“Please call for availability,” reads the distinctly optimistic 2013 en primeur offer from one well-known U.K. merchant. In such an unglamorous vintage, when even the most ardent Bordeaux lover is reluctant to dip into his savings, very few wines are in demand.
Of the châteaux that have released prices so far (roughly a third of the ones that matter), only Lynch-Bages, Calon-Ségur and the first growths are selling. One insider admitted: “The campaign is extremely sticky, and I’m not talking about the best Sauternes.”
Some châteaux made a decent fist of this very tricky growing season – generally thanks to a combination of good viticulture, rigorous selection, great terroirs, technology and money – but no one is pretending that 2013 is a good or even great vintage, except perhaps for dry and sweet whites.
To claim that this is “classicism reinstated”, in the words of Bruno Borie of Château Ducru-Beaucaillou, seems ludicrous to me. If this is classicism, then I suspect most Bordelais would rather stick with the modernism of vintages like 2009 and 2010.
I’ve said all along that I see no reason to buy most (and possibly all) of these wines en primeur. Unless we see drastic price reductions in the next fortnight, I still think that’s the case. Nothing that has been released so far is a “must buy”, at least for now. There’s too much good wine on the market from previous vintages, the prices of the 2013s aren’t cheap enough and the vintage has a poor, if not always deserved, reputation. Very few, if any, of these wines will increase in value before they are bottled in 12-18 months’ time.
Will the best wines provide drinking pleasure over the next decade? I believe they will. The leading reds are classic examples of what a certain generation of clubbable Brits used to call “luncheon clarets” – fresh, light and refined – a little like the 2007s perhaps, while the top whites are superb. But even with the reduced yields in 2013, there’s plenty of wine to go round. You can afford to wait and see what happens to prices before you decide whether to buy my 10 wines of the vintage. There’s no need to enquire about availability just yet.
Haut-Brion Blanc, Pessac-Léognan ($939 per bottle, excl. taxes and duty)
You may blink at the price of this rare blend of 66 percent Sauvignon and 34 percent Semillon, but it’s the dry white wine of the vintage, showing subtle oak integration and pithy flavours of lemongrass, grapefruit and struck match.
Smith Haut Lafitte Blanc, Pessac-Léognan ($87)
This isn’t far behind the Haut-Brion in terms of quality and it’s less than a tenth of the price, combining Sauvignon Blanc with 5 percent each of Semillon and Sauvignon Gris. Subtle, leesy, toasty and waxy with bright minerality and tangy acidity.
Yquem, Sauternes (Price not released yet)
The leading Sauternes in 2013 (as it should be, given its price level) and one of best Yquems since 2001. Aromatic and pure, with botrytis-derived notes of peach, marmalade and apricot, vanilla oak and a long, harmonious finish.
Right Bank reds
L’Eglise Clinet, Pomerol (Price not released yet)
The wizard of Pomerol does it again. Denis Durantou’s top wine is first rate this year, seemingly in defiance of the vintage. Poised, minerally and sweetly oaked, this plummy, brambly Merlot-based blend is rich, fine and beautifully integrated.
Trotanoy, Pomerol (Price not released yet)
Tricky vintages seem to coax the best out of the Moueix family. Where some aim for extraction, they choose balance. This is quite a plush wine for the vintage: textured and concentrated, with sweet raspberry fruit and a spine of acidity.
Lafleur, Pomerol (Price not released yet)
The quality of the vineyard work is the key to the quality of this outstanding wine, produced in small, almost Burgundian quantities. Fine and silky with nuanced aromas of red fruits, suave tannins and effortless density.
Angélus, Saint-Émilion Grand Cru Classé A ($259)
A wine that justifies Angélus’ recent elevation to the summit of Saint-Émilion, this is delightfully harmonious and polished, with 38 percent Cabernet Franc adding perfume and a mineral core to the blend. You don’t taste the 100 percent new oak.
Left Bank reds
Lafite Rothschild, Pauillac ($452)
Made with 98 percent Cabernet Sauvignon (only 1994 and 1961 had 100 percent), this is the best 2013 First Growth in my view. Long, refreshing and smooth, with seamlessly integrated new oak, polished tannins and a mineral, graphitey core.
Pichon Lalande, Pauillac (Price not released yet)
Made with 100 percent Cabernet for the first time, such was the poor quality of the Merlot, this is an atypical but still brilliant Pichon. Essence of mid-weight Médoc Cabernet: focused, refreshing and aromatic with good underlying structure.
Léoville-Las-Cases, Saint-Julien (Price not released yet)
The Cabernet that makes up the core of this blend (74 percent) was surprisingly ripe in 2013. It still has the famous rigor and structure of Las Cases, with bloody, iron-like notes, but there’s more than enough black-fruited flesh on the bones.