First Growths 2013 En Primeur

First Growths 2013

 

All of these were tasted non-blind at the chateaux.

 

Even for the First Growths, this was an uneven year, where there were significant gaps between the first and second wines. As you would expect, all Firsts put in a good performance with their main wine; a credit to terroir, determination and cash.

 

Haut-Brion

At Domaine Clarence Dillon, production of first wine was 39% for La Mission Haut-Brion, 28% La Chapelle de La Mission, and the rest declassified into Clarendelle (the branded wine of Clarence Dillon, which is also blended with grapes from other estates). At Haut-Brion itself, production was 45% first wine, 36% Clarence de Haut-Brion, and 18% into Clarendelle (as a comparison in 2012 they put 40% in the first wine and 43% in 2011, so in fact this was a pretty high percentage, although yields were down overall – with just 5,900 cases to be bottled compared to 8,900 last year). At Quintus they made just 25% first wine, 43% Dragon de Quintus and a full 32% declassified (‘which meant that even with the new vineyards, our overall wine produced was the same!’).

 

Director Jean-Philippe Delmas gave a quick recap of the 2013 vintage. ‘July was hot with the hail storms on July 23 (not at Haut-Brion luckily), and August was sunny but not so hot. It was quite close to 1969 in terms of the weather conditions but not the wine, thanks to 45 years difference with knowledge and technical know-how…’. In front of each vat room at Château Haut-Brion and Château La Mission Haut-Brion, a sorting table was installed to produce a further selection prior to destemming and before the introduction into an optical sorting machine (a "tribaie" densimetric sorting machine at Château Quintus) which helped fine tune the selections made by the pickers and sorters.

 

Le Dragon de Quintus AOC Saint Emilion Grand Cru 2013

Touch of tight just-ripened berry fruits. Blend here is 56.5% merlot, 30.5% cabernet franc, 13% cabernet sauvignon. This has a touch of pyrazine for me. I do like the elegance, and the effect is less green than the savoury fruit that is a marker of this vintage. This is improving in the glass, good juiciness on the palate, helped no doubt by the alcohol coming in at just under 13%. 85-86. Recommended. Drink 2017-2027.

 

La Chapelle de la Mission Haut-Brion AOC Pessac Leognan 2013

Love the restrained fruit on the nose, and there is some sweet dark cherry fruit shot through here, 52% merlot, 12.5% cabernet franc, 35.5% cabernet sauvignon. Elegant, will be pleasurable drinking, get layers of flavour and a good lift at the end, although not as complex as some years. 87-88. Recommended. Drink 2017-2027.

 

Le Clarence de Haut-Brion AOC Pessac Leognan 2013

Good deep purple colour, very easy silky tannins, good grip, this feels like a 'real wine' with layers and interest, they have really expertly extracted the fruit. Herbal, savoury, just ripe but very clean, fresh, good. 88-89. Recommended. Drink 2017-2027.

 

Chateau Quintus AOC Saint Emilion 2013

This is silkier, more gloss than in other years at this property, l'Arrosée has contributed around 20% of the vines (mainly merlot), towards an overall blend of 80% merlot, 20% cabernet franc, and the medium-weight fruit manages to avoid a mid-palate dip.  With the purchase of neighbouring Chateau l’Arrosée, Domaine Clarence Dillon now has 28 hectares in Saint Emilion, compared to 15ha last year -but production is almost the same because of all the selection and sorting! 91-93. Highly recommended. Drink 2018-2028.

 

Chateau La Mission Haut-Brion AOC Pessac Leognan 2013

Great tannin astringency and freshness in the mouth, feels effortless, elegant, beauitful, less exuberant than in 2009 and 2010 of course, blend 65% merlot, 3% cabernet franc, 33% cabernet sauvignon. Beautiful persistency, this is understated, really just a lovely wine. 92-94. Highly recommended. Drink 2018-2030.

