2023 Bordeaux latest news

Tue 28 May

From today until Thursday, Vinexpo Asia is taking place in Hong Kong. Many chateau owners or representatives will be showing their wares there, so we expect a quiet week with few releases. Truly, we live in a globalised world.

However, today we have Uncorked favourite Grand Mayne, from St-Emilion. Jean-Antoine Nony has been full-time director here since 2012, and his long-term vision is bearing fruit. One of his very first decisions was to begin a slow replanting programme, with the ultimate goal of bringing the proportion of Cabernet Franc in the vineyards back up to the 35% it was in 1934, when his grandfather acquired the property; he judges that Cabernet Franc is well-suited to an era of average rising temperatures. 2023 was a real success here. Jean-Antoine admits he doesn’t really understand why there was very little mildew pressure in his own vineyard, when his neighbours were being badly hit, but he doesn’t want to look a gift horse in the mouth. His best guess is the influence of the grasses and cereals he has been planting between the vine rows. ‘Who would have thought all this organic stuff works?’ he jokes. The vineyards of Grand Mayne form a single block around the chateau, across two terroirs. The hillside section is on clay and limestone, and the vines at the base of the slope are on sandy clay. The 2023 Grand Mayne is a seductive success: fresh and elegant, a little lush, and very refined. The plummy start leads through an energetic mid-palate, and finally to a long and appealing mineral finish. It is a 75/25 Merlot/Cabernet Franc blend.

Also on the right bank today, we have excellent value Pomerol La Pointe.

Fri 24 May

Laroque is always excellent value, and at £120/6, the high-scoring 2023 could be the best buy in St-Emilion. The vineyards here are mostly spread across the limestone plateau, half on sections of pure Astéries limestone (as at Canon) and half on red clay over limestone (as at Troplong-Mondot). The intensive investments of the last decade have done great things at this property, and David Suire has fashioned a superb 2023, with juicy, vibrant fruit and a serious mineral crunch underneath. 

Thu 23 May

'We weren't so popular in the Parker era because everyone wanted big wines. We never changed the way we made wine, but now fashion has returned to us.' When you visit smart St-Émilion property La Gaffelière, you can barely see the vines for the profusion of flowers and grasses between the rows. Cover crops help prevent soil erosion, and bring biodiversity to the vineyard. The vines are in three spots: on the limestone plateau next to Ausone, over the cusp of the slope on limestone-embedded clay, and at the bottom of the slop where the black sandy soils need careful management, but also bring very fine aromatics. A long-term programme of vineyard replanting has seen the percentage of Cabernet Franc return to where it was in the first half of the 20th century. 2023 La Gaffelière evokes blackberry and rose petals. It is a powerful but very well-contained wine, less opulent that the sweeter-styled 2022, but fresh and well-balanced. It finishes with that moreish, mineral sense of sapidity we found characteristic in those 2023 St-Émilions made from fruit grown on limestone. It is released today at £270/6. Not only is that a 21% reduction on its 2022 release price, it also feels like a genuine Bordeaux bargain for a wine of this quality.

Also this morning, we have much-loved Pauillac Grand-Puy-Lacoste. Emmeline Borie struggles to think of another vintage like 2023: ‘When the fruit came into the winery we couldn’t believe it, the Cabernet and the Merlot felt like they were products of a different growing season. The Cabernet was cool and fresh and strict and muscular, the Merlot was opulent and generous. But the blending was very easy. They came together like they were made for each other’. The result is a very classic GPL, dark and powerful, intense, elegant, with a driven, energetic finish. It is released at £273/6, a 24% drop on last year’s price.

Also today, back in St-Julien we have Lagrange and in Margaux, Cantenac-Brown.

Wed 22 May

Sara Lecompte-Cuvelier has been making a name for herself with a succession of brilliant performances at Leoville Poyferre. Her 2023 is a beguilingly aromatic Poyferre, tense and supple. It opens with dark fruit, charcoal and a breath of sea air, and has that signature explosion of Asian spice on the finish. It is also released at a very appealing 34% discount on the 2022 vintage. 'This', writes Neal Martin, 'is a contender for the best Saint-Julien in show.'

