once the anti-cyclone established itself over the region the grapes matured with a richness unseen before. This in itself meant additional care at harvest time. One estate manager commented that the change in conditions from the end of July to when people returned from their holidays in August was ‘spectacular’. Something he ‘had never witnessed in the 25 years or working on the estate’. Not only that but the meteorological forecast was ‘extraordinary’ – and was fulfilled.

Given the replenishment of the water table the remaining harvestable crop was of outstanding quality. Merlot berries were normal size because their growth cycle coincided more with the presence of water in the soil but the Cabernet Sauvignon were small and concentrated – but not ‘cooked’ nor ‘confit’.

Some estates might produce normal or near-normal yields but 20-30% less was common, 50% not uncommon, with some reduced to 10hl/ha - a volume not seen since the 60s.

Judging maturity is probably the most important factor to produce a good wine. Undoubtedly, given the richness of the grapes this was going to be another area of distinction for the various estates – when to harvest? Ironically, some estates decided to harvest early to preserve acidity (one source of freshness). But it’s not clear this was a functional objective. As one technical manager told us, ‘some estates near them were harvesting 10 days earlier than them, when normally they would be harvesting a week later. Clearly, a disparity in vision. When the harvest did come in, there were still summer conditions and, if they could, estates cooled the fruit down before it was processed. Realising the grapes were rich, extraction would need to be managed ‘almost by itself’. Reducing the temperature of fermentation was a more common technique along with less pigeage or remontage, for example, and other techniques often employed to extract more. This helped to preserve the fruit and freshness. Tannins dissolve more in higher alcohol solutions - extracting the polyphenols wasn’t going to be a problem in 2018. Some estates had the highest IPT (Indice de Polyphénols Totaux) of any year on record.

The successful red wines from the Bordeaux 2018 vintage (and there are a lot less of those than expected) are dense, deep coloured almost opaque in cases. The benchmark 2018 nose is red fruit driven with some chocolate and coffee aromas. The pallet is full and round, and the tannins have the potential to be silky. Surprisingly, the wines have maintained a degree of freshness. The wines are structured with unusual body. It is a good year for the dry whites which have preserved good acidity and are perfectly ripe. The sweet whites are concentrated and rich but lack the complexity of really good years due to the late arrival of botrytis – it was simply too dry.

Chateau Figeac - Wine Owners
A model of the new chais currently underway at Chateau Figeac
©Fabian Cobb / Wine Owners


Bordeaux 2018 vintage – ‘les cinqs’ (5 essential conditions for a good vintage)

by Wine Owners

Posted on 2019-04-08


To compare with the 2016 vintage in Bordeaux visit our post 2016 vintage conditions


Chateau Pichon Longueville Baron – 2eme cru classe
Chateau Pichon Longueville Baron – 2eme cru classe ©Fabian Cobb / Wine Owners


Looking over the weather stats for the Bordeaux 2018 vintage one is struck by several positive features and, unfortunately, a couple which are likely to cause some difficulties for winemakers. There are certain key weather conditions which the vine needs to perform well. Bearing in mind, always, that generic weather data does not focus on an individual terroir and the way it might cope with the weather nor does it reveal winemakers’ attitudes and decisions.

Bordeaux 2018 weather

Bearing in mind the chart above, there are 5 essential conditions for a good vintage:

  1. A calm, warm and relatively dry period in the Spring to permit healthy flowering and

  2. similar conditions for fruit set a little later;

  3. Gradual introduction of dry summer conditions to induce hydric stress no later than veraison (when the grapes change colour)

  4. Warm weather for even maturation with adequately dry (but not too dry) conditions in August and September, and

  5. Optimum harvest conditions in September and October without rain.

Looking at the chart above one can see that many of these conditions appear to have been met except that although cumulative precipitation was beneficial in the first few months, the wet conditions in June and July plus the warm weather encouraged the onset of aggressive mildiou which provided very difficult conditions for many and particularly estates managed on biodynamic principles. It was an unusually sunny and dry summer fulfilling the criteria for a good vintage although a hail storm in late May affected a few properties in the Medoc. The resulting long period of hot and dry conditions might be referred to as a ‘drought’ – it hardly rained at all for 4 months. The year which had started late for vine development reversed itself and it became an ‘early’ vintage – a rare enough occurrence in Bordeaux.


Fabian Cobb


Bordeaux 2018 – Wine Owners 'in a nutshell' review

by Wine Owners

Posted on 2019-04-05


Weather-wise the 2018 growing season was a game of two halves; the first half was excessively wet and was followed by a hot drought through to harvest.

As well as the drought, mildew pressure affected the left bank and Graves, in some cases wiping out 60-80% of the potential crop. The right bank fared better on this front as the clay soils had the upper hand on fighting the drought due to higher levels of water retention.

