2013 Bordeaux: Let En Primeur Begin!
by Chuck Hayward
The month of April approaches and at JJ Buckley, that means its time to renew our passion for the wines of Bordeaux. It's about this time that the region's wineries and negociants throw open their doors and pull out the corkscrews and spitbuckets as wine buyers, the media and a few other hangers on descend on Bordeaux to taste the latest vintage. At the same time, pronouncements on the quality of the new wines are made and business decisions are scrutinized in the lead up to the en primeur sales campaign.
This year, just as in the past eight years, members of the JJ Buckley team will be there attending tastings and visiting wineries to learn first hand what the new vintage has to offer. We do this not only to make our purchasing decisions but to give direct and informed assessments to our clients.
What do the 2013 Bordeauxs have to tell us at this point. The weather has played the most important role in what these wines will offer. Rain and cooler temperatires wreaked havoc in Bordeaux forcing growers and winemakers to deal with problems they have rarely encountered. (More information about the weather during the 2013 growing season can be found in our upcoming report on JJ Buckley's visit to Bordeaux.)
The bad weather clearly foced some wineries to panic. Over the past few months, reports of wineries declassifying their entire crops while others made infinitesimal amounts of their grand vin crept out into the market. With this news of poor quality and little wine, wine writers declared the vintage a washout and questioned the need to even sell the wines en primeur. Others declared their intention to avoid tasting the wines all together.
Much of this hoohah seems to be a bit unprofessional. Responsible writers and buyers recognize that Bordeaux is going through some problems with unsold expensive wines backed up in warehouses and a few vintages of challenging quality soon to come. And the fact that Bordeaux is suffering from a hipster credibility crisis has not been lost on anyone. So the bashing continues...
But to say the 2013s are of poor quality before even tasting them seems a bit prejudgemental. Wineries are better equipped to make wines in difficult years like 2013 than they were even 25-30 years ago. Sorting tables, green harvesting procedures, declassification of substandard lots are just a few things that Bordeaux has utilized to improve wine quality since the last rainy harvests. The proof will be in the pudding. And that's why JJ Buckley tastes at en primeur.
Early reports say that the 2013s are charming and approachable with good quality to be found here and there, a surprising assessment given the gloomy prognistications by the press. There will definitely be less 2013 red wine entering the market thanks to very low yields caused by the poor weather as well as strict selections in the vineyard and the cellar to maintain quality.
The success of the vintage will depend, as it always does, on pricing. Some in the business are calling for prices 30-50% below what the owners got for the 2012s. Others want prices that were found for the 2008s which were set low as the impact of the GFC was being felt. The decision of the Tesseron family at Chateau Pontet Canet to not only annouce their pricing before the tasting season began but to set the price equal to the 2012s has made many Bordelaise nervous.
We'll keep our ears to the ground and keep you informed on the quality of the harvest along with talk regarding the pricing right here. Also check our tweets for pictures and quick notes (check #JJBATBDX) and friend us on Facebook for even more.