Lusciously silky, but also with a real tense, coiled energy, Brane-Cantenac is one of our absolute favourite picks in left-bank Bordeaux. There is vivid, dense, dark fruit with very floral topnotes, a snap of energy in the mouth, and a crunchy, mineral finish that persists powerfully. The perfume, the balance and the sheer elegance are compelling. The Plateau de Brane forms the heart of Brane-Cantenac; these 12-meter-deep gravel soils are one of the best terroirs in Margaux. The best vines here, and the backbone of the wine, are the 60+ year-old Cabernet Sauvignon vines planted after the great frost of 1956. Proprietor Henri Lurton has made 30 vintages here. Over that time he has conducted extensive soil studies (to ensure that grape variety and rootstock are well matched to soil types) and begun to transition the vineyard to organics. Under his stewardship, Brane has also become known for the excellence of its work with oak, with the origins and toast levels of barrels constantly being monitored and reviewed.   

Tue 21 May

Olivier Bernard’s Domaine de Chevalier is a real success story this vintage. The rouge is vibrant and finely textured, opening on cassis, cherry and rose petal notes, leading to a fine gravelly note that seems to sum up the character of the appellation. The blanc is extremely composed, a high-wire balance of blossom and fleshy lemon fruit. It opens with a burst of citrus, shows some waxy weight on the mid-palate, before closing on a long and lingering finish. Monsieur Bernard could not contain his pride when he showed these to us.

Also this morning, popular as the 'dragon boat' wine in China, Beychevelle, and the perennial Haut-Medoc value Beaumont.

Dense and fresh, pure and penetrating, Gonzague Lurton has made another excellent Durfort-Vivens; it finishes on a savoury note that very much reminded of the limestone-driven saline finishes we tasted in many St-Emilion wines this year. It always has a high proportion of Cabernet Sauvignon, but this year, at 92% Cabernet, the proportion is as high as ever. A visit to Durfort is always striking for the view of 'terracotta warriors' in the cellar, and the wine is now raised in 30% amphorae as against 70% new oak. The amphorae bring a line of pure, focused fruit character to the wine. We also have Haut-Bages Liberal. The quality of the 2022 really caught our eye last year, and we were keen to see if proprietor Claire Villars-Lurton could repeat the trick. It's another Cabernet-heavy wine (86% Cabernet Sauvignon) which opens on cassis and roses, and finishes on cinnamon and dark chocolate. There is a long, serious finish. The vineyard is fully biodynamic here, and Claire is also experimenting with zero added sulphite wines, a relative novelty in Bordeaux. 

Mon 20 May

It's a bank holiday in France today. Whit Monday. No releases expected. Stand down.

Fri 17 May

From Margaux this morning, we have du Tertre, which has been getting 'a lot of love and investment' (Jane Anson) in recent vintages.  And from St-Julien, an impressive, layered Saint-Pierre. Both of these are interesting mid-tier choices.

Thu 16 May

It's lean and muscular, long and powerful: it's Cos d'Estournel, released this morning 35% down on its 2022 price. It is a phenomenal St-Estephe, or as William Kelley has it, 'a contemporary classic in the making.' Cos Blanc is a fabulous white in a vintage in which many whites have triumphed: it is all peach, crushed rock and salinity, with a very tensile structure.

Also this morning, from Pessac we have Pape-Clement. And from Margaux, we have d'Issan, which to my great regret I missed tasting.

Wed 15 May

Another busy day on the Bordeaux front kicks off with the Vauthier family properties: Ausone, Moulin-St-Georges, La Clotte and Fonbel.

There is no doubt in my mind that (however good Leoville-Barton and Las Cases were) that the finest wine we tasted from St-Julien this year was Ducru-Beaucaillou. It is released today at a 34% reduction on its 2022 release price. This is a beautifully balanced, beautifully structured wine, fine but powerful. I was astonished by the length of the finish, which ambushed me in the car park outside the property.

Tue 14 May

Haut-Brion and La Mission Haut-Brion have run on parallel tracks ever since they were first laid out in the 16th century. While Haut-Brion has always been in private hands, La Mission was for a long time owned by the church, and housed a mission of Lazarite Friars - hence the name La Mission. It wasn't until 1983 that both properties finally united in the hands of the Dillon family. The 2023 vintages of each are released this morning. La Mission is released 30% below its 2022 price, and Haut-Brion is released 39% below its 2022 price.

