En Primeur Week 2018 - The Tale of the Tape
The bell of Château Angélus
Time and distance are very useful differentiators when it comes to critiquing wine. Since our return from Bordeaux last week, the wines that rose to the top in the tastings are the ones that have persisted in my mind, their reputation enhanced by absorbing all of the literature the châteaux provide about rainfall, sunlight, harvest dates and so on. Tasting wine can easily be such a personal exercise: if you don't like Cabernet Franc then how can you hope to judge the many great right bank wines in a fair and balanced way? What tasting en primeur requires, I realise more and more each year, is the ability to spot success now, yes, but also to look out for wines bursting with potential: structure, tannin, acidity.
In that sense, the wines which rose to the top from our trip to Bordeaux were the wines which demonstrated the opulent freshness of the 2017 vintage, but which also have steel beneath, strong mineral or graphite cores on the left bank, lots of acidity and terroir-driven minerality on the right bank. There were many of the 200+ wines I tasted which demonstrated pleasing fruit and freshness but felt, at best, thin and, at worst, vapid with no mid-line structure. This then, for me, was the key differentiator in judging wines from the 2017 vintage: which wines had captured the best of 2017 (lots of fresh fruit, acidity and opulence) but due to a combination of superior terroir, skill in the vineyard or winery and careful blending had something more to offer - a pandoras box for the future?
For what it is worth, here are my top 10 wines of the vintage from the many that we tasted over three days in Bordeaux: