2013 En Primeur

2013 Bordeaux: Seeing What the Right Bank Holds

A quiet tasting at the offices of J.P. Moueix

A quiet tasting at the offices of J.P. Moueix

After visiting wineries in the Medoc and the offices of negociants in and around Bordeaux, the JJ Buckley team traditionally turns towards the estates scattered outside the small town of Libourne. Located about a half hour east of Bordeaux, it’s in the communes of St. Emilion, Pomerol and their neighboring villages where merlot is king.

Heading there, we were reminded of the successes of many wines in the great vintages of 2009 and 2010. But what proved to be even more impressive was the quality that emanated from the Right Bank in the more difficult years that followed. Some of the top wines of 2011 and 2012 came from the Pomerol with many St. Emilions trailing closely behind in quality. Given the Right Bank’s ability to be successful when the weather creates problems, we looked forward to seeing what these communes produced in 2013.

Looking out at some vineyards of St. Emilion from Chateau Barde-Haut

Looking out at some vineyards of St. Emilion from Chateau Barde-Haut

And as it turned out, the wine regions of the Right Bank shared much in common with what we concluded from our tastings on the other side of the Gironde River earlier in the week. And so it is that the uniform theme to be found in the wines of both regions is that there is no uniformity. In other words, each commune had their share of successes as well as others that missed the mark. This is in stark contrast to the better harvests in ’09 and ’10 where all wineries benefited from the excellent weather raising the quality level for everyone.

Introductory tastings at St. Emilion and Pomerol revealed a slew of wines that were acceptable but missed that extra level of excitement that separates the great wines from the middle of the pack. These wines had a shared style about them: medium bodied palates with darker red fruit flavors, a firm structure with noticeable tannins in support. These were not the exuberant high-alcohol styles that proved to be so controversial back in 2009 and 2010. Instead, we saw classically shaped wines of moderate alcohol levels and with just enough acidity to add a bit of levity to the fruit. However, there was also a sense that the wines were one and the same, lacking the unique signature that defined each domaine’s terrior.

The new cellars at Cheval Blanc

The new cellars at Cheval Blanc

But just as the terroirs of the first growths on the Left Bank clearly shined in 2013, it wasn’t until we visited many of the smaller, more exclusive estates that we were able to witness some of the region’s success stories. Those estates that were the most successful in 2011 and 2012 managed to make wines that rose above the fray showing exceptional concentration and balance. Some estates in St. Emilion showed a more masculine profile emphasizing the structural elements of their wines while the top examples of Pomerol were more lithe and supple, effortlessly gliding across the palate in a silky manner.

The best wines in both appellations rivaled those of the Medoc. They were complete wines with layers of flavors and the nuance and complexity that separates the exceptional from the ordinary. What was most exciting in tasting the best wines was to see the best qualities of the main varietal (cabernet sauvignon in the Medoc, merlot on the Right Bank) express themselves completely and clearly. This was not a case of merlot looking like a cabernet or vice versa.

This was just a post to wet your whistle. Look for our favorite wines from all over Bordeaux in our upcoming report!

Let the 2013 Bordeaux Futures Campaign Begin!



photo[2]JJ Buckley just wrapped up their week at en primeur where they had a chance to taste the 2013 vintage. Travelling to Bordeaux for the 8th year in a row, we once again had the privilege to catch up with negociants and interview winemakers about this controversial vintage. Tasting the new wines on site allowed us to shape our own perspective.

So what can be said about the 2013s?

The vintage holds its surprises. Some bottlings exceeded expectations and there are worthy candidates for your cellar; most will provide exceptional drinking over the next 8-10 years. As with any vintage, a few domaines missed the mark; but disappointing wines? Not in the least. In sum, don’t believe the hype.

Here are a few facts and observations:

We expect prices will not decrease by more than 20% compared to last year. Overall yields were down considerably compared to last year due to poor weather. To ensure that the grand vin was of sufficient quality, many wineries declassified more wine than usual resulting in even less wine for sale. With less wine to sell, some wineries have less incentive to drop prices.

The only way to guarantee access to this year’s top wines is buying en primeur. With low yields and strict selections, many estates will have little wine to sell. Some chateaux will make 80% less wine than last year. Many negociants will miss out on allocations leaving their clients without access to the smallest domaines. JJ Buckley’s close relationships with the region’s top firms will allow us to get the wines you want.

This will be a short and quick campaign. Chateau Pontet-Cantet took the unusual step of releasing prices and allocations before the wines were presented to the trade, while the perennial “first offering of the campaign” from Chateau Gazin arrived during en primeur week. Pressure to get the wines sold as quickly as possible is evident, which means be ready to act quickly for the wines and formats you want.