Merlot was always most likely to be affected by the vintage’s heat, with some properties seeing alcohols rise quickly through fermentation, topping out at 15-16 degrees. Because of this it is assumed that this is a left bank vintage. But merlot came in with the highest alcohols off warmer gravel beds of the left bank than it did on the predominantly cooler clay soils of the right bank.

2018 has produced a singular vintage and one of the most heterogeneous we have tasted en primeur. Estates that tamed the heat, sugar, pHs and tannins resulted in bold expressive wines with massive aging potential, the very best of which may well become legends. Concentration was the word most employed by scribes.

Maybe more than ever, it’s a year where terroir appears to have played a significant part in cutting the grade. However unfair this may seem, the best soils and expositions tended to deliver the best wines and the 1855 classification played out well. As such it’s a year in which Petrus, the First Growths and the best bit of the St. Emilion plateau (Canon, Cheval Blanc, Clos Fourtet) all excelled.


Wine Owners - Haut Bailly


As usual, there were plenty of superlatives being thrown around; Monsieur Tesseron of Pontet Canet claimed “this is clearly the best modern day vintage we have produced, better than ’16 which was better than ’10”. There is little doubt there will be some huge scores from the naturally ebullient.

There are also great disappointments and plenty to avoid. Margaux, Graves and St. Estephe were probably the most inconsistent appellations whilst the others all had their ups and downs.

It’s a hot vintage with big, bold and powerful wines: an absolute joy for some palates but maybe just too much for others. We look forward to the in-bottle tastings but in the meantime let us wait, with bated breath, for the prices!

Top picks by appellation followed by the ‘ones for the notebook’ wines:

St. Estephe: Cos d’Estournel, Montrose, Lafon Rochet

Pauillac: Grand Puy Lacoste, Lafite, Latour, Pedesclaux, Pichon Baron

St. Julien: Branaire Ducru, Gruaud Larose, Lagrange, Leoville Barton, Leoville Las Cases, Talbot

Margaux: Malescot St. Exupery, Margaux, Pavilion Rouge, Rauzan Segla

Graves: Carmes Haut Brion, Clarence de Haut Brion, Domaine de Chevalier, Haut Bailly

St. Emilion: Canon, Cheval Blanc, Clos Fourtet, Petit Cheval, Quinault L’Enclos, Villemaurine

Pomerol: Gazin, Rouget, Petrus, Vieux Chateau Certan

And ‘ones for the notebook’ (good value and/or under the radar): Chantegrive, Chateau de Pez, Croizet-Bages, La Dominique, Lagrange, Langoa Barton, Monbrison, Segla


Bordeaux Off the Bat

by Wine Owners

Posted on 2018-05-30


[Last week, the Wine Owners team tripped along to Lords, to taste a range of top 2017 Bordeaux wines en primeur. Below is a contribution from Artemis, the newest member of the team...]

What could be been better for a mid-May Thursday than a large tasting of Bordeaux Grand Crus at Lords Cricket Ground?!

The tasting included wines from over fifty chateaux, each bringing two vintages: 2017 and one other back vintage. Determined buyers and tasters were able to get around the whole room, while others focused on either the left bank or right bank, or maybe their favourite producers. Here are some great value attention-catchers.

Delicious Fruit

Some wines with very good fruit expression, and also notable for their value, were La Tour de Mons and Meyney. The tasting duos were 2014 & 2017 for La Tour de Mons and for 2015 & 2017 Meyney. These are an absolute recommendation especially if you have now started working on your cellar.

  • La Tour de Mons 2017: £164
  • Meyney 2017: £228
  • La Tour de Mons 2014:  £190
  • Meyney 2015: £295

On the same spectrum at a nearby stand were Lafon Rochet and Cos Labory with their tasting pairs. Both of these wines offer very good fruit and ageing potential, Lafon with a rounder mouthfeel and Labory with a spicier finish.

  • Lafon Rochet 2017: tbc
  • Cos Labory 2017: tbc
  • Lafon Rochet 2014:  £285
  • Cos Labory 2011: £240
Fresher Styles

In the photo here are Chateau Pibran on the tasting table, next to d’Aiguilhe. Both of these will please those who enjoy fresher Bordeaux expressions with texture and minerality. Pibran is handled in the same facilities as Pichon Baron, and can be a nice addition for a diverse wine portfolio.

  • Pibran 2017:    £280
  • d’Aiguilhe 2017: £180
  • Pibran 2014: £225
  • d’Aiguilhe 2014: £150


Similarly, d’Aiguilhe was tasted next to its big brother, Canon La Gaffeliere (Saint-Emilion Premier Grand Cru Classe B). This Cotes de Bordeaux wine retains freshness and is a very good introduction to the wines of the Von Neipperg vineyards.

