Bordeaux 2023 En Primeur – Immediate Overview

Bordeaux 2023 En Primeur – Immediate Overview

All is set for the earliest, and possibly the shortest Bordeaux En Primeur campaign on record. After exhausting tastings over the course of the past week with visits to individual Châteaux, negociants and the Union des Grands Crus tastings during ‘Primeurs’ week, we now wait for the Châteaux to release their wines from the 2023 vintage. Angludet kicked off the campaign on Friday 24th April,  with a host of big guns coming out this week and we have already seen some very notable price reductions!

First, though, let’s say a few words about the wines. There has been a fair amount of speculation about the 2023 vintage, not all of it kind. Back in July, there were press reports that 90% of the crop had been destroyed by mildew, a result of the warm temperatures and frequent rains in June. The reality was that mildew had ‘touched’ 90% of the vineyards, but hey, never let the truth get in the way of sensationalising a story.

There is no denying that the early summer was a very challenging time and the vineyard teams worked their fingers to the bone fighting the mildew attacks. Merlot was worst affected and so we see lower percentages of this variety in many of the Left Bank wines.

By mid August the weather turned for the better. Temperatures soared and the heatwave remained throughout September. This wonderful period of weather in late summer was a godsend and a just reward for the trials and tribulations of May and June. It ensured the grapes ripened and attained a very good phenolic ripeness too. Patience was required however, as the ripening period was uneven with picking dates varying from plot to plot. It was one of the longest harvests on record, starting in early September and continuing well into October.

Contrary to initial reports, a lot of wine was produced in 2023, especially in the prestigious appellations where the wealthy Grand Cru Classes are well equipped to deal with the challenging conditions. The average yield in St Julien was 52hl/ha with Pauillac and St Estephe similar. Only Margaux came up short with an average of 38hl/ha. This is very much a heterogenous vintage, but that is the traditional beauty of Bordeaux.

Overall 2023 is a good vintage. As you would expect, there is variation between producers and some wines are light on the mid palate and lacking underbelly.

However, there were some lovely wines and indeed some exceptionally good wines produced. The traditional Claret lover will be pleased to see a classic vintage style, concentrated berry fruits with balance and freshness, and alcohol levels curtailed. Gruaud Larose has come in at 12.62% - and what an excellent wine it is. The tannin structures are very good, with many wines showing similar levels to the 2022 vintage, so they will age well too.

Turning to the Right Bank we tasted some delicious Merlot and Cabernet Franc blends, with a greater balance and freshness than recent years due to more normal yields. We particularly liked the wines of Pomerol and there are some exceptional value wines from Lalande de Pomerol and Montagne St Emilion.

And finally back to my initial statement when I highlighted the fact that this will be a very early and busy campaign. Over the last year the market for Bordeaux wines has changed. China aren’t buying and interest rates have returned, certainly for now, to more normal levels. Economic and political uncertainty is higher than it has been for many years. The Bordelais know they have to make a big effort – and based on our conversations with Chateaux owners and negociants alike, we believe they will. The higher prices of recent years have reflected the lower harvest yields and increased worldwide demand, particularly from Asia. We could be looking at some welcome price reductions. ‘About time’ I hear you say!

Click here to browse Bordeaux 2023 wines.

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