Bdx 2017 Left Bank overview


In the past couple of years I have started my Medocain tasting marathon up in Ch Meyney in St Estephe at 9am with a view to working my way back down the Medoc until I reach Margaux in late afternoon. I then return to the Medoc for a second day of generic 'UGC' tastings which show a far greater number of Chateau in each AC. The Meyney owners also look after Pauillac Ch Grand Puy Ducasse & some Margaux & Haut Medoc properties so it's a nice way to ease into it with a mixed Medoc picture before focusing on the big guns. For an early morning tasting Meyney tasted pretty darn good with nice freshness & a good fruity palate with a gentle kick at the end. GPD likewise but a bit more graphite & even a slight saline quality. Everything was tasting quite in order & they were quick to mention "we weren't really affected by the frost hardly at all" repeated ad infinitum in robotic fashion throughout in St Estephe, Pauillac & St Julien. They need not have worried, what was in the glass was very enjoyable & balanced - but certainly no blockbusters. Ch Montrose came close to being one as I was quite reluctant to spit which is high praise at that time of day. This was the top St Estephe for me & Tronquoy Lalande was v polished & a likely bargain, as was Lillan Ladouys. Ch Cos D'Estournel was not far behind Montrose but the latter had a wonderful, cashmere purity about it that gave it the edge. I wasn't hugely blown away with the second wines at either property though & certainly not by La Goulee which is Cos's good value Haut Medoc estate. I love it some years, but not so much in 17. It may be a 'grand vin if at fair price' kind of year. The Cos Blanc was the best I've ever tasted & worth seeking out 6 of the 9000 ish bottles they make of it if you can find it. When wines are this good one starts to find excuses how I could stretch to affording it which says a lot! These are the wow moments I crave on such trips. Compared to Pavillon Blanc from Margaux it's great value but then again Lynch Bages Blanc is half the price of Cos - hence my annual begging bowl for more allocation. All were sublime but Cos blanc is exceptional this year IMO. On to Lafite Rothschild which confused our tasting group. It was a v gentle rather un-typical Pauillac just 12.5% & some were a bit phased by this. They compared it to the 2016 which I can see as many 16's were toned down a bit on the alcohol & oak. I personally rated it more highly than our general group but the Duhart Milon was marked as a possible buy this year. It had more of the Pauillac backbone we come to expect & but still only 12.8%. Very slick! I don't often find it priced correctly for an EP buy but we'll see. I preferred it to the Mouton estates, Armailhac & Clerc Milon which on day one were a tad austere but when I re-tasted them second day there was none of that. I'm not sure if they are drawing from different barrels but the difference from one day to the next tells me that these v early barrel tastings work far better as a general impression built up of an AC with a number of wines rather than individual lasting legacies. The Mouton Rothschild was definitely more powerful than Lafite & I saw various MW's & Sotheby's dignitaries nodding their head in a 'typical classy Pauillac' appreciation kind of way. Pauillac has some really lovely wines this year especially for me the incredibly elegant Ch Pichon Lalande which I feel often tastes more like a charming St Julien than a big boned Pauillac. I might be on my own with that statement but there is something in it this year as for me St Julien was the star of the Medoc. The UCG tasting of the top wines from this AC Beychevelle, Leovilles, Talbot, Gruaud etc just really 'popped' as a tasting. Two of the best wines I tasted the whole week were Leoville Barton & Gruaud Larose. Speaking to Lillan Barton I gave her my 'it's 2012+' line & she very quickly replied 'no no Matt it's much better than that' even though I was complimenting how much I loved the 2012 wines. With the 2017 on this occasion I do defer to Lillan's call as the team have made a superb wine I want to own. On this showing I would rate it perhaps above the 2014 but that's probably one of the very few wines that are ahead of that classic & v good value vintage. There is not too much in it though. Leoville Las Cases was also superb but in a more savouy, meaty kind of way where has Leo B had all the fruits of the forest in a black velvet cloak! Moving onto Margaux the Grand Vin de Ch Margaux had achieved very good ripeness & they lost about 10% to the frost. I felt this had affected the second wine a touch in quality but once again the dry white was likely better than the previous 2 vintages. It really is a dry white exceptional year. Margaux has suffered a fair bit with the frost but there are good wines to be had there. Brane Cantenac was my favourite of the second tier but Rauzan Segla did not bother to show up to the UGC (angry face) so we will have to follow other critics for guidance on that one. The Margaux UGC was more patchy in quality than their northern counterparts. I spent a good hour or so tasting Cru Bourgeois & Haut Medoc properties & on the whole found that there were some very impressive wines to be had in 2017. Nearly everyone seems to have toned down their extraction & wood use to leave approachable wines with good fruit character. Special mention to Ch Malescasse (H Medoc), Cambon La Pelouse ( H Medoc), Le Bourdieu (Medoc) & De Come (St Estephe). Smashing Luncheon Claret all less than 10€ works for me!

To sum up I think 2017 despite the frost was heading to be a good if not excellent year for ripeness but there were also some problems encountered with bucket loads of rain in September. This threw a second curveball into the equation. This may be why some dry whites are so good if they harvested early before it. White wines really benefit from that extra nip of acidity. Some reds really get there with a bountiful crop but others were just pipped at the post. The high yield at Leoville Barton is a tell tale sign of they made such a smashing wine. Let's hope that as they have plenty of it they allow us to fill our boots at a decent price. Any silliness and we walk away, right?