My top line thoughts from Primeurs tastings this week ….

My child is poorly today. Wan, washed out, anxious-looking after a fitful night. I won’t be tasting any more Primeurs therefore this week. I am not altogether sorry. Not because the last few days haven’t been fun – far from it. I have always loved this time of year in Bordeaux. Yes, I’ve tasted sexier, more sensual, more cerebral Bordeaux En Primeur, but I’ve also tasted a few monsters along the way, and these are far from being that.

Many of the wines I tasted this week remind me of my son this morning – bear with me, the maternal spirit is clearly running high on too few hours sleep – but the paleness of some of the 13s is there for all to see. Some of them are anxious too. Some of them appear to be undecided as to what or who they are – ‘a very Burgundian array’ I heard a few say.

As an optimist I, for one, found great pleasure in some wines this week. But I tasted very few in the context of such a vast region. I cannot claim to have a hold of the vintage. I’m in no hurry however, to taste a great deal more, not because I disliked what little I saw, but because I’m quite content to let them sleep awhile. Most are simply not ready to be ‘seen’ in public. The Primeurs season is a cruel stage for ugly ducklings. I suspect many need nurture and time in their cellars, they need to be left alone to rest.

Good news for the technologically-minded however. The vintage has provided a fine playground for the scientists. Wineries bristling with the latest ‘kit’ have come into their own – and there are many in Bordeaux these days. I tasted wine whose berries had been transported to the Chai in baskets fitted with special shock absorbers to protect their bruised and rot-infected punctured skins from further battering. Another wine from Saint Estephe benefited from a dose of stalk ‘medicine’, a patented powder technique, too secret as yet to be shared even with me, a curious MW student. I feel sure more cosmetic miracles will and can be performed between now and bottling to fill and smooth those worry lines away.

But there are some natural beauties amongst the gaggle of awkwardnesses, to the Left and Right. Expressive florality and delicacy rub shoulders with ‘silent’ worried wines, hard edged with extraction. And isn’t the contrast what makes Bordeaux so fascinating? It gives meaning and a sense of purpose to a region that performs on a world stage year after year. Variety, distinction, poor performance, stellar performance, stage-fright, illusion, stark reality, show-stoppers, howlers. Certain Chateaux over the last few years have mined the world’s cult of celebrity well, stealing front stage, flashing brilliance, feeding a consumer fixated on fashion and fortune. Whilst some rest on faded laurels, others have reinvented themselves. They all crave an audience however and most took to the stage again in this difficult year.

‘Fresh’ is the one of the kindest descriptors. But this is not a vintage for generalities. This is a year, amongst the top, to choose and enjoy individual properties, if within financial reach. There’s fun to be had doing that. For me, Thienpont’s wines truly sing this year – eye-wateringly fresh and pure. Moueix’s traditional collection vividly perfume the room, as do the wines of Chateau Cheval Blanc. Chateau Pontet Canet fills the senses with weightless intricacy. Chateau d’Yquem is a true masterpiece with a feather duvet structure.

Back to duvets and pillows. I must see to my son. He’ll be fine. He’ll bounce back with a spoonful of sugar. The wines of Bordeaux’s 2013 vintage have had a rougher ride. An unhealthy growing season followed by much mockery and scorn from passers-by. Some have pulled through unscathed, others are decidedly pale still, others will not make it. ‘Wines to drink young and forget quickly’ I was told. Good. Life’s short. Make them affordable and I’ll look forward to meeting them again in bottle and drinking a few.

Clare Tooley, 4th April 2014

Follow Clare on twitter @ClareT_y


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