THE ADVOCATE 711
VOL. 78 PART 5 SEPTEMBER 2020
The only area where dry white wines are now classified is in Graves, and
then only since 1959.
However illogical it may seem to the rest of us, the Bordelais will likely
never abandon their cru tier system for fear of unleashing a vinous Armageddon.
And to be fair, if the first growths were not excellent as a rule, the system
would have crumbled by now. Even at the entry-level classification, in all
areas of Bordeaux, AOC Bordeaux and the next upward step of AOC Bordeaux
Supérieur, there are many fine wines at quite reasonable prices.
This year the vintage being released is 2017. From reports of the growing
season that year, and from the en primeur tastings (barrel tastings on which
Bordeaux futures are bought) in 2018, it is not one of the stellar vintages.
But as with all vintages, there are stellar wines along with the lesser ones.
Bordeaux 2017 is remembered as the year of the frost. As one producer,
Gavin Quinney of Château Bauduc, put it, “The frosts were biblical” (as in a
biblical plague, I gather).2 On April 27, these severe spring frosts severely
damaged buds and in many cases plants. Those buds, when they flower,
become the grapes. Some forty to fifty per cent were lost. So volume was
about forty-five per cent less than in 2016. Some growers, especially in
Saint-Émilion and Pomerol, lost their entire crop, while others in regions
such as Saint-Julien and Pauillac were relatively unaffected. In September
there were then extensive rains and cool temperatures, though the latter
part of the month turned sunny and hotter.
The producers of white wine fared the best. According to writers, the
white Bordeaux from 2017 is one of the best vintages, with bright, full aromas
and flavours. The dessert wines from Sauternes and Barsac are also of
very high quality as the Botrytis cinerea was abundant and of the right (drying)
With the reds, the Left Bank wines from northern Médoc (Pauillac and
Saint-Estèphe) are reputedly faring the best. Overall, the 2017 wines are
more medium-bodied with soft tannins and are fresher and lower in alcohol
than the 2015 and 2016 vintages.
The LDB publishes a catalogue each year of the Bordeaux wines it has
imported for the release. As that catalogue was not out at the time this article
was written, I instead refer readers to the online reviews listed in the
endnotes of this column to give you a head start, though you will need to
cross-check the catalogue to see which are available in your local LDB
store.3 Those reviewers note some very good wines that will age well, and
some believe that, with time, the vintage’s reputation will grow.
As the 2017 vintage remains locked away for now, I have decided to turn
largely elsewhere for Bordeaux-style wines for you to sample while your
soon-to-be-purchased Bordeaux ages. So, for acolytes of Dr. Johnson, here