White & Sweet Surprises

En Primeur tasting means racing tannins, so a break was required from the full-bodied reds, to explore sweet and dry whites. Dry, old-vine Semillon-dominated, 'S de Suduiraut' from the eponymous chateau offers concentrated flavours, along with substantial freshness and minerality. Luscious Clos Haut-Peyraguey 2014 & 2017 from Bernard Magrez was the perfect way to close the tasting, after a mouth watering duo of Pape Clement Blanc (2006 & 2017).

  • S de Suduiraut 2006:  £230
  • Clos Haut-Peyraguey  2017: £290
  • Clos Haut-Peyraguey 2014: £350



2017 Bordeaux – a collector’s perspective on the vintage

by Wine Owners

Posted on 2018-05-08


4 things to remember:

    1. An attractive vintage for second wines (if the prices come down and producers avoid ‘repositioning’)

    2. A truly great vintage for dry whites

    3. Finally, a broad-based success in St. Emilion!

    4. Best wines flow like a river…

2017 can’t be summarised at the commune level. There were notable successes everywhere. But those that were successful had a harmonious, infused, flowing texture to the wines.

The best are the antithesis of shouty wines, and if they were clotheshorses they definitely wouldn't wear shoulder pads. These are quieter, understated types that’ll turn around in a decade’s time, smile enigmatically and sotto voce say “I told you so’.

Economics to consider:

With few exceptions, this is not a red vintage where prices are likely to increase over the next 2 years. Several people have referred to 2007 as a modern day 1988. Prices of 1988 stagnated for several years after release. Not because it wasn’t an appreciated vintage at the time, but because it wasn’t a ‘great’ vintage, and got rather overshadowed by the ensuing duo of 1989 and 1990.

There are a few Chateaux which are increasingly sought after and will sell out, and those wines will probably be worth buying at first release. Subject to the all important caveat of price permitting.

For UK buyers, as at May 2018, sterling has sagged, and is close to historic lows against the Euro. In a year or two the picture could look very different depending on the nature of a EU settlement. The currency swing could be 20%. That is a major disincentive for UK buyers to buy 2017s during en primeur.

The same currency concern was of course present through the 2016 campaign, but the difference is that 2016 was evidently an extraordinary vintage from the get-go, and recent re-tastings confirm its potential greatness. The majority of brilliant vintages are expensive at first release, as was 2016.

Most good vintages that follow great ones, where prices don’t fall far enough from the heights of its precursor, suffer price stagnation for a long time: think 2006. In my view 2017 is not too dissimilar to 2006 in its vintage profile, certainly is not obviously better, and has a further parallel with 2006 in that it follows a great vintage (2016).

Target release prices

See our recent analysis of proto-prices – the level that we believe Chateaux will have to come down to in order for 2017 reds to find a market. On average we believe they will need to reduce release prices by -24%. Some wines would theoretically need to come down by as much as -40% whilst others may not need to reduce their release price at all (notably the dry whites).

We recommend you don’t get too fixated on that average figure of -24% but think in terms of a scale of 0% to -40%.

As an example, it’s worth remembering that Vieux Chateau Certan made a great wine in 2011 that vies for greatness with 2009 and 2010, yet a price reduction of -40% for the 2011 release wasn’t enough to stop it falling by another -25% before it recovered and started putting on gains versis its release price.

Admittedly the 2011 coincided with the Bordeaux market crash of 2012-2014, but even so, it’s a reminder of how even seemingly significant price reductions can still be insufficient reason to buy during en primeur.


©Jonathan Reeve / Wine Owners

1. A vintage for second wines

Look at the quality of the second wines this vintage. Chateaux have been upping the ante over the last few years and there are some profoundly satisfying results.

The thing that stood out in respect of these second wines is the refinement of their tannins; something you used to see only in the Grand Vin. It means that many second wines are now worthy competitors to many classified growths.

All of the following merit scores of around 92-93.

Petit Mouton

Red fruited nose, great intensity and aromatics, super lift and energy and a long, vinous finish.

Le Marquis de Calon Ségur

Fresh, and with a tension that leads to a very fruity core of sweet raspberry coulis. There’s a notable purity to the mid palate, medium weight and a charming savoury finish.

Dame de Montrose

Saline nose, touch of cedar, then sweet pastille fruit, an elegant attack, red fruits and ultrafine tannins. A lifted, fresh, well defined finish that ends with a dab of clove oil.

Pavillon Rouge

Liqueur-like nose, great energy in the attack, with a suave mid palate. Superbly classic, dry character and a fine-grained textured feel to the tannins.

