Friday, March 18, 2016

2013 Bordeaux - Rough Year, But Some Good Wines Survive

Heard about the 2013 vintage in Bordeaux? Heard anything good about the 2013 vintage in Bordeaux?

The region struggled with a cool start, and rain and cool weather was a theme throughout the growing season. But the season ended with rain and warm weather, which meant rot was a problem. Yields were way down, hail smashed grapes in the summer, Merlot got its ass kicked (especially on the Left Bank) and winemakers struggled to sort out the good grapes.

Some producers didn't even release a 2013 wine, and some Left Bank chateaux sold off wine to be bottled by others under different brands. Twenty or 30 years ago, this vintage may have been a disaster.  But with modern technology, many winemakers were able to pull a rabbit out of a very wet hat. Diligent vineyard work early on, intense grape sorting after harvest, and flexibility in the vinification process led to some fun and impressive results.

My favorite wine hailed from Chateau Montrose. Credit: Chateau Montrose.
I recently tasted through a bunch of 2013 Bordeaux wines at the Heart's DelightWine Tasting & Auction. Reps from several heralded Bordeaux houses met with sommeliers and trade folks at the Sofitel in Washington, DC, to take a look at these new wines.

First of all: the wines I tasted were by no means bad. Indeed, I found most of them fresh, vibrant and very enjoyable to drink young. Tasting young Bordeaux can be taxing on the palate, leaving mine feeling dried out, beat up and tired. Plus, it can be extremely difficult to gauge the quality of a brutishly tannic young Bordeaux blend. But in 2013, the tannins, while quite structured in some wines, are smoother than usual, and the acidity has a crisp edge to it. The fruit maintains a leaner, more tart profile. Basically, these are wines to drink while the sturdier 2012s sleep in the cellar.

A bright spot seems to be the whites, many of which were picked before the late September rains, Bruno Laplane of Château Gazin Rocquencourt in Pessac-Léognan, told me. And the botrytis-laden sweet wines of Sauternes and Barsac are apparently quite impressive (I only tasted one, but, wow...)

Below are my notes on the 2013 Bordeaux wines I tasted.

2013 Château Gazin Rocquencourt Blanc - France, Bordeaux, Graves, Pessac-Léognan
Bright aromas of limes and hint of white pepper. Crunchy green apple on the palate, so crisp and nervy. Very nice. (89 points)

2013 Château Malartic-Lagravière Blanc - France, Bordeaux, Graves, Pessac-Léognan
Refreshing but creamy with green apples, limes and peach. A lingering sense of tea, lemongrass and honeysuckle. Complex, pretty, seems like it will improve with some age. (90 points)

2013 Château Gazin Rocquencourt - France, Bordeaux, Graves, Pessac-Léognan
Fruit smells juicy, deep and dark but the palate shows lots of refreshing brightness. Tart red currant fruit mixes with earth, tobacco, hints of greenness but not too much. Seems very approachable at this young age. (87 points)

2013 Château Malartic-Lagravière - France, Bordeaux, Graves, Pessac-Léognan
Darker berries than the Gazin Rocquencourt, this has juicy dark cherries and blackberries. Some smoke, earth, sage and tobacco add complexity. Juicy and vibrant, showing well. (88 points)

2013 Château Barde-Haut - France, Bordeaux, Libournais, St. Émilion Grand Cru
Vibrant, sweet red fruits on the nose and some vanilla. Juicy but tart on the palate with crunchy red fruits, accented by earth and toast. Moderately firm tannins but still quite fresh. (87 points)

2013 Clos l'Église (Pomerol) - France, Bordeaux, Libournais, Pomerol
Dark and smoky on the nose with rich jammy red fruit. Firm, chewy and toasty with deep berry flavors along with cedar and earth. More concentrated, needs time, but very nice. (89 points)

2013 Château Lagrange (St. Julien) - France, Bordeaux, Médoc, St. Julien
Dark aromas with tart black currant, pencil lead and rich earth. Firm but fleshy, stays vibrant in the face of deep black currant fruit. Pencil lead, mineral, earth, such elegance and beautiful focus. (91 points)

2013 Château Kirwan - France, Bordeaux, Médoc, Margaux
Elegant floral aromas with bright currant fruit. Bold but elegant on the palate with a brightness that makes it so appealing. Tart but juicy red currants, along with fresh violets and roses, earth and mineral tones. Fresh and delicious but time needed to show its best. (91 points)

2013 Château Lascombes - France, Bordeaux, Médoc, Margaux
Gorgeous velvety fruit on the nose with sweet violets as well. Full and chewy on the palate but stays fresh. Currants topped with eucalyptus, cedar, violets. Rich but elegant and polished. (91 points)

2013 Château du Tertre - France, Bordeaux, Médoc, Margaux
Vibrant red fruit on the nose with a fresh floral approach. Fresh and slick on the palate with velvety tannins and pretty red fruit. I get a deep sense of herbs, chestnut, bell pepper and savory spices that I find really attractive. (90 points)

2013 Château Giscours - France, Bordeaux, Médoc, Margaux
Bold, spicy aromatics but elegant fruit. Silky, smooth, very vibrant. Tart but concentrated red fruits, some crunchy blackberries, mixed with tobacco, earth, minerals and shaved pencils. Needs time but some really pretty stuff going on here. (90 points)

2013 Château Phélan Ségur - France, Bordeaux, Médoc, St. Estèphe
Bold, spicy aromatics but elegant fruit. Silky, smooth, very vibrant. Tart but concentrated red fruits, some crunchy blackberries, mixed with tobacco, earth, minerals and shaved pencils. Needs time but some really pretty stuff going on here. (90 points)

2013 Château Lafon-Rochet - France, Bordeaux, Médoc, St. Estèphe
Pretty aromatics of vibrant currant fruit and spice. Smooth despite some solid structure, medium acidity, fresh red and black cherry and currants. Ends with floral tones. Plenty to unpack in the cellar. (88 points)

Nobody told the folks at Lynch Bages that
2013 was supposed to be a stinker vintage.
2013 Château Lynch-Bages - France, Bordeaux, Médoc, Pauillac
Deep and exotic on the nose with black and red currants and cherries, rich earth and sweet spice. Firm but accessible tannins, lots of brightness with tart red and black currants. Notes of violets, graphite, sweet spice, lovely depth and complexity. Long and smooth, with a freshness that keeps the wine vibrant despite its cellar-worthy potential. (91 points)

2013 Château Montrose - France, Bordeaux, Médoc, St. Estèphe
Smells of bright currants, juicy cherries, roses, earth and minerals. I love the structure here, smooth but vibrant but refreshing acidity. Tart yet chewy black cherries, hints of cola, coffee, loam and pencil shavings. Shows strength but elegance, along with violets, pencil lead and lingering minerality. Long and lasting, this needs lots of time but it’s gorgeous at such a young age. Wow. (93 points)

2013 Château Guiraud - France, Bordeaux, Sauternais, Sauternes
Gorgeous golden-orange color. Smells so ripe and juicy with luscious apricot, honey and sweet spice. Creamy and rich but there’s a pervasive sense of freshness in spite of the honeyed mouthfeel. Flavors of almond, honey, spiced tea and white flowers on top of rich apricots and peach tarts. Long, vibrant, rich and pure. Wow, I’d love to see how this ages. (93 points)

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