The terroir at these two properties is pretty similar; La Mission has a little more sand and limestone, and its vineyards are framed by two streams which provide a little extra moisture in hot, dry years. In the words of Jane Anson, Haut-Brion is 'often the benchmark for what can be achieved in any given vintage of Bordeaux'. The historical pedigree at Haut-Brion is astonishing: it was the wine served to King Charles II on his Restoration to the English throne, and the first wine to have a published tasting note (in Samuel Pepys' diary). Part of the secret to its complexity is the array of fine terroir it sits on, which moves from limestone to sandy gravels via large gravels to deep clays, and on, through sixteen different soil types. My first impression on tasting 2023 Haut-Brion was of a floral sea of salty purple fruit. There are impressions of smoke, and freshly tilled earth, leading to a stony, monumental finish. 2023 La Mission majors on black fruit, with graphite and seafood, and possesses a beautifully refined tannic structure.

The Pessac terroir favours white wines as much as red, and in 2023 in particular, whites excelled here. Haut-Brion Blanc and La Mission Haut-Brion Blanc are two of the world's great white wines. Both enjoy immense energy, balancing richness and acidity on their to way to a powerful crescendo.

We also have super-second Lynch-Bages, released at a substantial 34% discount on its release price. It is opaque and dense, structured, with a tense energy lifted by a vein of freshness. Lynch has always enjoyed very fine terroir; over recent vintages, the Cazes family have been treating that terroir with a new respect. The formidably detailed investigation and mapping of the estate have given them a new understanding of it; 2020 saw the inauguration of a huge new cellar, with 80 gravity-fed tanks enabling a more precise, parcel-by-parcel approach to vinification. Recent vintages have reaped the benefit, and the 2023 is outstanding.

And from St-Julien we have a lovely, well-balanced Gloria full of aromatic complexity.

Mon 13 May

For precision engineering in a glass, few wines anywhere can rival Cheval Blanc. Every aspect of viticulture, terroir and winemaking is expensively, intensively pored over here. Cheval Blanc sits at the limit of the St-Emilion appellation, bordering Pomerol and Petrus, with a third of its vines on the same streak of Petrus blue clay. Sections of the vineyard also lie on gravel and sand, with total plantings at 60:40 Cabernet Franc to Merlot. Plantings follow Pomerol rules more than those of St-Émilion, with Merlot often on the more gravelly soils, and Cabernet Franc on well-drained clay. Pierre-Olivier Clouet (formerly Technical Director, now MD) told us how pleased he is with the balance and harmony he finds in 2023 Cheval Blanc. ‘Everything performed as it should. Also, the young vines excelled. Everyone talks about old vines, and we have great old vines here. But it’s like people. You can have a profound conversation with old people. But it’s always more lively when young people join in.’ Uncorked is very much on board with William Kelley’s assessment that Cheval Blanc is ‘one of the most profound wines of the vintage.’ It is released at a 19% discount on the 2022 vintage.

St-Julien stablemates Léoville and Langoa Barton have been in the hands of the same family longer than any other Bordeaux classed growth (the Bartons bought both in the 1820s), but Léoville and Langoa Barton enjoy very distinct identities. The Léoville Barton vineyards lie in the north of St-Julien, between the chateau and the river, and the style tends to be old-school St-Julien, powerful and elegant. The Langoa Barton vineyards lie in the south of the appellation, on cooler, gravel-rich soils, often facing north. This cooler terroir tends to lend the wine a more restrained, red-fruit profile – and it works very well in hot years, such as 2023. Both Léoville and Langoa also enjoy a spanking new, shared winemaking facility. Where previously there was a one-size-fit-all approach (the one size being 200 hectolitre vats), there is now a diverse range of vat sizes (80, 120, 150 and 200hl). That permits a plot-by-plot approach to winemaking, which in turn translates to more precision in the final wine. That really shows through in both wines: 2023, Langoa is both deep and energetic, with the plum-and-cherry approach followed by a moreish salty minerality; Léoville is a monumental and structured, one of the clear stars of its commune.

Mauvesin Barton is a much newer Barton project – though the chateau itself goes all the way back to the 15th century. The Bartons acquired Moulis chateau Mauvesin in 2011, and appended their family name as a sign of their commitment to quality. The mixed clay-limestone and sandy-gravel soils underpin excellent terroir, but there was a lot of work to be done. The vineyards needed to be extensively replanted. Drainage channels were laid, the winery was renovated, a new barrel cellar was built. Mauvesin is now much improved; the 2023 offers attractive plum and chocolate aromas against a gravel-and-menthol freshness.

