In April 2008, a larger than usual number of the Lay & Wheeler Fine Wine team visited Bordeaux for the annual en primeur tastings. We felt this was necessary in order to best assess a set of wines that had been unduly talked down before any had been tasted and to ensure that we only purchased the best of the vintage.
There has been much written about the changeable summer weather in 2007 and an all important, vintage-saving, sunny September. The ripening period was longer and cooler than usual. There are benefits to such a season though. Philippe Dhalluin, winemaker at Mouton-Rothschild, attributes the aromatic complexity of his 2007s to this cooler but lengthier ripening period. Meanwhile on the Right Bank, at Cheval Blanc, Kees van Leewen, Consultant Viticulturist and Oenologist, told us "acidity is low due to the length of the season but, because it was never hot, the fruit style is fresh."
While it is certainly possible to make some general comments about the potential of any vintage based solely on documented meteorological data, one must remember that great wine, in any vintage, is the product of considerable human effort. We should not underestimate the significant advances in knowledge and understanding of both vineyard management and winemaking techniques in the last decade. Such developments provide the means for the intelligent, sensitive winemaker to craft wines of balance and harmony in almost any vintage.
The 2007 vintage in Bordeaux was one that required greater effort than normal in the vineyard (40% more at Château Palmer, 19,000 hours in the Moueix estates, eighty people permanently employed in the vineyard at Pichon-Lalande from April to July). Even after such increased vineyard activity, anguish was not entirely dispelled. At Château l’Evangile, we heard that the challenges had been even greater in the winery partly due to the disparate picking dates and partly due to concerns over the tannin quality despite apparent ripeness.
The successes in this vintage exhibit a delightfully supple freshness, which suggests the 2007s will be approachable early. This is not to say they will not keep. Some are beautifully elegant with a wonderfully harmonious balance of fruit, acidity, tannin and alcohol. Others have a more glossy richness and depth, but with more than sufficient fruit to balance a slightly fuller tannin structure.
St-Estephe’s reputation for robust wines has long been dispelled at the highest level by the great degree of sophistication achieved over many years by Montrose, Cos d’Estournel and Calon Segur. These three have once again delivered wines of class but the commune as a whole saw many successes.
One of the more consistent communes of 2007, Pauillac hosts a number of high performing Châteaux. Pontet-Canet continues its run of success with a glossy wine of good fruit and ample structure while Lynch-Bages seems almost incapable of disappointing.
A greater variability than one has come to expect in St-Julien merely served to highlight the fine quality of the better wines. Anthony Barton’s two properties, Léoville and Langoa-Barton are characteristically reliable wines. Ducru-Beaucaillou is widely admired for its depth and texture.
Margaux is best known for the elegance and perfume that is possible in its wines. In 2007 the best wines demonstrate this trait in fragrance and approachability. Château Margaux itself has certainly returned to this classic profile with its 2007 after an atypically Cabernet Sauvignon focused 2006.
The high plateau of Pomerol, with warmer, gravelly soils and exposed to beneficial breezes in 2007, was home to most of the notable successes of 2007. Châteaux l’Evangile, l’Eglise Clinet and Certan de May are wines of some richness. Vieux Château Certan and La Conseillante are beautifully pure.
St Emilion’s varied terroirs are responsible for a great diversity of styles and qualities for such a well recognized wine producing region. The ripening of Merlot certainly provoked challenges in 2007 and picking dates differed dramatically from property to property making the variability greater than usual.
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