If you have a favorite wine, remember that buying en primeur is your best chance to secure half bottles or large formats. Wineries traditionally only bottle as much wines as needed to fulfill orders for alternative formats placed en primeur. Do not miss this opportunity to secure the bottle sizes you want.

The whites from Bordeaux are clear standouts of the vintage – act sooner than later. The white wines of Pessac-Leognan as well as other Sauvignon-Semillon blends crafted by wineries of the Haut-Medoc are made in small quantities. White wines typically make up only 10-20% of a winery’s total production. Given the excellent quality and limited production, final releases will be miniscule.

Remember that buying en primeur is the best way to ensure provenance. Provenance is guaranteed. The wines go from the chateau to our negotiants and then directly to JJ Buckley in refrigerated containers where they land at our climate-controlled facility, ensuring that the wines remain in perfect conditions every step of the way. No need to worry about your wines arriving in nothing but the safest and most secure method.

You can look forward to:

  • 2013 Futures offerings of wines will begin shortly. All Futures offers will be centralized in a daily offer by JJ Buckley as they become available. Remember, we buy direct from Bordeaux – we will provide our comments on each wines and some of the best prices around.
  • JJ Buckley’s 2013 Bordeaux Report, including informative articles on the vintage along with our top picks and detailed tasting notes.
  • Continuing coverage of 2013 Bordeaux through social media (Twitter, Facebook, blogs).

Our team has a broad and deep understanding of the 2013 vintage and perspective from past vintages. We are fully prepared to give thoughtful and educated advice and provide a personal view on the hundreds of wines we tasted. You will not find such a depth of knowledge and experience anywhere else in the country.

Do you want to stay up-to-date with the Bordeaux Futures offers for the 2013 Campaign?  Simply sign up for our newsletter or send an e-mail to marketin@jjbuckley.com.

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In 2012, The Right Bank Gets it Right

In 2012, The Right Bank Gets it Right

Post by Chuck Hayward | April 17th, 2013

Definitely not running late to an appointment...

Definitely not running late to our appointment…for lunch

Visiting en primeur is not only a test of mind and palate – it’s also a trial in organizational skills (or occasionally, lack thereof). With so many tastings and wineries to visit, all spread across the wide swath of land that makes up Bordeaux, it’s imperative that appointments are scheduled in such a way that one spends more time tasting than travelling. It can take an hour to go from Bordeaux to Chateau Calon Segur in St. Estephe. If your next appointment is at Chateau d’Issan in Margaux, you’ll need 40 minutes – more if you get stuck behind a tractor. A lesson learned the hard way…

So JJ Buckley makes sure to focus our appointments on each bank to lessen travel times. Once we finished with our cabernet-themed Left Bank travels, we zoomed off to our base in Libourne to sample the merlot-dominant wines of St. Emilion and Pomerol. And thanks to the fact that we could leave our hotel and arrive at Petrus’s door in about ten minutes, we were confident we could taste more during the second half of en primeur. Good thing too, because early reports had indicated that the best wines would be found on the Right Bank.
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Pontet-Canet ‘Saddles-Up’ in 2012

Pontet-Canet ‘Saddles-Up’ in 2012

Post by Alex Fondren | April 16th, 2013

Vast Pontet-Canet vineyard view from the tasting room

Pontet-Canet vineyard view from the chateau

In a variable vintage like 2012, it’s often hard to find consensus on which appellations and wines showed best. Our first official day tasting up and down the Haut Medoc proved no different, with some very spirited debates regarding the success of several big name properties. One estate that proved incapable of rousing much controversy, however, was Pontet-Canet.

Probably one of “the” wines of the Left Bank in 2012, the majority of us left impressed with what the chateau was able to achieve given the hand it was dealt. But after visiting, it was clear (as is always the case with Pontet-Canet) that this success was no mere accident. (more…)

2012 Bordeaux – The First Sip

2012 Bordeaux – The First Sip

Post by Chuck Hayward & Alex Fondren | April 7th, 2013

Jeffrey Davies' 2012 Lineup

Jeffrey Davies’ 2012 Lineup

The real heart of en primeur week starts tomorrow (Monday) and continues on through Friday. So to avoid rushing in, trying to find our bearings at winery appointments and large tastings, it’s better to arrive a few days early and meet up with our friends in the business to gain some first impressions. And there’s no one better to meet than Jeffrey Davies, owner of Signature Selections - a negociant and wine marketing outfit based just outside the city center of Bordeaux.

Tasting with Davies is quite a treat. He always has a broad range of wines to sample, whether they’re well-priced Bordeaux appellation releases or new micro-cuvees from St. Emilion. But Jeffrey’s true value comes from his close ties to the local winemaking scene. He is quick to offer his observations on the vintage along with the latest news and gossip, making our conversations with him lively and engaging.

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