Petit Cheval

Pure nose of red fruits and kirsch, perfumed. Silky feel, cloves on the attack, mid weight, sweet mid palate, fine tannins, evidently structured towards the back of the palate, fresh with a touch of game-bird. Very structured finish: old school and impressive, with a tremendous mouth-watering finale.

Clarence de Haut Brion

Deep nose, saline with liquorice and cedar. Real complexity. Bright attack, creamy red and black fruits, and with drive to a medium long finish.


©Jonathan Reeve / Wine Owners


2. A great vintage for dry whites

With greater focus and freshness than 2015, and much greater intensity and drive than 2016; 2017 is one of the most exciting white wine vintages for years.

Bordeaux white may not have the caché of Burgundy, but occasionally a vintage comes along that is an inimitable and compelling expression of Sauvignon Blanc and Semillon.

That perfect expression should show great minerality (or stoniness), floral aromatics (choisya, elderflower, white jasmine) have bright intense citrus character, and may have background hints of soft fruits in the spectrum of peach, passion fruit and guava.

Great Bordeaux whites need to show purity, vibrancy, and length. The tropical fruited expression should be subtle, nuanced; a suggestion rather than an emphatic flavour.

Whilst Bordeaux whites don’t have a secondary market like the reds do, the quantities produced are relatively confidentielles so may not be easy to obtain in the future, or the blue chip examples may appreciate in value within the couple of years or so after the wines are bottled.

Superb whites (at a variety of price points) were made in the vintage at the following properties:

Haut Brion Blanc

Cool nose of stone fruits, pomelos, a dollop of cream. Burgundian in weight with a sense of scale/ broad dimensions. Huge freshness too. Pithy, firm, lemons and blood oranges with simply huge minerality. This wine represents the great heights white Bordeaux can sometimes achieve.

98+

Pavillon Blanc

Saline, creamy nose. Superb breadth and pithiness, spice and a salty, mineral finish that goes on and on.

95

Les Hauts de Smith Haut Lafitte Blanc

100% Sauvignon. In a word, terrific value! Refined nose, a little bit mute - but fair enough at this stage of its evolution. Energetic attack, great freshness and confit lemon mid palate accompanied by high notes of grapefruit.

92

Smith Haut Lafitte Blanc

An expressive nose in contrast, great intensity evident, then grapefruit and pomelos, and a fine line in mouth watering acidity. Bright powerful citrus character. Precise, pithy and long. Weight and intensity on the finish with background notes of guava.

96

Pape Clément Blanc

Grapefruit and pronounced kaffir leaf nose, intense and limey. Gorgeous attack of pomelos, sherbet, pith, candied lemons. Mandarine infuses the mid palate. Superb.

96

Malartic Lagraviere Blanc

Orange blossom nose, wild heather, with a mineral and herby attack (lemon thyme?). Just a hint of underlying sweetness. Harmonious. Confit lemon on the finish.

95

La Louviere Blanc (Good value)

Pithy nose, Seville orange and pomelos. Very good balance and purity on the mid palate, with good restraint, length and an attractive focused finish.

92

Chevalier Blanc

A floral nose; very interesting and a bit different to most other aromas in this vintage. Gorgeous attack of sherbet, mid palate dominated by grapefruit pith, accompanied by super acidity and attractive length.

94

La Tour Martillac Blanc

Grapefruit and kaffir leaves on the nose with a bright really intense attack. Fine mid palate, quite big scaled, but with tons of acidity to back it up. I’d nevertheless have liked a touch more restraint to focus the finish that ends broad. Maybe it just needs to settle down.

91+

Carbonnieux Blanc

Pithy nose, followed by a sherbetty attack. A little less pure in the mid palate than anticipated by the sparkling intro, although the finish is fine and nicely lifted, creating a pleasing finale.

90

 
©Nick Martin / Wine Owners


3. Broad-based success in St Emilion!

Not for some years have there been so few high alcohol monsters produced in St Emilion, and correspondingly so many balanced, attractive wines. St Emilion was a minor revelation.

L’If

Vinous, fruity nose. Dark fruit in the spectrum of mulberries on the attack. Grainy mid palate, fine tannins, crunchy fruit, a dab of clove oil, liquorice, all delivered with persistent, notable freshness.

93

Angelus

Refined nose, very progressive fruit. Really fine tannins underlie a silky texture. And it's drier than usual, not as sweet or as obviously powerful as before, yet still is large-scaled in the best sense of the term – and is all the better (and classier) for it. The first Angelus I have absolutely adored in a very long time.

96

Canon La Gaffeliere

Expressive kirsch nose, touch of pepper, crystalline fresh attack, creamy red fruits, some plushness in the mid-palate, yet without excess sweetness. Nice progression and finish, with good sucrosité throughout.

