Bordeaux Primeurs 2013 part 1 : Overview

After tasting samples of the 2013 vintage for a week, I am now convinced the upcoming year is going to be a complicated one for the Bordeaux wine merchants.

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It’s even more surprising to read some reviews and reports by journalists and critics praising certain wines that I thought were mediocre.

I spent the whole year of 2013 in Bordeaux and witnessed an extremely wet and cold spring following a rainy winter. I also recall talking to vinegrowers all summer long across the appellations ; most of them stating how difficult it would be to even make the wine in general.

2012 was complicated, 2013 was worse. However, a right terroir combined with hardworking winemakers was the right equation to produce some pleasant wines.

Let’s take a look at the weather conditions :

Following a rainy winter, the spring started very cold. Bud break was delayed until mid-april, approximately a week later than in 2012. April was rather normal, however May and June both very cold and extremely rainy (it reminded everyone of 1992, one of the worst vintages in 20 years).

Thus, vines (especially Merlot) were affected massively by coulure and millerandage and saw their production considerably limited. Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc, late grape varieties, resisted more to these problems.

A great red wine vintage in Bordeaux is always precocious, it means early flowering and early fruit set, the opposite of what happened in 2013.

July was very warm and sunny, it saved the vintage. However, heavy rains and hail at the end of July and again in August destroyed a big part of the crop. August was hot and sunny again, but it would have taken even more to make up for all of what happened already. The nice summer helped white grapes though (see part 2) as 2013 will be a good year for dry white wines.

When it comes to tasting a Bordeaux red wine, August is essential as it leads to the structure of the wine and plays a big part in the quality of the tannin. At this point, vinegrowers were hoping for nice, warm and dry months of September and October to get slow and good ripening of the grapes (2004 and 2007 come to mind) but the weather got cold and wet and this dream never came true. Worse, the development of grey rot forced everyone to harvest before losing everything.

In a nutshell, 2013 has probably been the most difficult vintage in around 30 years. However, thanks to a sunny summer, it was possible with a lot of  work to make pleasant red wines. On the bright side, I was generally pleased by the dry white wines, offering lots of fruit and a great acidity. Sweet white wines from Barsac and Sauternes are pretty nice too with a lot of finesse.

Some estates decided to not produce wine this year. Some others had to sacrifice most of the crop and produced only 30, 40 or 50 % of what they usually make. Of course, that’s only possible for the richest estates that can afford such a sacrifice. Therefore, I don’t expect a lot of great wines from small estates in 2013. Only time will tell.

I will detail my reviews and tasting notes in my next article.

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