2013 Bordeaux: First Day’s Observations

Jeffrey Davies (l)chatting with Veronique Sanders, general manager at Chateau Haut-Bailly

Jeffrey Davies (l)chatting with Veronique Sanders, general manager at Chateau Haut-Bailly

While I have not been on every JJ Buckley trip to en primeur (this is my fifth), I have been quick to enjoy the tradition of starting each year’s tastings with a visit to the house of Jeffrey Davies of Signature Selections. A San Franciscan who decamped to Bordeaux long ago, spending time with Jeffrey gives us a perfect overview of the most recent vintage and the latest news (and gossip) about the Bordeaux wine business which helps to set the tone for the visits that follow during the rest of the week.

We chiselled away some time in our schedule to visit Jeffrey on a cloudy Sunday to taste through a wide range of 2013 reds that included wines from simpler appellations up to grand cru classe bottlings from regions all over Bordeaux and at varying price points. Between sips and spits, we walked through Jeffrey’s selections putting together our initial thoughts about the vintage.

“One thing you’ll not need to worry about in this vintage is the color,” observed Jeffrey and we had to agree. Each wine we tried had deep colors, usually opaque at the core of the bowl extending out to the rim. “It’s a good sign,” Jeffrey said “because it shows that the fruit got some measurable degree of ripeness.”

Given that the weather was cool and that many winemakers rushed to pick their grapes before things went south in their vineyards, we were also on the look for any green, vegetal characters in the wines we tried. “I think you’ll agree that there are not any wines here that are green or in any way herbaceous. This is not something that I’ve seen a lot with the 2013s.” We tended to agree noting that some people are more sensitive to herbal smells and flavors than others. Nevertheless, and unripe qualities manifested as overly vegetal are not as prevalent as might be expected.

A few of the 2013s tasted at the offices of Jeffrey Davies

A few of the 2013s tasted at the offices of Jeffrey Davies

While not as noticeable when going through his wines, Jeffrey commented that many wineries had difficulty dealing with tannins in 2013. “By picking before the rains, there was a risk of fruit with green tannins ending up in the cellar,” said Jeffrey. “And some winemakers pressed too late or too heavily which left considerable amount of tannins in the finished wines.” Jeffrey’s prediction proved to right on the money as a later tasting showed many wines possessing firm tannins that were drying to the palate instead of ripe, soft tannins that were in balance with the fruit levels of the wine.

When it came to successes in 2013, he clearly agreed with many others who have previewed the 2013′s that the white wines of Pessac-Leognan and Sauternes would be the wines to watch. Our upcoming visit to wineries in Pessac and Leognan will give us some insight on how the wineries from south of Bordeaux ultimately fared.

With these cursory, yet important, observations on what to expect over the next few days, we bid adieu to Jeffrey and went our way…. to another tasting.

Click here to read about our thoughts on the 2013 Bordeaux as we arrive at en primeur.

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