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May 07, 2014

Bordeaux En Primeur 2013 Round-up and Recommendations

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All of the major Bordeaux 2013 En Primeur releases have now occurred, with the exception of Chateau d’Yquem and Petrus, which are set to release later in the year. The campaign has been characterised as one of the quickest in living memory, beginning with Pontet Canet on the 26th March, before any of the trade had tasted the vintage and prior to the critics’ verdict.

Much had been said about the weather conditions in 2013 and output was certainly heterogeneous. As one might expect the leading estates who have the finances to implement draconian measures adhered to strict selections, resulting in good quality wine, yet with an average reduction of 40% Grand Vin output, with some, such as Pichon Lalande, as low as 20%.

Prior to the campaign the market advanced the axiom of the 2013’s being lower than of any current trading vintage, thereby offering value and incentive on release: it would be price that defined this vintage. Sadly the estates – at large – did not do enough and of the first 200 releases just 4% were down on the average 2012 prices, inversely 30% up on the 2008’s. As such we are focusing on the wines that did offer an incentive of which several sold out such as Lynch Bages, L’Eglise Clinet, Domaine de Chevalier Blanc and the First Growths, Mouton Rothschild and Margaux.

First Growths

Noteworthy indeed is that the First Growths released at compelling prices this year and have sold quickly on the Place de Bordeaux, with buyers pleased to be able to secure three of the First Growths for £200 a bottle, something not seen since 2008. The First Growths reduced prices significantly, at least 15% below the current trading price of any other vintage: they have been one of the success stories of the campaign.

Haut Brion 2013 – £2,450, 12×75 or £1,225 6×75 EP – 91-94 AG
Haut Brion released their 2013, 15% down on their 2012, £300 cheaper than the lowest trading vintage; making it very compelling. Haut Brion 2013 has been awarded good scores from the leading critics: Antonio Galloni 91-94, James Suckling 92-93 and James Molesworth (Wine Spectator) 91-94. The blend in 2013 is 50% Merlot, 45.5% Cabernet Sauvignon and 4.5% Cabernet Franc; the inclusion of its normally high percentage of Merlot is reflected in the strong mid-palate, something missing in many wines of this vintage thereby offering more depth and complexity than the other first growths.

Lafite Rothschild 2013 – £1,600, 6×75 - 91-93 points WA
Lafite 2013 was released 14% lower than in 2012, the same price as the 2007 release. This makes it comfortably the cheapest priced Lafite Rothschild on the market and with 33% less production in 2013 than normal, extremely competitive! Since its release Lafite Rothschild 2012 has maintained a comfortable trading level of £3,950 a case, representing a 25% increase on the 2013 release. Moreover, with most cases of Lafite Rothschild happily trading above £5,000 a case the 2013 offers a 60% reduction to the lower end of the market trading average. Lafite Rothschild 2013 is very unique in its style, with a blend of 98% Cabernet Sauvignon. The 2013 also has the lowest Points Over Price score of any case of Lafite Rothschild in the market.

Mouton Rothschild 2013 – £1,235, 6×75 – 92-94 WA – LAST REMAINING CASES
Mouton Rothschild’s 2013 release offers collectors the chance to own a leading First Growth for £205 per bottle, releasing 16% cheaper than the 2012′s current market price. Neil Martin awarded the 2013 92-94 points, a sentiment shared by James Molesworth who scored it 91-94. Mouton 2013 is £400 cheaper than their next vintage, comfortably the cheapest in the market.

Margaux 2013 – £2,400, 12×75 or £1,200, 6×75 – 91-93 WA – SOLD OUT

Recommended Second Wines

La Chapelle de La Mission Haut Brion 2013 – £330 12×75 or £115 6×75 – 89-90 NM
La Chapelle de La Mission Haut Brion released with a 16% discount on last year at the superb price of £330 for a case of 12 or £115 for a case of six. This reflects a bottle price of £27.50 and one of the best buys of the vintage for future drinking. It is best described as the younger brother of La Mission Haut Brion, produced in the same vineyards from a higher percentage of younger vines; the future of La Mission. It is made to be consumed younger, although it will improve for ten years and the 2013 exhibits a delightful perfume of white chocolate, blackcurrant, blueberries, jam, sweet vanilla, cedar, smoke, with hints of Haut Brion’s tobacco. It scored 88-90 from Galloni, 87-90 from Molesworth.