Also today, we have the Perrodo family Margaux properties Labegorce and Marquis d'Alesme.

Fri 10 May

Today is NOT a bank holiday in France. No, really. But after two days off the French are probably making a 'bridge' to the weekend, and we are not expecting any releases today. However, next week will be busy with a lot of important releases scheduled.

Thu 9 May

Happy Ascension Day! France is off work. No Bordeaux releases.

Wed 8 May

Happy VE Day! World War II officially ended in Europe 79 years ago today. France is off work. No Bordeaux releases.

Tue 7 May

One of the very big names in St.Emilion, Angelus, is released this morning at a 27% discount on last year's price. On the left bank, we have the Lorenzetti wines Pedesclaux (Pauillac) and Lafon-Rochet (St-Estephe). Both are excellent, well-sited values in their respective communes. From Pessac, Malartic-Lagraviere is released in both rouge and blanc: the red is supple, bright and dark-fruited, the blanc is a high-energy mix of Amalfi lemon and candlewax.

We are back in Pauillac after lunch for Haut-Batailley. Haut-Batailley was created in 1942 when Batailley was partitioned for inheritance reasons - it qualifies as a fifth-growth under the 1855 classification as it was previously part of a property listed in the classification. For a long time it was managed by François-Xavier Borie of Grand-Puy-Lacoste, but in 2017 it was acquired by the Cazes family (who also own Lynch-Bages). It is released at £216/6 (down from £260/6 last year).

Mon 6 May

See, it’s not just the French who are allowed bank holidays. Uncorked’s retail store is closed for business today, but be assured we are still happy to look after your allocations. This morning's first release is the 'laser-sharp' (Neal Martin) Coutet. Coutet has a partnership agreement with Domaines Baron Phillipe de Rothschild, who assist with winemaking and distribution, so it is no suprise to see Mouton-Rothschild also released. Mouton is as succulent and flambuoyant as Lafite is austere. For Neal Martin, 'it is shaping up to be one of the wines of the vintage'. It has an unusually high proportion of Cabernet this vintage, and Jane Anson writes, 'When Cabernet works at Mouton, it is hard to beat, and it's on full display in 2023. One of my clear wines of the vintage. Of any vintage.' It is released at a 35% discount on the 2022 vintage.

Also from the same stable, we have Clerc Milon and Armailhac. Clerc Milon is 'easily one of the Pauillac wines that has been making the biggest strides forward in recent years' (Jane Anson). It is an unusual beast in modern Bordeaux in that it still has a tiny surviving proportion of old-vine (1947) Carmenère. Neal Martin writes, 'Superb. If Mouton-Rothschild is beyond your budget—yes, I am familiar with that feeling—then this is where you should look'. Clerc Milon and Armailhac both follow Mouton in having a high proportion of Cabernet this vintage. Like Clerc Milon, Armailhac has been following a steep upwards trajectory in recent vintages, following serious investment in vineyards and cellar.

Fri 3 May

Talbot used to have a sleepy reputation, but recently, under the guiding hand of Jean-Michel Laporte (ex of Conseillante), it has been singing, proving just how good its terroir actually is. I was seriously impressed by the complex, energetic, layered 2023. It is released today at a 25% reduction on last year's price; and Neal Martin writes, 'I may actually prefer it to the previous vintage.’ Both Stephane Derenoncourt and Eric Boissenot consult, and the recent roster of experiment and innovation going on here is very impressive. 

Also released at a 25% reduction on last year, we have Haut-Medoc third growth La Lagune. Not one Uncorked had the pleasure of, but Galloni perceives a wine with a 'bright future'.

Thurs 2 May

Today sees the release of the Lafite stable with both Carruades de Lafite and Lafite itself offered as the cheapest available vintage on the market - precisely what en primeur is all about! It's an exciting call - the Wine Advocate's William Kelley believes Lafite is 'the finest of the first growths this year'. 'The main criteria for good terroir is how it handles water.' Eric Kohler is pretty confident that Lafite and its stablemates have just that: it's gravel and more gravel shot through with seams of black sand. In periods of heavy rain (like early 2023) excess water drains away, but in periods of drought and intense heat (like late summer 2023) there is always deep-lying water available for thirsty old vines. These wines excel. Duhart-Milon gives me the impression of silky tannins stretched across stone. Under the smoky, tobacco-and-plum perfume of Carruades there are deep layers of wet slate. Neal Martin notes 'this is surely one of the best Carruades I have tasted at this stage'. Lafite seems austere and closed now but even so it can't resist giving away ghostly floral aromas. In the mouth it is both monumental and beautifully balanced. The aftertaste seems slow to rev up but gets bigger and bigger, and is hugely long. This is a wine with a great future.