 

Chateau Haut-Brion AOC Pessac Léognan 2013

Blend is 50% merlot, 45.5% cabernet sauvignon, 4.5% cabernet franc. A build in power from La Mission. Just love Haut-Brion in difficult vintages, always such a lesson in expert winemaking. This is gorgeous, and they managed a full 45% of first wine, a fairly high proportion in 2013. The tannins do some mouth coating, which I haven’t felt in many places this year, this will develop and age. Not a long-haul, but a great medium term wine. 93-95. Highly recommended to Outstanding. Drink 2018-2030.

 

La Clareté de Haut-Brion AOC Pessac Léognan Blanc

Great aromatics on the nose, coming in somewhere between the 2011 and 2012. On the palate it is a little more underpowered than the 2011, which even at this stage was just delicious and full of life. 88. Recommended. Drink 2014-2020.

 

Chateau la Mission Haut Brion Blanc AOC Pessac Léognan Blanc 2013

Here the nose is delineated, pure, gorgeous. The leap up from second wine Clareté de Haut-Brion this year is huge. Excellent varietal characteristics, 24% sauvignon, 76% semillon, tunnel of lemon, rounded citrus, but with great squirt of acidity, from ph3,25 close to 2011 (2010 was even lower at 3,10). A mouth-watering wine. 94. Highly recommended. Drink 2016-2026.

 

Haut Brion Blanc AOC Pessac Léognan Blanc 2013

The best of the whites here, huge impact from the very first nose, 66% sauvignon, 34% semillon. they manage to make such a high degree of sauvignon blanc be not overpowering but a rhapsody of gentle, subtle but piercing fruits, some acacia, gentle citrus, herbal, you get the cut grass but it is so well stitched together. Love this wine, easily my favourite so far. Huge persistency. Could keep going with this! 95+. Outstanding. Drink 2016-2026

 

Chateau Margaux

The works are still ongoing here, so we tasted in the Orangerie (apparently the second biggest in France after Versailles). The new 18m long 9m high cellar will be ready for harvest 2014. Thibault Pontallier on 2013: ‘Long winter that lasted til June. Spring never showed up, we had delayed flowering, lost lots of berries, but then faster maturation for what was left. August very dry but less hot than July, so good aromatics. Then explosion of grey rot at end of September. To ensure we got the grapes in quickly, we doubled our harvesters from 150 to 300 pickers overnight, and brought everything in in just 8 days – but around perhaps five days earlier than we would have ideally liked, in keeping with many local estates. Extremely severe selection.’

 

Pavillon Rouge AOC Margaux 2013

Lowest percentage of Pavillon Rouge ever, with just 21% of overall production, and 41% of production that made it into neither the first nor second, leaving 38% for the first wine (compare this to 20 years ago, when 70% would routinely go into the first wine). And a full 25% was declassified from the estate entirely, ensuring that the new 3rd wine, Margaux de Chateau Margaux, could also maintain its quality. The final blend here is 10% merlot, 84% cabernet sauvignon, 2% cabernet franc, 4% petit verdot. Much higher cabernet sauvignon than usual. Yields around one third less than usual. ‘To keep quality decision correct, because we are aware that the price of Pavillon demands a certain stringency’, says Thibualt. On the palate, this Pavillon is good and clean, but a touch underpowered compared to most vintages. Not density or depth but has the floral nose and lovely balance of an earlier year, maybe 2007. Some gentle spice. 22hl/h yield. Around 50% new oak. Clearly early drinking, but real pleasure. Gentle extraction obvious. Alcohol is 13% (was 13.4% in 2010) 89-90. Recommended to Highly Recommended. Drink 2017-2025.

 

Chateau Margaux AOC Margaux 2013

They used 80% new oak this year instead of the usual 100%, to keep the signature floral nose. It’s certainly an essential element to the overall construction of this wine, as there is less power and density on the palate than we have found in recent vintages. The final blend here is 94% cabernet sauvignon, 5% cabernet franc, 1% petit verdot. No merlot for the first time, because the two plots that normally go into the first wine were not up to their usual standard and so are used this year in Pavillon Rouge. Very soft, smooth tannins, very elegant, get lovely grip and mouth-watering acidity. This is delicate, full of finesse, beautifully made. But feels fleeting, just out of reach of its usual self. 91-93. Highly recommended. Drink 2020-2035.