Carruades de Lafite 2013 – 12×75, £990 or 6×75, £495 - 88-91 points WA
Carruades de Lafite released at a 22% discount to the present trading value of the 2012 and 44% discount on the 2011s. 2013 Carruades is a blend of 64% Cabernet Sauvignon, 29% Merlot, 4% Cabernet Franc and 3% Petit Verdot. Neil Martin awarded it 89-90 points and James Molesworth 89-91 and with most vintages of Carruades trading above £1,700 a case the 2013 offers an 85% discount to the lower end of the markets’ average case price and a real incentive to buy and hold on release.

James Molesworth, 88-91 points: Perfumy, with black tea notes out front, followed by racy, tightly focused red currant and black cherry fruit. The sleek, tobacco-fueled finish has a pleasant racy edge. Not dense, but balanced and defined. Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot.

Recommended Super Seconds

Lynch Bages 2013 – £550, 12×75 or £275, 6×75 – 91-92 JS LAST REMAINING CASES
Lynch Bages 2013 was the wine to buy in this vintage, releasing at £550 for a case of 12 bottles. This makes 2013 the cheapest current vintage of any Lynch Bages in the last 10 years, over £100 less than the 2012 and 2011. Lynch Bages made a well-structured wine in 2013 which received 91-92 points from James Suckling and 89-92 from James Molesworth of the Wine Spectator. It is noteworthy that Lynch Bages made a very strict selection in 2013, one of the reasons for the quality of the wine, which equates to a reduction in production of over 60%. What makes it very interesting is that ordinarily Lynch Bages is heralded for its powerful structure and dense fruit, yet the early picking of the 2013 vintage adds a lovely fragrance and perfume and the opportunity to buy a wine that will come into its drinking window far earlier than is customary for the chateau.

Echo de Lynch Bages 2013 – £215, 12×75 or £107.50, 6×75 – 86-89 JM 
James Molesworth, 86-89 points: The fresh tobacco, olive, cedar and red currant notes are direct and focused, with a light tangy feel through the finish.

Pontet Canet 2013 – £660, 12×75 or £330, 6×75 – 92-93 JS
Pontet Canet broke the mould in 2013 by releasing in March, backing their First Growth quality reputation to sell their wine; this is not surprising as they have no problem perennially selling out. We tasted it and consider it one of the wines of the vintage in terms of structure and fruit ripeness and do not hesitate to recommend it as a future drinker; leading critics agree that this is a very well made wine with James Suckling awarding it 92-93, James Molesworth 89-92 and Neil Martin, awarding it 89-91. In 2013 they produced 50% less wine than in 2012, at the extraordinary yield of 15 hectolitres per hectare. To put this into perspective the 100 point scoring 2010 vintage was harvested at 45 hectolitres per hectare producing 20,000 cases: the 2013 will see fewer than 10,000 cases in the market and is as always a superb collectors wine.

James Suckling, 92-93 points: An aromatic wine with exceptional delicacy and suppleness for the vintage, featuring blackberry, mineral, spice and flower character. Very fine tannins. Seamless structure. It’s a wine with a pleasant savory, fruity character that makes you want to drink it. Harmonious.

Leoville Poyferre 2013 – £420, 12×75 or £210, 6×75 – 90-92 NM
Poyferre released at £420 for a case of 12, an -11% discount on their 2012 and equal to their cheapest current trading vintage, the 2007 which is inferior in quality. In 2013 Poyferre used strict selection and took advantage of their wonderful terrior to produce a very good wine which scored 90-92 points from Neil Martin and Antonio Galloni, sentiments reiterated by James Molesworth 89-92 and James Suckling 90-91. Poyferre 2013 is a very well made wine, assembled from 65% Cabernet Sauvignon, 26% Merlot, 6% Petit Verdot and 3% Cabernet Franc. It is fleshy, combining blackcurrant, cassis with lovely red fruits; red currant and raspberry, in fact Martin notes its ‘almost Burgundy like purity on the nose, evoking a sense of Vosne-Romanée!’,

Pichon Baron 2013, £590, 12×75 or £295, 6×75 – 92-93 JS
James Suckling posits that Pichon Baron is a stand out wine in this vintage, ‘This is fantastic for 2013 with seamless tannins and a long finish’ scoring it 92-93 pts. Christian Seely, the Englishman who manages the Estate clearly agrees and has sought to make their 2013 very interesting by reducing its release price by 17% on last years’ offering; as such the 2013 is the lowest priced of their last ten vintages. This offers an incentive to purchase in barrel and own a fine vintage of Pichon Baron for under £50 a bottle.

James Suckling, 92-93points: This is fantastic for 2013 with seamless tannins and a long finish. Extremely well made. Full body, with lovely core of fruit and a fresh finish. Tannin tension here. Reminds me of the excellent 1988. About 82% Cabernet Sauvignon and 18% Merlot.

