En Primeur News : Tuesday, 8th May 2018

This week will be a quiet one for the Bordeaux 2017 en primeur campaign. Following a UK Bank Holiday on Monday, France has 2 public holidays – Tuesday and Thursday – as well as “ponts” on either side.

We do however have some interesting news with the final tasting notes now published from the leading independent critics. These have all been updated on the en primeur pages of our web site.

This year we have chosen to bring you the notes from Farr Vintners as well as those of 8 leading authorities on the wines of Bordeaux. These are :-

Neal Martin

James Suckling

Antonio Galloni

Lisa Perrotti-Brown MW

Julia Harding MW

Derek Smedley MW

Jane Anson

Matthew Jukes

Each wine that we feature will show notes from each critic and their top wines are featured in our Recommendations section.

Our customers should now have a wide range of opinions to consider as they decide which wines to purchase en primeur this year. We thought that it would be interesting to summarise the views of the critics.


Neal Martin (writing for www.vinous.com)

Neal is a British critic who has been tasting Bordeaux en primeur for 20 years (the first vintage that he tasted was 1997) and he was, until earlier this year, the Bordeaux critic of the Wine Advocate until he moved to Vinous. Despite the switch in employer, Neal is very much seen – certainly in the UK wine trade – as the most important and influential critic of Bordeaux wine today. Not only are his scores taken the most seriously, but his report is eloquent, amusing and very well written.

Neal rates 2017 as a “good to very good vintage” and describes it as being like “2014 plus”.

He doesn’t believe that it is as good as 2015 and 2016 except in a handful of places.

Of the wines that we list, he only rates 5 wines (all right bank) above his scores for the same Châteaux in 2016.

He doesn’t believe that it is strongly a left or right bank vintage but on the left bank he prefers the Northern Médoc villages of Pauillac and St Estèphe.

He likes the dry white wines and rates the Sauternes as “good but not within the top tier”.

His three top red wines of the vintage (rated 95-97) are Eglise Clinet, Lafleur and Lafite. However another 34 wines are rated 93/95 or 94/96.


James Suckling (www.jamessuckling.com)

James is a vastly experienced American wine expert and has tasted every vintage of Bordeaux en primeur since 1982. He was the Bordeaux critic of The Wine Spectator for many years until he decided to go it alone in 2010. In 2017 he tasted alongside his son Jack. Based in Hong Kong, James is particularly influential in Asia where he holds many tastings and writes for HK Tatler magazine.

James rates 2017 as being “much better than most people might expect”. Virtually every wine that we list has a Suckling score in the 90’s. he rates the top wines as being between 2014 and 2015 in quality.

He states that for the red wines “it is not in the same league as 2015 and 2016”.

He believes the top dry whites and Sauternes are “on a par with the efforts in 2015 and 2016”. Yquem is rated 98/99 points.

He rates only 1 red wine (of the wines that we list) above his scores of the same Châteaux in 2016.

His top red wine of the vintage is Latour with 98/99 points. 15 wines are rated 97/98 and a further 57 wines are rated 94/95 or above.


Antonio Galloni (www.vinous.com)

Antonio is an American wine critic. He founded Vinous in 2013 following his departure from Robert Parker’s The Wine Advocate where he had been lead critic for Italy, Champagne and other regions for several years. He has reviewed Bordeaux en primeur since the start of Vinous and in early 2018 scored a considerable coup by luring his former colleague Neal Martin away from the Wine Advocate. His well-written report includes references to Miles Davis and Steve Jobs and he is clearly very proud of his new colleague, stating that Neal Martin’s 2017 vintage report “is one of the most deeply researched and well-written articles I have ever read”.

Antonio states that although 2017 is an inconsistent vintage “it produced a number of tremendous wines”.

He says that “The 2017s are reminiscent of the 2014s, but with a bit more flesh. In some cases, the 2017s come across as smaller-scaled and more accessible versions of the 2015s”.

He rates 14 red wines (of the wines that we list) above his scores of the same Châteaux in 2016 and virtually all his white wine scores are higher than in 2016.

He describes the 2017 Pomerols as being “terrific….. including La Conseillante, L’Évangile, Pétrus, L’Eglise Clinet, Feytit-Clinet, Le Pin, La Fleur Pétrus.”

He is of the opinion that 2017 is “very clearly a right bank vintage”  and says that ”a number of wines here are positively thrilling”.

He states that 2017 is a fabulous vintage for dry whites and almost as good for the sweet whites.

Only 2 of Antonio’s “most exciting wines of 2017” are reds from the left bank – Lafite and Léoville Las Cases.

His highest scoring wines of the vintage are Lafleur, Vieux Chateau Certan, Ausone and Troplong Mondot.


