Bordeaux 2013

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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2013 Bordeaux: That’s Why They Call Them The First Growths

Paul Pontallier of Chateau Margaux

Paul Pontallier of Chateau Margaux pontificates on the 2013 vintage

The first growths are so designated because they are considered to have the best terroirs in the Haut-Medoc. (I say this knowing that the Right Bank and Pessac are excluded here.) The argument here is that the land speaks more than the winemaker’s hand.

Over the past few years with Bordeaux consistently churning out some incredible wines, the riding tide of quality that comes from a great vintage compresses the distance between the first growths and other top notch estates of the Haut-Medoc. Witness the astounding Pontet-Canets from 2009 and 2010 which arguably give the first growths a run for the money.

But what happens in the more difficult years? Do the supposedly superior terroirs actually allow the first growths to produce wines better than their neighbors? Or has the new money that has modernized so many wineries in combination with whipsmart winemakers closed the gap between the first growths and their upstarts? With some of the worst weather in decades, the wines from 2013 would provide a good platform to answer these questions.

Luckily, our schedule was constructed to visit all of the Haut-Medoc first growths in succession. Now let’s acknowledge that from a purely hedonistic point of view, this was going to be a pretty awesome experience. We consider ourselves quite lucky to have a morning where we can indulge in some of Bordeaux’s best wines, one after the other. This all notwithstanding, we had some work ahead of us!!

Tasting the 2013 Chateau Latour

Tasting the 2013 Chateau Latour

Fortunately, this morning also followed a couple of days going through many of the wines that comprise the other four classes of the 1855 classification. Domaines like Pontet-Canet, Cos d’Estournel and Palmer are among the 10-20 or so estates that can easily challenge the first growths as one of the best wines of the vintage. Would any of these wines surpass the quality of the first growths in 2013?

A visit to Chateau Margaux showed that 2013was a test the winery passed successfully. As winemaker Paul Pontallier observed, “We feel we are quite privileged to have the means to make great wine. But also it is true that in vintages like 2013, great terroirs show their supremacy.” Parceling much of their merlot into the domaine’s other cuvees, this year’s grand vin had 94% cabernet sauvignon, 5% cab franc and 1% petit verdot and showed graceful power with good length. This vintage shows a richness of fruit that is tempered by Margaux’s trademark finesse and was a success for the vintage.

Focusing again on a first growth that possesses a finessed palette, Lafite Rothschild showcased it’s prettier fruit expression clearly in 2013. Like Margaux, Lafite depended on cabernet sauvignon (98% in this case) to provide the power and foundation of the grand vin. One trait of the 2013′s is a fresh and vibrant red fruit expression with a crisp and crunchy texture that slowly gives way to more depth and concentration with some air. The wine’s fine grained tannins were in balance with the fruit weight keeping the sleek structure that Lafite is known for.

When it comes to power, Mouton Rothschild and Latour traditionally show the full-bodied texture and intensity of flavor that is a foil to Margaux and Lafite’s elegance. Once again, these two properties stayed true to their identities pouring 13’s that were as good if not better than last year’s wines. Depth and concentration abounded, not only in their top cuvees but also in the second wines. Already looking like complete wines, layers of blackfruits peeled away to reveal even more nuance and complexity. Just the right amount of acidity added vibrancy and precision to the flavors while the integrated tannins added support contributing to the wine’s overall balance. These were thrilling examples that stayed true to the pedigree of each estate. At the same time, these wines proved that excellent wines could be found in this difficult year.

The setup at Lafite-Rothschild

The setup at Lafite-Rothschild

Compared with the wines of the Haut-Medoc tasted during the previous two days, the first growths clearly stole the show. Their 2013s were what you would expect of a first growth, maybe without the potential to age 25+ years, but they were no slouches. The other top chateaux of the Haut-Medoc clearly showed more variability among them with successes mixed with others where the challenges of the harvest proved difficult to overcome.

In the end, it seems that in 2013, the great terroirs of the first growths added that something special to make wines of greater quality than what we found in all the Haut-Medoc wines encountered beforehand. The technical talent and equipment available to Bordeaux’s best estates is relatively equal so perhaps it is the terroirs that speak with a stronger voice in challenging years. Why? Who’s to say. As those at Chateau Margaux say themselves, “The genius of great terroirs is difficult to fathom.” But in 2013, the terroirs of the top estates clearly showed why they are called “The First Growths of the Medoc”.