 

Pavillon Blanc AOC Bordeaux Blanc 2013

A fresh 3.4ph. This vintage suits the style perfectly of Pavillon Blanc, which has been going more mineral and clean ever since the 2008 vintage (if you compare to particulary 2006 and 2007, you will clearly see a fatter and rounder style). No grey rot on these grapes, perfectly clean and harvest was completed 24 hours before the explosion of rot on the red grapes. The wine is, as usual, 100% sauvignon blanc, with 60% declassified to ensure quality of the main wine (so here again they hope in a few years to introduce a second wine). 30% new oak. Great density and mouthwatering fruit. Love this. Excellent persistency, 13%abv. Hugely floral nose, less fat than the Haut Brion blanc, this is a little more aerian. 1,000 cases however! 94. Highly recommended. Drink 2017-2030.

 

Mouton Rothschild

The three Pauillac Rothschild properties touch, but were affected very differently by coulure and other problems of this growing season. Their organic plots were the most affected – Dhalluin says, ‘we have been experimenting with organic farming for over a decade now, but are still not entirely convinced’. This was a year where the money that First Growths are able to throw at problems came in very handy, specifically in terms of being able to bring grapes in quicklly by increasing the numbers of pickers - on October 9, 695 meals were served to harvesters, an all time record... 

 

Chateau d'Armailhac AOC Pauillac 2013

Armailhac has a more open, floral nose than Clerc, which is a little bigger and tighter. Armailhac more obvious oak influence, beautiful bright purple primeur colour. A rich, fruit-filled nose, but the oak is a touch over intrusive on the palate. Not so many compromises made to the vintage perhaps as many wines this year, managing to convey ambition and a good tunnel of bright acidity. Less early easy drinking than some, which is perhaps a good thing, definitely enjoy the winemaking skills on show here. Blend 59% cabernet sauvignon, 28% melrot, 12% cabernet franc, 1% petit verdot. 88-89. Recommended to Highly Recommended. Drink 2018-2030.

 

Chateau Clerc AOC Pauillac 2013

A little darker fruit, higher acidity, overall a little more structured than the Armailhac. Feel it has more staying power. Lovely bright purple fruits, feel a whoosh of acidity that is not evident in many properties, this is ambitious and successful, although lacks some of the fleshiness of the best vintages, but this is enjoyable, a good wine that you feel will age well. Lost a lot of the merlot crop here because of coulure. Blend 58% cbernet sauvignon, 27% merlot, 12% cabernet franc, 2% petit verdot, 1% carmanere. 91-92. Highly Recommended. Drink 2018-2030.

 

Petit Mouton AOC Pauillac 2013

Yummy nose here, plum fruits, that finesse, that well brushed sexiness, there is clear toasted oak, simmering coffee, the flashiness that Petit Mouton des so well. I love that you get such a signature in this wine. The finish heads upwards as it should do in a good vintage, where you get the lift on the finish, and the firm hint of tannins, but there is a softness overall that again suggests it will be only a medium term drinker. The blend is a very high 93% cabernet sauvignon and 7% merlot. For me one of the more successful second wines. 91-92. Highly Recommended. Drink 2018-2028.

 

Chateau Mouton Rothschild AOC Pauillac 2013

The nose is a touch more closed and tight than the Petit Mouton, as you would hope and expect. On the palate, there is impact and power. There is a sheen to Mouton that never leaves it. Compared to Pontet, it is less rustic tannins, less 'honest to goodness wine', but there is a slow build of power. This has plenty of the signature Pauillac power in it. Where Chateau Margaux this year is more delicate, floral, intellectual, Mouton is more ample, good power, you feel that you are in expert hands, a gentle freshly milled white pepper and exotic cloves. Merlot pretty normal at Mouton, not affected by poor fruit set, meaning the blend here is 89% cabernet sauvignon, 7% merlot and 4% cabernet franc. 94-95. Highly recommended to Outstanding. Drink 2018-2030.

