Bordeaux 2007 report

From the archives: my en primeur report on Bordeaux 2007 for Wine & Spirit magazine. I’ve backdated the post to the time it was published.

.

Wine & Spirit

Get the article here. pdfpdf – 895 kb

Download

“Our man in Bordeaux, Gavin Quinney, tasted over 550 wines in late March and early April during the annual trade tastings of the 2007 vintage.  Here is his report.”

The wines

2007 is a fair to good vintage for red wines, with no shortage of well-made, attractive wines from the best châteaux at all levels. There are, however, few really outstanding wines.

It is an excellent vintage for sweet whites, with the top estates in Sauternes and Barsac producing their best wines since 2001, and the best should be worth seeking out en primeur as futures.   2007 is also a very good vintage for dry whites, especially those made from sauvignon blanc from better vineyards.

For the reds, hundreds of châteaux on the Right Bank made supple, early maturing, easy drinking wines from merlot and a dash of cabernet franc. Pomerol performed best of all, with lovely, quaffable wines, and many estates across Saint Emilion and beyond, in the Cötes and in Fronsac, produced very good, tasty reds by not overdoing it. Enormous, oil-slick wines are less fashionable these days.

On the Left bank, most châteaux in Pessac-Léognan made attractive reds to accompany their very good dry whites. Further north on the Left Bank, there is less consistency in the much larger and commercially more important estates of the Médoc.   While many châteaux made very good wines, only a few properties succeeded with really delicious stuff, while other wines showed green, unripe characters. Margaux is just such a mixed bag.

The later-ripening cabernet sauvignon performed far better than merlot in Pauillac, St-Julien and St-Estephe, so blends for the first wines at many châteaux reveal even higher levels of cabernet sauvignon than usual – up from 67% at Ducru Beaucaillou for their 2005 to 90% for their 2007, for example. Although there are some very good wines, all châteaux made wines in a lighter style, with lower acidity and less weight, structure, and depth than they have been blessed with of late. Yet with the high cabernet count in these appellations, it’s a bit early to assume that all reds from 2007 will be for early drinking.

In short, 2007 is what the trade calls ‘a good restaurant vintage’. If that means good for drinking with food, then perhaps it’s no bad thing.

The season

An early start and a late finish characterised the vintage, which was saved by fine weather in September after a miserable summer.

A hot April accelerated growth in the vineyard after an early budbreak, only for the cool and damp months of June, July and August to slow things down. Mildew was a constant threat and top châteaux at all levels worked hard to keep the vines in good shape – but the prospects were very gloomy as the holidays came to a close. Then, on the 30th August, and in the nick of time, fine sunny weather and a dry northerly wind arrived, and it stayed clear for much of September.

The harvest was concentrated around the end of September through to late October.   Key for the reds was the long ‘hang time’ from flowering to harvest, given the early start to the season and late finish, with some vineyards achieving ripeness while others fell short.

It’s certainly a modern vintage. Given the same conditions twenty years ago, the wines would have been meagre at best. As it is, with the huge investments across Bordeaux, and the advances in viticulture and winemaking, it’s a pretty satisfactory result.

The market

If it was a tricky vintage, it’ll be even more demanding to sell the stuff ‘en primeur’. There are a few compelling wines but few compelling reasons for importers or consumers to place primeur orders for the vast majority of reds that will be on offer.

With the weak pound and dollar, a price drop of 15% is needed to stay at the same price point as the higher quality 2006s. For the wines to be attractive to export markets outside the euro zone, en primeur prices would have to come down further to less than the current price of the 2004s – and this is unlikely. Many UK merchants are planning on offering limited lists of 2007s, with many including just the top wines which are highly rated by Robert Parker. And there won’t be many high scores from him.

Meanwhile, the Bordeaux negociants – who have the exclusive access to most of the top wines – will not want to lose their allocations that they have fought so hard for.

Word here in Bordeaux is that the banks will be crunching the credit on many of the negociants, who in turn will have to sell on their allocations to the big supermarkets here at discounted prices. The French supermarkets did very well with the 2005s, and they have taken up the slack before for the 2002s and 2004s. Expect to see a lot of very keenly priced classed growths from 2007 in the ‘Foires aux Vins’ in late September 2009.

This is sent to friends on our mailing list.