92+

Soutard (Good value)

Liqueur and peppered nose, svelte texture. Very attractive griottes on the mid palate, super spiced, clove oil. Sappy, mouthwatering, extremely moreish and fresh. Will be great value mid-term drinking and with the zip to peak in 12-15 years.

90% Merlot with the remaining 10% a mix of Cab Franc, Cab Sauv and Malbec. Yes, Malbec!

93+

Troplong Mondot

Richly perfumed nose, in the aromatic wood spectrum. Very ecclesiastical. Quite big attack with a liqueur-textured quality, cloves coating the mid palate and a bright controlled finish. Fine and exciting to taste.

96

Canon

Sweet fruited nose. Super attack. Great balance, poised, fine grained tannins, and sappy, moreish fruit. Fruit pastille but not in the slightest bit overt, and a silky smooth delivery. It’s almost lush, almost sweet, yet in fact it’s quite firm, with liquorice notes and light spice. Good length. Will be very popular.

95+

Berliquet (good value)

Fruity nose with a touch of pepper. Powerful attack and a subtle mid palate. Flowing fruit and lots of energy with just a hint of firmness towards the back palate, but no dryness. Savoury and liquorice notes are introduced in the finish.

91+

Figeac

Raspberries on the expressive nose, with cedar notes. Liqueur-like texture, and an orange and raspberry infused attack. A vein of dry graphite runs through the fresh, racy, rich mid palate of pastille fruit, ahead of a firm finish. Once again rather lovely, if not delivering the sheer excitement of 2016, or the exuberance of 2015.

95+

©Nick Martin / Wine Owners


4. Harmony and substance.

The nature of the 2017 red vintage is one that wants to express itself without excess: in respect of weight, tannic structure and alcohol.

There is a classically dry character to the red wines. All of which speaks to the Atlantic, maritime pattern of the summer weather, and is also perhaps partly due to the very welcome trend back towards gentler extractions across Bordeaux.

2017 can’t be summarised at the commune level. There were notable successes everywhere. But those that were most successful had a harmonious, infused fruitiness, flowing texture to the wines.

The best are the antithesis of shouty wines, and if they were clotheshorses they wouldn't be seen dead in shoulder pads. These are quieter, understated types that’ll turn around in a decade’s time, smile enigmatically and sotto voce say “I told you so’.

Those that hit the mark included the following, with personal favourites scored excluding any of the wines aforementioned:

Calon-Ségur

97

Montrose

95

Ormes de Pez

91

Cos Labory

90+

Lafite

97

Mouton

97+

Cos d’Estournel

94

Latour

98

Pontet Canet

93

Lynch Bages

93

Grand Puy Lacoste

93

Haut Bages Liberal

93 (Good value)

Pedesclaux

93

Leoville Barton

95

Gruaud Larose

93

Branaire

92

Lagrange

93+

Talbot

92+

Margaux

96

Palmer

96

Rauzan Ségla

93

Cantenac Brown

92

Vieux Chateaux Certan

98

Le Pin

96+

Croix de Gay

93

Rouget

94

Gazin

94

Mission Haut Brion

96

Carmes Haut Brion

94+

Chevalier

93+

Smith Haut Lafitte

94+

Malartic Lagraviere

93

Olivier

93 (Good value)



Bordeaux 2017: Jacques Thienpont - Chateau Le Pin

by Wine Owners

Posted on 2018-05-04



Bordeaux 2017: Thibault Pontallier - Chateau Margaux

by Wine Owners

Posted on 2018-05-04



Bordeaux 2017 - Wine Owners' Proto-prices

by Wine Owners

Posted on 2018-04-19


Wine Owners created proto-prices (first published in this JancisRobinson.com article) to help consumers identify value among en primeur offers. The prices support consumers when buying en primeur, by providing a consistent baseline from which to make purchasing decisions. Confidence in en primeur has been damaged in recent years, by over-inflated release prices and by fraudsters posing as brokers (always check the data, and always check the broker!), so we saw a clear need for a remedy. Each proto-price is the price at which Wine Owners believes a wine should be released in order to make its en primeur offer attractive and worthwhile for the consumer. 


Wine Owners Bordeaux 2017 en primeur;
©Jonathan Reeve / Wine Owners


Symbiotic EP

En Primeur must be symbiotic to continue thriving; it must benefit both chateau and consumer. Chateau benefits from smoother cash-flow and up-front guaranteed sales. Consumer benefits from a better price – significantly lower than buying two years later at general release. The symbiosis has lost balance slightly in recent years, with release prices rising apparently out of control. We created our proto-prices to help restore some of that balance, by creating informed consumers and collectors. We can't (and shouldn't try to) control the chateaux; they must release their new wine at the price they think best reflects the market, and their position within the market. What we can do, though, is give consumers the data they need to make informed purchasing decisions.