Domaine de Chavalier 2013 – £300, 12×75 or £150 6×75 – 91-94 AG
Domaine de Chevalier rouge 2013 is very well structured and finished with wonderful care and attention. The red from this Estate continues to be under-priced compared to many of its peers and scored 91-92 from James Suckling and 91-94 points from Galloni. These scores place it on par or better than most of the Second Growths and superb value at £25 a bottle.

Antonio Galloni, 91-94 points: Graphite, smoke, plums and violets meld together in the 2013 Domaine de Chevalier. One of the most impressive wines of the year, the 2013 stands out for its energy, delineation and brilliant textural balance. With a little time in the glass, the 2013 opens up beautifully, showing off its multi-faceted personality. What a gorgeous wine this is. Violets, sage and new leather add the final layers of complexity to what is easily one of the wines of the vintage. The 2013 has been striking the three times I have tasted it. In 2013, the blend is 80% Cabernet Sauvignon, 15% Merlot and 5% Petit Verdot.

Beychevelle 2013 – £420, 12×75, £210, 6×75 – 89-90 JS – SOLD OUT
James Suckling, 89-90 points: Delicate and pretty with blueberry and mineral character. Medium body, fine tannins, fresh finish. Well-crafted for the vintage.

d’Issan 2013 – £285, 12×75 or £142.50, 6×75 – 90-92 WA
The perfumed and feminine characteristics of Margaux lent themselves well to the 2013 vintage and d’Issan is one of the few chateaux that received a higher score in 2013 than 2012 at 90-92 points from Neil Martin. Chateau d’Issan gives further incentive to buyers by reducing their release price by 5% on 2012 and 18% on 2011, making it the least expensive vintage on the market.

Neil Martin, 90-92 points: The Chateau d’Issan, a blend of 26% Merlot and 74% Cabernet Sauvignon, has a simple, light redcurrant and cranberry scented bouquet that has a pleasant floral aspect. The palate is medium-bodied with ripe tannins, good depth considering the performance of its peers, with fine definition on the finish. At last – a decent Margaux 2013! Tasted April 2014.

Chateau du Tertre 2013 – £205, 12×75, £102.50, 6×75 – 91-92 JS
James Suckling, 91-92 points: Lots of blackberries and blueberries on the nose. Full body, with chewy tannins that are polished and ripe. Tar and mushroom undertones on the finish. Excellent Tertre. Try in 2018.

Smith Haut Lafitte 2013 - £415, 12×75 or £207.50, 6×75 – 91-92 JS
James Suckling greatly revers Smith Haut Lafitte as a chateau that must be considered amongst the best performers anywhere in Bordeaux. Suckling awarded their 2013, 91-92 points remarking ‘This is very, very fresh with a bright berry and currant character.’ We viewed this wine as one of the best made in the vintage, offering cassis, blackcurrant, toast, smoke, cedar, tobacco white pepper and sweet spice: that’s a lot of wine for under £35 a bottle. Like Pichon Baron the release price means the 2013 is the cheapest priced vintage over the last ten years, once again offering value and incentive to buy en primeur.

Chateau Gloria 2013 - £210, 12×75 or £105, 6×75 – 87-90 JM
Gloria is located in the Saint-Julien-Beychevelle commune and is a perennial favourite of collectors in the UK. Gloria offers the typical characteristics of the Saint Julien terroir at a fraction of the price of its illustrious Cru Classe neighbours. This is a great effort from Chateau Gloria with James Molesworth scoring it 87-90 points, placing it amongst the Classified Growths for the vintage.

Recommended Right Bank

Clinet 2013 – £420, 12×75 or £210, 6×75 – 90-92 NM
Chateau Clinet is now simply one of the best estates in Bordeaux. It is a small property with only 11.27 hectares located on the highest point of the Pomerol plateau, close to L’Eglise Clinet and Trotanoy. The property’s 45 year old vines rest in soils that are a wonderful balance of gravel, clay and rich sand, planted with 85% Merlot, 10% Cabernet Franc and 5% Cabernet Sauvignon. Their 2013 release price has been reduced by 14% on their 2012 and is 12% cheaper than the current trading price of the 2006 and 2007. It offers a lovely incentive to buy a case on release for £420 or £210 for a half case: this is superb value.

Neil Martin, 90-92 points: Clinet 2013 was picked between 30 September until 12 October, finishing with the two Cabernets. Ronan Laborde told me that it was the most compact harvest he had undertaken: 4½ days within 13 days, the fruit selected through an optical sorting machine. The level of new oak is 60%, up from 2012, because Jean-Michel thought the fruit was good enough, with an IPT of 85 compared to 75. The nose takes some time to unfurl, broody and reticent at first, revealing redcurrant and cranberry scents mixed with dried flowers with time. The palate is well balanced with quite linear tannins, the oak nicely integrated and lending this Clinet good depth.

