Before a drop of wine has been tasted, the 2013 vintage in Bordeaux has already been denigrated by the media and local producers. On Tuesday, the head of the Union of Grands Crus of Bordeaux (UGCB) attempted to put a more positive spin on the launch of the latest wines.
“It's no worse and no better than the 2011 and 2012,” said Olivier Bernard, president of the UGCB and owner of Pessac-Léognan estate Domaine de Chevalier. "Not everyone had equal success: 'uneven' would be the best word to describe it."
The UGCB conference follows last week's announcement that the Haut-Médoc winery, Château Malescasse, will not release any 2013 wines due to quality concerns. The château will sell its wine off in bulk.
Bernard denounced that decision as a PR stunt by a property which, as a cru bourgeois, is officially ranked lower down the Bordeaux hierarchy than the UGCB members.
"You don't use the entire 2013 vintage for your own promotion," Bernard said. "Those who are not going to be able to make good wines this year are not grand cru producers.
“I am not worried about showing the 2013 wines at primeur week,” he added, promising “quality wines” at the level of the 2011 and 2012 vintages and claimed they would be “wines to drink [young].”
“In 2009 and 2010, we had two outstanding vintages,” he noted. “Then Mother Nature came to remind us of her power in the past three years.”
Spring 2013 was wet and cold in Bordeaux, causing fruit set issues. From mid-July to September, extremely dry conditions caused further problems with rain arriving at the worst time: harvest.
Some estates suffered more than others with strong winds and heavy rain battering vineyards in the Médoc in late July followed by a devastating band of hail sweeping across the Entre-deux-Mers area in early August.
“We had 160 cm (63 inches) of water in 15 months," said Bernard, which is double the average rainfall.
Bernard estimated that about half of the most famous châteaux would lower prices by as much as “20 to 30 percent” compared to last year's campaign.
The UGCB has 133 members, including the most famous châteaux in the region. The official en primeur week, welcoming wine professionals from around the world, will take place from April 1 to 4.