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BORDEAUX 2017: PETRUS ‘WINE OF THE VINTAGE’
Every year in advance of the annual en primeur campaign, Liv-ex polls its 400 global members to get their thoughts on the vintage, compiling their answers to give something of a snapshot of the vintage including; the best wines, those tipped to be (with any luck) the ‘best value’, where the vintage ranks against its recent peers and expected demand from customers.
When asked to rank the ‘best’ wines of the 2017 vintage it was an even split of Left and Right Bank wines but all of them are the region’s most storied names including all of the first growths, and then Ausone, Cheval Blanc, Lafleur, Vieux Château Certan and Petrus on the Right Bank with Petrus ranked the best overall followed by VCC then Margaux.
For the eighth year in a row, Grand Puy Lacoste was nominated as the wine expected to be the best value (that is to say not exceeding £500 a dozen), which has not always turned out to be the case in recent years.
Also listed were Langoa Barton, Brane Cantenac, Capbern, Gloria and Talbot among others. With a certain grim irony, Haut-Batailley was among the best value hopefuls.
As the questionnaire was sent out a little while ago, many merchants at the time of answering no doubt expected the Pauillac fifth growth to stick to its fairly usual course of releasing around €30 a bottle ex-Bordeaux.
But Haut-Batailley’s new owners, the Cazes family, released the wine on Wednesday this week (25 April) with a hefty 46% increase on the 2015 vintage (the 2016 has not been released) in what was a clear intention to ‘reposition’ the estate.
At £495-£500 a case it does technically fall into the ‘value’ parameters of the questionnaire but it’s likely a bit ‘toppy’ for many. The Cazes’s other property, Ormes de Pez, was also listed in the best value chart – maybe better luck there?
There was such division over the list of most disappointing wines that there was no clear consensus although a few of the ‘best’ wines listed clearly left some unimpressed.
Overall the vintage was rated 92.6 points (out of 100), putting it just above the 2014 (by a nose), a little better than the 2008, 2011 and 2012 and much better than 2007 and 2013 but not close at all to 2009, 2010, 2015 or 2016.
The most comparisons in character were to the 2014 and 2012 vintages and while a few suggested it was redolent of 2001, many also set it completely apart from any vintage, certainly of recent times.
When ranking the quality of the first growths alone from 2011-2017 (though excluding the 2016s), the 2017 wines were ranked third behind 2015 (which was ranked first by 93% of respondents) and 2014.
In terms of expected demand, a cheery 4.1% are apparently expecting more demand than last year, 10.9% expect demand to be about the same but after that the views quickly become more pessimistic, with 31.5% expecting demand to be down as much as 20% and a considerable 53.4% expecting demand to be more than 20% down on last year – highlighting 2017’s position as a ‘conundrum’ vintage, perhaps filled with some very good wines but at a time when no one especially wants them.
Finally, when given a ‘shopping basket’ of labels (see chart) and asked to suggest their expected (not desired!) ex-négocient release prices compared to the 2016s, the average reduction turned out to be 11.5% – will it be enough?
The 2017 Petrus is deep garnet-purple in color and opens with incredible notes of preserved plums, baked blueberries and cherry compote with nuances of hoisin, violets, lilacs, licorice and exotic spices—a very open-knit, flamboyant and atypical Petrus barrel sample! The palate is medium to full-bodied, rich, plush and decadent with a firm frame and layers upon layers of perfume and spices on the very long finish. Wine Advocate 93-95
Extremely aromatic already with lavender, violets, mulberries and lots of ripe fruit. Very generous in terms of fruit but this remains tight and compacted with long, powerful tannins. They are strong and frame a muscular and racy Petrus, but everything remains in harmony and balance. James Suckling 97-98p
Drinking Pétrus may be an unforgettable experience. We has been lucky to have the opportunity to taste most of its great vintages. That is why wine enthusiasts often come to us for advice. First, WeI advise you to choose a good vintage, an excellent one if your wallet allows. If you taste a poor vintage, you will notice how it raises above most other wines of the same vintage, but you will miss the actual point of Pétrus.
Second, purchase wine that is at least 10 to 20 years old, because a young Pétrus is difficult to approach, besides which oak and tannins predominate in its taste. Young Pétrus may be impressive, but it ages fantastically and requires more time than any other Pomerol wine to reach its culmination. Finally, We would advise you to decant the wine with care and well in advance, and also to give it time to develop in the glass. Then you will have the opportunity to enjoy an unforgettable experience.
Little known 50 years ago, this château has seen the rise of a myth about the uniqueness of its wine. The wine’s inimatibility is due to many factors, first of all, an exceptional terroir - 40 meters above sea level, the highest point of the appellation - with a layer of heavy clay soil and an iron subsoil. These are ideal conditions for the expression of the Merlot grape. With such a special terroir, the approach in the vineyard and cellar is traditional and respectful.
The work done in the vineyard is fastidious - severe pruning in the winter, regular ploughing, crop-thinning, de-leafing, manicuring the clusters in the summer - and allows the perfect ripening of the fruit. The grape are manually harvested within two afternoons and sorted before crush.
Fermentation is carried out gently, without any overextraction, in temperature-controlled concrete tanks. The blend, very often pure Merlot, is defined in December and the young wine is aged in 100% new oak barrels.
This property made famous by Madame Edmond Loubat and then by Monsieur Jean-Pierre Moueix, culminates at 130 feet on the plateau of Pomerol. Ets Jean-Pierre Moueix is responsible for the cultivation, vinification and aging as well as the export distribution of Petrus wines.
A heterogeneous vintage, 2017 will remain in the memory of a lot of vintners with very mixed feelings. An early bud break put hopes very high for a good vintage. These hopes were destroyed by a frost period of historical dimensions. On April 20 an 21 as well as on April 27 and 28 the frost destroyed 30 to 50% of the harvest in the Gironde area, though the best terroirs and famous appellations have been less affected. An early and regular flowering set new hopes. Summer was very dry and the harvest was quite early, even accelerated by rain at the beginning of September. This was rather a problem for the Merlot grapes than for Cabernets. The Cabernet-Sauvignon took advantage of a dry Indian Summer.
Overall the vintage produced remarkable dry white wines above the qualities of 2015 and 2016. The sweet wines took advantage of a fast and regular Botrytis resulting in great wines. The red wines are in general more heterogeneous. However, concerning the wines tasted and presented below, it is a vintage without aromas of peppers and vegetal components, therefore suggesting a good ripening level. For the vineyards suffering frost, often the second generation of grapes had to be used to produce wine. These wines are less impressive than the previous vintages. The best terroirs were offering wines with expressive fruit with a character allowing a good evolution.
On the left bank, Pauillac was doing remarkably well as well as Saint-Julien and generally the vineyards facing the river. On the right bank the situation is much more heterogeneous, with very good results on the plateau calcaire of Saint-Emilion and the centre of the plateau de Pomerol. Overall fruit is dominating the tasting notes and at this early stage, the aromatic expression is mainly based on red and dark berries and stone fruit for the reds.
For the whites the range goes from yellow fruits and citrus fruits up to tropical fruits especially in the sweet wines. Looking back to the last vintages ending on "7" it seems, that this vintage again respects a certain "7"-Tradition. It is a vintage bringing back Bordeaux to its roots, offering a very classic wine style with lower alcohol levels than in the previous years but with often excellent aromatic expression. 2015 and 2016 have surely been better vintages than last year, but based on a first impression 2017 seems to be better than 2014. The evolution will show, that 2017 is far from becoming a "forgotten vintage". Some nice surprises will be waiting for us.
Markus del Monego MW