Troplong Mondot 2013 – £570, 12×75 or £285, 6×75 – 91-93 WA
Troplong Mondot was one of the success stories of the vintage and a tribute to the proprietor, Christine Valette-Pariente who sadly lost her battle with cancer in late March. Troplong Mondot offers a precision and focus that is rarely available in 2013 with dense jammy fruit on the nose of blackberries and cassis alongside tobacco leaf and mushroom. The mouth-feel is full with good acidity and fine tannin. Troplong Mondot is highly rated by the critics including a score of 91-93 from Neil Martin and has released with a slight discount on its 2013 price.

L’Eglise Clinet 2013 – £600, 6×75 – 94-96 NM – SOLD OUT
L’Eglise Clinet is arguably the wine of the vintage scoring 94-96 from Neil Martin, who unequivocally stated that, ‘If you do insist on buying one 2013 en primeur, then make it this one.

James Suckling, 93-94 points: One of the most naturally structured wines from the vintage. It’s the most properly structured wine of the vintage. It’s full body with mineral character and an intensity. The old vine cabernet franc gave the backbone. This will need aging.

Recommended Whites

As is often the case in Bordeaux a difficult vintage for the red wines results in a good/great vintage for whites and sweet wines: this paradigm is particularly true of 2013. The dry whites particularly those form the heralded gravel soils of Pessac Leognan and Graves are ripe, gracious and elegant; combining fragrance, balance with lovely precision, minerality and concentration of fruit: 2013 is a year to fill the cellar with white Bordeaux. In particular we were hugely impressed by white wines from Domaine de Chevalier, Smith Haut Lafitte and Pape Clement.

Smith Haut Lafitte Blanc 12×75 – £600, 12×75 or £300, 6×75 – 95-96 JS
We recommend Smith Haut Lafitte Blanc profusely and are delighted to be able to offer a small parcel for £600, 12×75 and at £50 per bottle this 95-96 point scoring wine is one of the best possible purchases in 2013. Smith Haut Lafitte 2013 is truly special, the bouquet sings of ripe tropical fruits, papaya, mango, clementines, acacia, honey and apricot with a wonderful floral note of white blossom. The mouth-feel is full and the finish envelopes into beautiful candied fruit balanced with wonderful vibrant acidity and steely minerality. The wine has wonderful precision and structure and will improve in bottle for 15 years, yet last for 30+. The finish carries on and on delighting the senses and uplifting ones spirit. We did not hesitate to award the wine 95-96+, it promises much in the future.

Domaine de Chevalier Blanc 2013, £600, 12×75 or £300, 6×75 – 97-98 JS – SOLD OUT

Recommended Sauternes

2013 is an excellent vintage for white wines and in particular Sauternes. In fact most chateaux delighted with the development of noble rot, they started picking at the same time as the Medoc and right bank reds. This is extremely rare and reinforces our view that Sauternes has produced a magical vintage. The Sauternes display an outstanding concentration, freshness of fruit and terrific clear botrytis flavours.

Chateau Guiraud 2013 – 12×75, £310 or 6×75, £155 – 94-97 WS
Chateau Guiraud was one of our favourite Sauternes in 2013 and offers incredible value, James Molsworth of the Wine spectator agrees awarding it one the highest marks with 94-97. Guiraud 2013 is a bright yellow/gold colour, with a highly fragrant nose of citrus, lemon, dried pineapple, honeysuckle, smoke, wood chip, orange peel, grapefruit and the most extraordinary caramelised notes that rise from the glass. The palate is medium to full bodied, harmonious, concentrated and balanced. The finish goes on and on and we immediately awarded the 2013 95-97 points, it is truly superb and at £25 a bottle offer incredible value. Unless you are waiting to buy Chateau d’Yquem and even if you are, Chateau Guiraud is the value Sauternes to buy in this vintage.

James Molesworth, 94–97 points: This is almost formed already, with lovely mouthfeel to the ginger cream, toasted hazelnut, orange curd, flan, apricot and glazed peach flavors. Long and refined, despite some very serious power in reserve. Great showing today.

Chateau Rieussec 2013 – £460, 12×75 £230, 6×75 – 95-96 JS
James Suckling, 95-96 points: Rieussec 2013 This has masses of bortrytis-spice character. It’s full but balanced and intense, with loads of dried-fruit character and a spicy, intense finish. Superb. I like the sweet-savory character. 

To view all Bordeaux 2013 releases please click here.