Not If But Which

Proto-prices address each wine individually. The decision is not if to buy wines en primeur, but which ones. If wine X doesn't look like good value, move to wine Y (no, that isn't an encoded hint to buy premier grand cru Sauternes!). And if none of your favourite wines look like good value this year, see below...


Back Vintages to the Future

Proto-prices support en primeur purchasing, and will hopefully help the tradition continue (on a stable path which benefits everyone involved). But if the new vintage of your preferred wine doesn't offer good value this year, adjust your gaze slightly. Caught up in the excitement of buying the new vintage en primeur, many of us forget to check availability and price of back-vintages. The Wine Owners Exchange is brimming with back-vintages you can buy instead. And hopefully, next year, you'll find the 2018 vintage at a more attractive en primeur price (the likelihood of which will significantly increase if enough consumers follow the buying advice in this article).

Proto-prices are based on a combination of solid wine market data and fine-grained knowledge. Last week in Bordeaux, one half of our team tasted tirelessly (well, almost tirelessly) through hundreds of 2017 Bordeaux wines, while at London HQ the other half was busy crunching market data. The combined result of these two efforts is the below table of 2017 proto-prices, featuring the seventy(ish) Bordeaux wines most commonly bought en primeur.

Happy en primeur purchasing, and...let the games begin!


WINE NAME

2017 PROTO-PRICE 2016 EP (IB) btl % CHANGE 17 Vs. 16 V-AVG * Actual release price
Alter Ego de Palmer£46.6£46.600%£53.00£48.75
Angelus£232.05£298.00-22%£238.00 £280
Ausone £423.5 £590.83 -28% £385.00
Beausejour Becot £39.1 £52.00 -25% £34.00 £42
Beausejour Duffau-Lagarrosse £55.58 £85.50 -35% £57.00 £77
Belair-Monange £71.4 £115.83 -38% £51.00 £93
Beychevelle £56.3 £56.30 0% £68.00 £52
Calon-Segur £71.5 £78.30 -9% £65.00 £61.50
Canon £65 £90.80 -28% £50.00 £67.50
Canon La Gaffeliere £44.85 £64.17 -30% £46.00 £54
Cheval Blanc £344.3 £533.30 -35% £313.00
Clerc Milon £49.16 £49.16 0% £52.00 £52
Clinet Pomerol £49.73 £72.00 -31% £51.00 £57.50
Clos Fourtet £60.5 £91.67 -34% £55.00 £73
Conseillante £96 £155.00 -38% £80.00 £123
Cos d'Estournel £79 £110.00 -28% £79.00 £109
de Valandraud £87.75 £129.15 -32% £90.00 £100
Domaine de Chevalier £36.08 £53.50 -33% £37.00 £43
Ducru-Beaucaillou £92 £140.00 -34% £92.00 £124
Duhart-Milon £47.78 £53.30 -10% £49.00 £47
Durfort Vivens £34.65 £40.33 -14% £33.00 £38
Figeac Saint Emilion £113.4 £155.00 -27% £81.00 £123
Gazin £44.85 £60.50 -26% £46.00 £58.75
Grand Puy Lacoste £40 £60.83 -34% £40.00 £54
Gruaud Larose £40.95 £51.67 -21% £42.00 £52
Haut Bailly £52 £87.50 -41% £52.00 £74
Haut-Brion £310.2 £400.00 -22% £282.00 £355
Haut-Brion Blanc £583.33 £583.33 0% £557.00 £615
La Chapelle de La Mission Haut Brion £48.4 £63.33 -24% £44.00
La Fleur Petrus £129.68 £165.83 -22% £133.00 £149
La Mission Haut-Brion £184.6 £324.16 -43% £142.00 £245
La Mission Haut-Brion Blanc £451.43 £466.67 -3% £463.00 £490
La Mondotte £126.75 £199.00 -36% £130.00 £119
Lafite Rothschild £398.72 £491.66 -19% £498.40
Lafleur £348.075 £430.00 -19% £357.00 £445
Lagrange £29.25 £35.00 -16% £30.00 £31
L'Aile d'Argent Blanc £54.17 £54.17 0% £53.00 £56
Lascombes £47.78 £56.67 -16% £49.00 £52
Le Petit Mouton Rothschild £133.3 £133.30 0% £171.00 £149
Le Pin £1574.63 £2,083.00 -24% £1,615.00
L'Eglise-Clinet £115.5 £216.67 -47% £105.00
Leoville Barton £48.75 £62.50 -22% £50.00 £54
Leoville Las Cases £113.3 £175.00 -35% £103.00 £148
Leoville Poyferre £49.73 £67.00 -26% £51.00 £55
Les Carruades de Lafite £125 £125.00 0% £215.00 £135
l'Evangile £82.88 £131.67 -37% £85.00 £180
L'If £147.23 £175.00 -16% £151.00
Lynch Bages £74.1 £95.80 -23% £76.00 £74
Malartic-Lagraviere £33.6 £40.00 -16% £28.00 £33.30
Malartic-Lagraviere Blanc £41 £41.00 0% £32.00 £42
Margaux £351.9 £428.60 -18% £306.00 £360
Monbousquet £33.15 £36.67 -10% £34.00 £38
Montrose £72.6 £95.00 -24% £66.00 £98
Mouton Rothschild £334.43 £411.60 -19% £343.00 £360
Palmer Margaux £171.6 £236.60 -27% £156.00 £195.75
Pape Clement £88.73 £129.16 -31% £91.00 £63.30
Pape Clement Blanc £98.33 £98.33 0% £68.00 £100.45
Pavie Macquin £39.98 £58.33 -31% £41.00 £52
Pavie Saint Emilion £194.03 £298.00 -35% £199.00 £280
Pavillon Blanc £145.83 £145.83 0% £150.00 £147
Pavillon Rouge £133.58 £115.00 16% £137.00 £135
Petrus £1642.88 £2,666.00 -38% £1,685.00
Pichon Baron £79.2 £115.60 -31% £72.00 £98
Pichon Longueville Comtesse de Lalande £84.7 £122.50 -31% £77.00 £93
Pontet Canet £68.4 £111.67 -39% £57.00 £82
Quintus £58.5 £95.80 -39% £60.00 £93
Rauzan Segla £46.8 £61.30 -24% £48.00 £54
Smith Haut Lafitte £50 £78.00 -36% £50.00 £69
Smith Haut Lafitte Blanc £73 £73.00 0% £57.00 £83
Troplong Mondot £66 £100.00 -34% £55.00 £72
Trotanoy £119.93 £193.33 -38% £123.00
Vieux Chateau Certan £128.75 £196.67 -35% £103.00
AVERAGE REDUCTION FOR A SUCCESSFUL CAMPAIGN -23%


