While Covid-19 continues to wreak havoc on professional wine events across Europe, thankfully it is not the case in many Asian countries, where limited tastings are going ahead (while still adhering to public health advice). Our Hong Kong office, headed up by Sales Manager Alva Ho and assisted by Jojo Leung, was delighted to attend such a prestigious event, as one of the few in-person events of 2020.
Before diving into our thoughts on the wines themselves, a little context…
Across the board, the 2017 vintage has been less anticipated than most. After two consecutive good vintages in Bordeaux, 2017 is a year that is likely to live in the shadow of its older siblings, the 2015 & 2016 vintages. Severe and uneven frosts in late April had destroyed emerging buds in some areas, causing difficulties for grapes ripening and resulting in a significantly reduced crop. The worst affected vineyards even suffered complete crop loss. Appellations including Pessac-Léognan, Graves, Saint-Émilion, Pomerol were not spared this challenge. Unusual measures were taken to save the crop: heaters were brought in and candles were even lit near the vines to increase the temperature by just two or three degrees, other châteaux hovered over their vineyards in helicopters, to crease a downward breeze.
It is not all doom and gloom however, as happily the growing season arrived and finished early. Fortunately, many vineyards were able to harvest healthy and mature grapes. Thanks to experienced winemakers who acted decisively, advanced technology in viticulture and precise technique in oenology, the 2017 Bordeaux vintage is one to taste with an open mind, and as we found, is full of wonderful surprises.
We started the tour with white wine, and we were impressed by Pessac-Léognan whites. They are very well made and reaching their drinking window. Château Pape Clément gives a bright acidity and refreshing texture leading to a satisfying finish. Château Smith Haut Lafitte has alluring aromas and creamy sensation in the palate. Domaine de Chevalier is well balanced and has a hint of minerality adding the complexity.
Moving on we began our red wine tasting, first with the left bank before finishing on the right. Occasionally we experienced some green flavours from unripe Cabernet Sauvignon, but the wines overall were well structured and balanced in fruit, tannin, and acidity. Some of the wines are already approachable and could be enjoyed young. Keep an eye out for Pauillac, St. Julien and St. Estèphe!
Château Pichon Longueville Comtesse de Lalande is a powerful wine with long ageing potential yet undoubtedly supple in its youth. It is dominated by rich black fruit aromas but also underlying notes of red fruit, cedar wood and spice. Château Lagrange offers ripe and concentrated fruit and is textbook in representing the quality of a St. Julien wine. Château la Tour Carnet is a full-bodied big wine, red fruits flavours accompanied by complex notes of smoke and tobacco leaf. Château de Valandraud has ripe and concentrated red fruits with a hint of floral note. It is round in body with a beautiful velvety texture. A very good example of Saint-Émilion.
Sauternes is quite impressive in this vintage from those châteaux not affected by the frost. Noble rot was successful, producing luscious, sweet wines of deep concentration and stunning balance without being too unctuous. Have a look at our coup de coeur: Château Guiraud displays abundant dried apricot, peach and honey flavours from botrytis. Rich and hints of spiciness. Château Rieussec : Beautiful golden hues, very concentrated flavours yet acidity is perfectly balanced with the sweetness, giving a lingering finish in the mouth.
All in all, a very successful tasting, full of very pleasant surprises!