 

Aile d'Argent AOC Bordeaux Blanc 2013

To preserve that signature Mouton warmth and glamour, this is the only property in Bordeaux (that I know of) to do malolactic fermentation of its sauvignon blanc grapes – here 15% of the grapes underwent malo to soften the acidity. The overall blend is 67% sauvignon blanc and 33% sémillon. This has real weight and mouthfeel; up to the 2011 standard of this wine. Love. 95. Outstanding. Drink 2017-2032.

 

Lafite Rothschild

Carruades de Lafite AOC Pauillac 2013

Blend is 64% cabernet sauvignon, 29% merlot, 4% cabernet franc, 3% petit verdot. Good typicity of Pauillac on the nose, tight dark fruits. But this is for me the least interesting Carruades for a number of years. Good nose, crunchy dark fruit on the attack, then falls off through the mid-palate. There is always plenty to like in this wine, and it will be an enjoyable medium-term drinker, but not the heights of recent years. 88. Recommended. Drink 2017-2029.

 

Chateau Duhart Milon AOC Pauillac 2013

Good rich ripe purple blush colour. This is continuing Duhart’s good run, structured, serious, great Pauillac typicity. still very tight tannins, astringent not drying, less of an early drinker than many wines this year. Has power and attitude, less charming perhaps that some you will find in 2013, but it’s good. Blend is 80% cabernet sauvigon, 20% merlot. 91-92. Drink 2019-2030.

 

Chateau Lafite Rothschild AOC Pauillac 2013

There is a sweetness on the nose of the Lafite that is not evident in the Carruades. This has some of the eegance of Margaux and some of the mouthfeel of Mouton, but without the fleshy opulence. Less fun that Mouton, more elegant, the tannins are very well worked. The blend here is 98% cabernet sauvignon with 2% merlot (so another year with no cabernet franc in the first wine at Lafite). An attractive twist of tobacco leaf and cigar smoke on the finish gives definition, and the tannins are apparent, even if the structure is lighter than in many vintages. This is a classic Lafite, and will give great pleasure. 93-94. Highly recommended. Drink 2021-2038.

 

Chateau Latour

You can expect to buy these wines around 10 years from now, but still interesting to taste at this stage. Helene Génin is now full time technical director at Chateau Latour, as Penelope Godefroy is now consulting across other estates aswell (notably the new investments in Pomerol and Lalande-de-Pomerol). Our tasting was given by Rufus, the estate's brand ambassador based in Shanghai. He pointed out the distinct lack of mainland chinese here, 'top end Chinese certainly less interested in en primeur - plays in to what we are doing, supplying more mature vintages'. The production was split into 31.5% first wine, 44.5% second wine, 24% third wine.

 

Pauillac AOC Pauillac 2013

45.5% cabernet sauvignon, 53.7% merlot, 0.8% cabernet franc. Pretty tight and just ripe. This has some clean fresh black fruits, really good definition, like this more than I expected to, certainly far more successful than some of the second wines I have tried in this vintage. 88. Recommended. Drink 2017-2017.

 

Les Forts de Latour AOC Pauillac 2013

Blend of 62.7% cabernet, 35.1% merlot, 2.2% petit verdot, particularly open nose, juicy black fruits, surprised by the freshness in this wine, there is a very soft tannic structure. That is a good wine, lovely plush fruit. 89. Recommended. Drink 2018-2028.

 

Chateau Latour AOC Pauillac 2013

Very classic Pauillac. This has an excellent structure, some really serious fruit and tension, supercharged, elegant, poised. Only 31% of the production made it into the first wine, only 6000 cases (incidentally, Engerer has said he never wants to make more than 10,000 cases per vintage according to several merchants I have spoken with. He was in Burgundy not Bordeaux during the primeurs, so wasn’t able to verify this directly with him). In the L’Enclos, they now have 24 hectares in biodynamic farming, and almost all ended up in the first wine. Love this, for me the most successful of the First Growths in this vintage along with Mouton. 94-95. Highly recommended to Outstanding. Drink 2018-2032.