Lisa Perrotti-Brown MW (robertparker.com)

Lisa Perrotti-Brown MW is an American critic and the editor-in-chief of The Wine Advocate. Following the departure of Neal Martin and the retirement of Robert Parker, she became the WA’s Bordeaux critic and her first en primeur report is of the 2017 vintage. She began her career in the London wine trade before moving to Japan and then Singapore before returning to the US. She became a Master of Wine in 2008 and now lives in California.

Lisa states that “2017 is not nearly as consistently great as 2015 or 2016, but this vintage did produce some extraordinary wines”.

She adds that “there are a few estates that produced wines equal to or better than their 2015s, with particular reference to vineyards in Saint-Estèphe and Pauillac”.

She states that the best 2017 reds will be “approachable when young yet are also built to age…..2017 is all about finesse, perfume and aromatic intensity as opposed to weighty richness”.

Dry white wines are “wow!” and Sauternes are “very good”.

She rates 3 wines as being potential 100 pointers with scores of 97-100 – Cos d’Estournel, Lafleur and Haut Brion Blanc.

She rates a further 56 wines that we list at 93/95 points or higher. This includes Latour, Lafite, Mouton, Ausone and Pavie at 97/99 – at or above WA 2015 ratings.

Unfortunately she appears to have missed out Lynch Bages, Haut Batailley, Les Ormes de Pez, Brane Cantenac and Grand Puy Lacoste from her report.


Julia Harding MW (www.jancisrobinson.com)

Julia Harding is a British Master of Wine. She is the full-time assistant of Jancis Robinson MW and writes regularly for her web site. Her vintage report is very studious and has a great deal of technical information.

She describes 2017 as a “small but good vintage……good and excellent wines have been made”.

She rates 5 wines 18.5 points, all from the right bank. 4 from Pomerol and one just over the border in St Emilion – Figeac, Lafleur, Pétrus, Le Pin and Vieux Château Certan.

A further 7 wines have 18 points, and altogether 65 wines have 17 points or more (compared to 96 wines in having 17 or more from Jancis in 2016).

9 reds are rated higher than Jancis rated them in 2016 but most dry whites have higher scores.


Derek Smedley MW (www.dereksmedleymw.co.uk)

Derek is by far the most experienced of the critics that we feature. The first vintage that he tasted en primeur was 1961 and he has tasted every year since then.

His 2 highest rated wines – 94/97 – are both white. Haut Brion Blanc and La Mission Haut Brion Blanc.

22 wines receive scores of 92/95 or more. The highest rated reds are L’Eglise Clinet, Vieux Chateau Certan, Tertre Roteboeuf, Figeac, Latour, Leoville Lascases, La Mission Haut Brion and Palmer

21 reds are rated higher than in 2016, as are most dry white wines.

He describes the red wines as “good but not great” between the quality of 2014 & 2015 and “not unlike 1988 but better handled”.

Of the whites and sweet wines, he says: “The dry whites are aromatic and fresh and the Sauternes rich and sweet with a balancing freshness”.


Jane Anson (www.decanter.com)

Jane is the Bordeaux correspondent of Decanter magazine. She has lived in the Bordeaux region since 2003.

She says that 2017 is a vintage with some wonderful wines but it is not a year in which to buy blind.

Wines rated 90 or above are “worth looking out for” and those rated 94 or 95 and up are “truly exceptional”.

She believes that the 2017s will be “earlier to approach than 2015 and 2016, probably coming in to play at around the same time as the 2014’s – six to eight years, rather than ten to twelve”.

She states that 2017 is an exceptional vintage for the dry white wines but not so clear cut for the sweet wines.

Highest score – 99 points – goes to Pavillon Blanc de Margaux and La Mission Haut Brion Blanc.

Lafite is the highest rated red wine with 98 points. 57 wines that we list receive scores of 94 points or higher.


Matthew Jukes (www.matthewjukes.com)

Matthew has been writing about wine for over 20 years and his weekly column in the Daily Mail is the most widely read wine in the UK.

His wine of the vintage with a score of 19.5+ is Ausone  (a higher rating than the 2016). 10 other wines are also rated higher than in 2016.

15 other wines are rated 19+. He rates no less than 113 of the 138 wines that we list at 17 points or higher.

He comments “some of my notes and scores for 2017 wines are superior to both the 2016 and 2015 vintages….. I like the shape of these wines a lot and I feel that many are finer and better balanced than equivalent 2015s.”

He goes on to say that: “there are some lovely Sauternes in 2017, but it is not a truly great year.” “Dry whites are rather lovely, but not necessarily long-lived.”

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