* V-AVG: avg current mkt value 04,06,08,12,14



En Primeur - DAY FOUR: A Pine for Sore Eyes

by Wine Owners

Posted on 2018-04-13


Slightly weary after several busy days of tasting and driving, we were very happy to start today with a blissful treat; Jacques Thienpont hosting us to taste his 2017 Le Pin. Well-tailored and welcoming, Jacques greeted us with his son Georges, and took time to explain a little of the history behind the two wines we were about to taste: L'If and Le Pin. Both wines were stunning, and L'If - one of the newer additions to the Thienpont collection - shows a clear family resemblance to its legendary big brother. (It's upwards price trajectory does, too). What stood out most in both wines (beyond elegant fruit aromas and a cool-silk mouthfeel) were the feather light, super-ripe tannins. When we asked Jacques how he achieved these, he modestly gave all credit to the vineyard, saying “Fiona (Jacques' wife Fiona Morrison MW) can't believe how little I do to the wine”. Whatever the case, we have seen tannins like these at only one other winery (Cheval Blanc) in all of our tastings this week. ‘Extremely svelte, no hint of excess', say Nick's 2017 Le Pin tasting notes.


©Jonathan Reeve / Wine Owners

The Right Wine for the Job

The Le Pin tasting highlighted a really basic wine investment tip - one which may easily be overlooked. In the excitement of buying a super-expensive wine like this, an investor may well neglect to factor how many years the wine will actually last. Expensive wine is not necessarily long-lived wine. The world's most expensive wines cost so much because they're excellent and sought-after, not because they take forever to mature. Jacques estimates that the Le Pin 2017 is a wine to drink within ten to fifteen years. That's great if you can get hold of it en primeur and turn it around within a few years, but that really isn't particularly long in investment terms. At the opposite end of the spectrum are two wines of similar stature: Chateau Haut-Brion and Chateau Latour. These two are completely different in style - both from Le Pin and from one another. They are chalk and cheese stylistically, but they are clearly similar in how long-lived they are. The longer the maturation period, the more time there is for speculation and anticipation, and the more time you have to find that well-heeled and motivated buyer.


©Jonathan Reeve / Wine Owners


En Primeur Alive and Kicking

From up-close here in Bordeaux, En Primeur as a buying mechanism (with all its associated practices and processes) seems alive and well. The tasting rooms here are packed and buzzing, all the traditional conversations are happening (again), and tannin-battered tongues are wagging as always. Hopefully this energy will be complemented by sensible release prices in a few weeks' time, and by a decent level of commitment from consumers. And investors...