 

And the older vintages on display…

Pauillac AOC Pauillac 2008

Rich oak on the nose, this is still fairly evident and gives it the feel of a still young wine. Clove and eugenol. Would be supremely easy to drink. Quite high alcohol. Good wine. 87.

 

Les Forts de Latour AOC Pauillac 2006

The nose here is still almost entirely primary, very young whoosh of fruit, this is bilberry, blackcurrant, creme de cassis, absolutely excellent. 91.

 

Chateau Latour AOC Pauillac 2004

The most smoky of all these noses, but gunsmoke, terroir smoke, that is a seriously seriously good wine, fruit is tight, pure, concentrated, tannins still firm but no longer unyielding, thoroughly enjoyable. 96.
Is their new strategy working” They say: ‘It will be be 8 years until the release of our first new wines that are not already in the market, so it is so hard to judge right now. Really is the long term view. Looking to release the wines that are just waking up’.

 

CHEVAL BLANC

Not tasting Quinault L’Enclos this year because only 8hl/h so won’t bottle anything under this label.

 

Le Petit Cheval AOC Saint Emilion 2013

This has soft tannins, and is light in structure, floating, ethereal, pretty and well placed. The blend is 79% merlot, 21% cabernet franc, so much more merlot than usual (so many unsual blends in 2013, reflecting the highly capricious growing season). All blends at Cheval Blanc are done blind, always looking for nuance, and no set parts of the vineyard go into first or second wine – entirely depends on how the vines have performed in any given vintage. The wine was divided into 20% Petit Cheval, with 20% declassified, and the rest first wine. 88-89. Recommended. Drink 2019-2029.

 

Cheval Blanc AOC Saint Emilion Grand Cru Classé 2013

60% first wine with 53% cabernet franc and 47% merlot. Good grip, here really wanted to reflect what the vintage has given, 3,67ph, a lot of structure but supremely elegant. They didn’t change their barrel regime, 100% new oak low toast. This should age with great elegance for 20-30 years. The fruits are light and summer, cherry and redcurrant, there is an elegance here that is gorgeous. Picking date 30th September to 9th October. 91-93. Highly recommended. Drink 2020-2035.

 

Ausone

Chateau Simard AOC Saint Emilion Grand Cru 2013

Blend of 65% merlot, 35% cabernet franc. Pure tight fruit, again these well worked floating tannins. Fleeting on the finish though. 85-86. Recommended. Drink 2018-2028.

 

Chateau de Fonbel AOC Saint Emilion Grand Cru 2013

More grip, fruit extraction and power here, deeper, richer dark cherries on the attack, but a touch short and tiny bits of greengage and reducrrant on mid palate and continuing through the finish for me, suggesting slightly underripe fruit but very smoothly fattened up through oak on the attack. The blend is 65% merlot, 25% cabernet franc, 10% petit verdot 86-87. Recommended. Drink 2018-2028.

 

Moulin St Georges AOC Saint Emilion Grand Cru 2013

80% merlot, 20% cabernet franc. Half the quantity for all the estates. Here redcurrants and gooseberries and a lovely lovely elegance. Short again. But real charm. 87-88. Recommended. Drink 2018-2028.

 

La Chapelle d’Ausone AOC Saint Emilion Grand Cru 2013

60/25/15 cab sauvignon. Clear elegance, good persistancy, but far below the best years of Chapelle. It has some mocha torrefied notes that are more usually well integrated.incredibly tight selection, this has pert, pure fruit and excellent precision. 90-91. Highly Recommended. Drink 2018-2028.  