Pomerol’s L’Evangile is also part of the same stable. Jane Anson calls L'Evangile 'an insider's Pomerol', 'a fascinating exercise in terroir'. It sits on a gravel corridor straddling the famous blue clay of Petrus. Powerful and refined, it has 'a beautiful Pomerol signature'. It is released at a substantial 30% discount on last year's release price.

Wed 1 May

Happy Labour Day! It's a public holiday in France so La Place de Bordeaux (the array of châteaux, courtiers and negociants who get wine from vineyard to merchant) is closed. Nothing to see here. Go about your business.

Tues 30 April

Pontet-Canet has a history of going early and igniting a Bordeaux en primeur campaign with a big price reduction. That’s exactly how they fired up the 2019 campaign, and they are back again with a brilliant 2023, and a whopping discount on last year’s price. The luscious silkiness of 2023 Pontet-Canet is testament to the huge investments that have been made at every level here over the last 20 years. It was one of the very first properties in Bordeaux to switch to biodynamics (there still aren’t a huge number who have), and horses are used to work the vineyard. The wine is raised partly in concrete amphorae and partly in barrel. There are even a couple of giant egg-shaped barrels. They all contribute to the exquisite texture and complex profile of what is clearly among the wines of the vintage. ‘It was an easy vintage for us,’ Technical Director Mathieu Bessonnet told me. ‘We are used to working hard in the vineyard, so mildew was not a big problem for us’. In the late August heatwave, they used a chamomile preparation to treat the vines, and gave them a ‘sunscreen’ of clay. The grapes sailed through.

It's not Léoville-Las Cases anymore, it's just Las Cases. Leave disputes about the name aside. (They may have annoyed some of the neighbours). When a Super Second releases at 40% less than the previous vintage, you sit up and listen! This is the cheapest release from this Chateau since 2015 and the first to be made in their new gravity-led cellars, with twice as many tanks meaning an even greater precision than before. The resulting wine is a little less austere than usual – often a hard one to taste en primeur – whilst still 'conveying a sense of seriousness'. 2023 is the most Cabernet vintage here, with 86%, a welcome 13.1% alcohol, and a top class effort. Also from the Delon stable we have Clos du Marquis and Pomerol's Nenin.

Monday 29 April
 
This morning sees the release of the 2023 vintage of perennial Uncorked favourite Batailley, and it’s (yet) another success for proprietor Frédéric Castéja. It’s got good tannin structure, and a surprising freshness. It’s muscular and pure, and very Pauillac. It opens on dark fruit, and after a bit of cellar time that will expand through layers of cedar and tobacco. It finishes on a gravelly note. That should be no surprise - the Batailley plateau sits on extremely deep gravel beds.

Recent vintages have seen Batailley adopt finer tannins and a little more gloss. Pruning has been adapted, yields have been reduced, and the introduction of a second wine (Lions de Batailley) has enabled more selection. In the cellar, the number of steel and cement vats has doubled (from 30 to 60) to enable much more precise vinification. Latterly the chateau has also adopted a relatively warm four-week post-fermentation maceration, to encourage more supple tannin extraction, while building body. It’s still quintessential Pauillac, it’s just more skilfully done than ever. And it’s also worth noting that today’s release price of £162 is the cheapest for 10 years.

Sauternes is also busy this morning, with Guiraud, Lafaurie-Peyraguey and La Tour Blanche.

Friday 26 April - the campaign is go

What gives? Normally I have a month after the primeurs tastings to write my vintage report. This morning I got in the door at 1am after a week in Bordeaux tasting the 2023s, and already we have our first release. Angludet has always been a fine ambassador for the elegant, aromatic style we associate with Margaux, and the 2023 here is lovely: fresh and energetic, full of cassis, plum and spice, with fine tannins and a lifted finish. As ever, it is one of the great values in left bank Bordeaux.