Watch this space in coming weeks for our thoughts on hot buys, once the producers begin to announce their prices.


En Primeur - DAY THREE: Saint-Julien Delivers

by Wine Owners

Posted on 2018-04-12


A late return tonight (past midnight) and a long day, waking at 05:00. But there's still gas left in the tank, so to speak. Over the course of the day we gathered thoughts in advance for the below.


Saint-Julien Delivers

JR has been looking for patterns all week - some form of shape around which to build recommendations for wise en primeur purchases. Until this afternoon we failed to find anything solid, but then...Saint-Julien delivered. At the UGC (Union des Grands Crus) Saint-Julien tasting hosted by Chateau Beychevelle at its modern-looking new winery, we noticed a clear consistency in the wines; there wasn't a dud among them. Well, maybe there was one, but we don't need to talk about that as it wasn't really that bad. Either way, this was the first appellation we'd seen where quality was reliably high in these en primeur tastings. Everywhere else had required dedicated tasting to work out what was hot and what was not. So thank you Saint-Julien, and bravo!


Bright Whites

Of course, as soon as this pattern had been spotted, we remembered another that we wanted to talk about yesterday(but ran out of time). It's the incredible purity to the whites this year, all around Bordeaux - not just in Graves where we were today (starting with Haut-Brion, Pape Clement and Smith Haut-Lafitte) but everywhere. Lovely balanced wines great concentration and acidity, and pithy, chalky tannins. Our tasting notes are full of descriptors like kaffir lime leaves, sweet sage, gooseberry, sherbet and candied lemon. Even lemon verbena made it in there. 2017 looks like a really great year for Bordeaux whites.


©Nick Martin / Wine Owners

The Cold Shoulder

Frost - the running theme of conversations all around Bordeaux this week - was as much as issue in Graves as it was in the right bank. The frost pattern here in the Graves seems to have been much more black and white than over in Saint-Emilion and Pomerol. For some producers, there is a glittering silver lining to this rather painful situation, in that they adapted to it by significantly changing their blend and have come out smiling. Larrivet Haut-Brion is a gleaming example of this; the team there turned their blend around to use three times the usual amount of Cabernet Franc, and one third the amount of Merlot (which got severely hit by the frost). Les Carmes de Haut Brion is a similar story, and a similar success.

We have been focusing a lot on the frost topic (both here in the blog, and in our conversations with producers), but in fact a key point we'd like to make is that the frost is not something that consumers and investors should really focus on. What really matters, ultimately, is what each of the producers has managed to create. There are no strong patterns that consumers can reliably follow with regard to the frost.


Softly Softly Catchy Monkey

After a morning on the right bank, we returned to the Medoc, to the UGC tasting at Lafon Rochet. There, Basil Tesseron told us that 2017 was a vintage where it was extremely important not to over-extract, not being a super-ripe or sunny vintage. Over-extraction would just lead to mean, green bitter compounds leaching into the wine. This echoed a sentiment raised earlier in the day at Smith Haut-Lafitte, where the team did 4 pigeages per day, but no pumperovers, in order to keep the winemaking relatively gentle. 2017 was a year to be patient for picking and gentle in the winery.

©Jonathan Reeve / Wine Owners

Less (Wine) Does Not Necessarily Mean More (Money)

Despite indications given by some chateaux that smaller harvests will mean higher release prices, we see no justification for this. Traditionally, in vintages which are not 'stellar' -particularly those which followed relatively good vintages (as 2016 was) vintages, prices have tended to drop or remain roughly stable. Even in 2006 prices didn't significantly rise; they stayed roughly the same as 2005 even though the vintage clearly wasn't quite as impressive.

Tomorrow is a final look at the top producers we've not yet visited, all around the region. Lots of driving, between Le Pin, Angelus, La Conseillante, Eglise-Clinet and then back over the river to Latour, Leoville Barton and Palmer. Here's hoping for good driving conditions!



48 records

Blog Search


Get a fully inclusive Robert Parker subscription

Robert Parker’s insights are an essential information resource if you have an interest in wine. We are thrilled to share that content with our Premium members, and offer the most complete experience for the collector and wine lover.

Normally $99/y, it is available free as part of the Wine Owners’ premium plans.

LEARN MORE

Subscribe to The Collector

Get market insight delivered directly to your mailbox by subscribing to our newsletter. Please complete the form below to request our free email newsletter.


Processing label...

Sorry, we could not process your request.

Try again Enter manually


Take Snapshot Cancel Cannot see an image?
If you cannot see an image coming up, please check your security settings of your browser. Blocking of the webcam can also be indicated by a red icon in your address bar.
Processing upload...
busy