 

Chateau Ausone AOC Saint Emilion Grand Cru 2013

Silky tannins, all the elegance that you would expect from Ausone, but not leaps and strides ahead of the others as it is in many years. There are gently insisting tannins, that expression of tannin that I love so much, when it is gentle and elegant but the support is there if unobtrusive. Very good, builds slowly in power. Intellectual, carefully placed, understated, 13%abv. 92-94. Highly Recommended. Drink 2020-2035.

 

Petrus

Chateau Petrus AOC Pomerol 2-13

Good, firm rich nose, clear white pepper spice, this is well structured without intrusive oak. Harvest took place over three days - 2-4-6 October, bringing in a yield of 25 hl/h compared to 33 hl/h last year in 2012, 12.5% natural alcohol. In contrast to many estates, here they believe ‘above all you should not chaptilise; you need to take what nature gives you and make the most of it. Nature is the boss’, says Olivier, ‘you either try to push it too far, add oak, plump it up, or you go for pleasure, harmony, balance, and happiness when you open the bottle’. They have certainly achieved that here, lovely violet and red currant, nothing bulked. Good acidity, good finesse. This should open up slowly, because it has both acidity and freshness. Olivier compares this year to 1999 and 2004. Extraction was very carefully managed – so pumping over during first week once a day, that wetting the must, so less powerful extraction.  91-93. Drink 2019-2035.

 

ANGELUS

No 3 d'Angelus AOC Saint Emilion Grand Cru 2013

Clean nose, a little short, the fruit is plush, firm, fairly dark and ripe, this is a good third wine that compares favourably to many second wines this year. But still short. 85-86. Drink 2016-2023.

 

Carillon d'Angelus AOC Saint Emilion Grand Cru 2013

Firm dark fruit, feel some vibrancy and pleasure. Firm, good tannic structure, does this have the sexy rush of Angelus? Good smooth tannins, nose surprisingly closed, sample fairly cold. The Carillon has an excellent attack, but the acidity is really quite biting in the mid palate, it suffers from the vintge and no doubt the intense selection made for the first wine. 88-89. Drink 2017-2025.

 

Chateau Angelus AOC Saint Emilion Grand Cru Classé 2013

Blend of 62% merlot, 38% cabernet franc. Long harvest 28th September to 18th October. Bright clean, fresh, elegant, some sexy smudge that Angelus does so well. Good persistency, clear bright well defined fruits. I know they were disappointed that with all the work they did still not achieve a perfect result, but this is a very good wine. Lacks the fleshiness of the best vintages of Angelus perhaps, but again there is a power to the wine that gently builds up, with good acidity, structure and very attractive florality. 93-94. Drink 2020-2034

 

Fleur de Bouard AOC Lalande-de-Pomerol 2013

85% merlot, 12% cabernet franc, 3% cabernet sauvignon. This works pretty well, in a hugely modern way - throws into relief how restrained they have been with Angelus, this is far more old school right bank, coffee and cupcakes. Will have an audience. 88-89. Recommended. Drink 2018-2025.

 

Le Plus de Bouard AOC Lalande-de-Pomerol 2013

Nose more restrained. Closed, big, this actually works better than the Fleur, which for me is very unusual, but there is some cleaner use of oak, not so exuberant but more structured. Short though, compared to many years. 89-90. Recommended to Highly Recommended. Drink 2018-2025.

 

YQUEM

Chateau Yquem AOC Sauternes 2013

A deeply flavoured luscious take on Yquem. Harvested over four passes through the vineyard from 25 September to 24 october, short periods between each one. Last year 19 days of rain when harvesting 1-29 October. This time just a few days of rain. And at lucky moments 15 hl/h which is above average, but only 40% made it into the first wine. Fairly high 3,7ph, with 4g total acidity, 13,1%abv, 140g residual sugar. Rich and round. Assistant winemaker David Marc says, 'we got rain at lucky moments this year that encouraged a good spread of noble rot. For me, this lacks a touch of the soaring acidity of 2011, but it is a complex, more-ish wine with excellent potential for future development. 94. Highly recommended. Drink 2010-2050.