En Primeur Recap: Tasting the 2013 Vintages

En Primeur Recap: Tasting the 2013 Vintages

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A lovely sight for a Monday morning at the office

Dave Domer, Dale Salentiny, and I had the privilege of travelling to Bordeaux for the fabled week of en primeur tasting. I’d like to share our thoughts on the vintage from our trip with you, as well as our favorite en primeur wines.

It is easy for early impressions of a vintage to become lost in the noise of early speculation and this, prominently, was the case with 2013. Fortunately for us, and in spite of the general feeling of doom around the vintage, we found the wines to be very much worth our while. We were, in fact, very pleasantly surprised by the quality and freshness achieved by several Châteaux, most notably perhaps in St. Julien, but also in Pauillac and St. Émilion. Here are the ones we found to be particularly striking:

Pauillac

Château Pichon Comtesse Lalande boasts a balanced, toothsome fruit profile and lovely acid.

Château Mouton Rothschild is one of the more robust and complex wines of the vintage. It has lovely notes of cassis and red currants, as well as the classic graphite, with a sturdy, integrated tannic structure.

Saint Émilion
The town of St. Emilion

The Commune of St. Émilion

Château Figeac is all tart red cherry, with surprisingly silky tannins. This one might have been one of my favorites of the entire trip, and the second wine, Petite-Figeac, is no slouch either.

Château Ausone is very fragrant and sedate. The fruit reminds me of the tiny strawberries my neighbors used to grow in their garden, and it is complimented with a meandering bitterness. This is a seriously pleasant wine, even after a full day of tasting new Bordeaux.

SAINT JULIEN

Château Gruaud-Larose is mellow and multi-faceted, with dense fruit and a wonderful savory bitter characteristic that builds slowly.

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Dave diligently records his impressions

Château Ducru-Beaucaillou has nice structure with flavors and textures of whole red berries and a finish of light roasted coffee.

Pessac-Léognan

La Mission Haut Brion is beautifully mineral and refreshing (it actually made me begin planning a summer brunch on an outdoor patio that I don’t even own.).

Château Haut-Brion Blanc has a beautiful summer garden smell and very delicate white fruit flavors.

Château Smith Haut Lafitte Blanc is very compelling with a surprising mix of lemon and pear flavors, with lots of mineral to back it up. Basically awesome!

Sauternes

Château D’Yquem is not one to miss, of course. I found it creamy with a late-building acid balance that is very pleasing.

Château Doisy-Vedrines has an intriguing brown sugar flavor tempered with raw green tea leaf.

2013, though somewhat uneven, is a very pleasant vintage for drinking. The reds are bright and fruity, falling towards the tarter end of the spectrum; think raspberries, red currants, and even cranberries, as opposed to plumb, ripe cherry, and black currant. And the whites are simply outstanding, with pure vibrant and giant, expressive bouquets that simply emanate.

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And why shouldn’t this be the case? It was a common theme throughout the Chateaux we visited that by making clear decisions in the vineyard, green harvesting, moving sorting tables out to the vines, and utilizing optical sorting machines, it was possible to manage the difficult weather and harvest conditions surprisingly well, if somewhat hectically. The interesting thing is that these options might not have been feasible or even available as little as a decade ago. Given the kind of resources and technology now commanded by the top Chateaux, it has become much easier to turn troublesome vintage conditions into great wine, and, I think, Bordeaux is a good deal less vulnerable because of it.

So all in all, the 2013 vintage of Bordeaux is not to be written off. It is a vintage for drinking rather than holding, but that might not be such a bad thing. As Dale likes to say: “If we didn’t have a vintage like 2013 once in a while, we would all go thirsty waiting for our ‘09s and ‘10s.”

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Dale is very pleased.

Prices for en primeur Bordeaux are still being released. If you would like to place an order, or if you have any questions about buying futures, don’t hesitate to contact us at sales@hdhwine.com. Our retail team, and Dale in particular, honestly loves talking to people, and they can help you decide if 2013 futures are what you want. Alternatively, we also have a good deal of 2012 Bordeaux and more mature vintages in stock as well.

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