• Wine world

En-Primeurs 2023, our opinion

  • Fri, May 3, 2024 at 10:00
Smith Haut Lafitte, En-Primeurs 2023
From the very first observations, it's clear that the 2023 Bordeaux vintage is full of surprises and nuances. With a particular focus on Sauternes, the Left Bank is positioning itself as a key player in this winemaking season. The white wines, though varied in their expression, offer a rich aromatic palette, while the reds are showing generous yields, particularly in Pauillac, with promising potential. Unlike its predecessor, the great 2022 vintage, this year is shaping up to be more classic, offering wines that are ready to be enjoyed quickly.

A look back at the 2023 Bordeaux En-Primeurs vintage

The 2023 vintage was a year of challenges and reflection for the winegrowers. The sometimes unexpected weather conditions have shaped this vintage from the outset. A cold winter followed by a hot, wet spring intensified the outbreak of mildew in the vineyards, affecting Merlot in particular. However, thanks to technological advances in winemaking and the know-how of the winegrowers, which is refined year after year, the damage was contained, preserving the quality of the harvest. Secondly, the dry, hot summer meant that the harvest could be carried out early, starting as early as 12 August in the Sauternes region!  These conditions also favoured the development of botrytis (noble rot), which contributed to the production of superb Sauternes wines.

For Bordeaux red wines, the situation is more nuanced. Significant variability has been observed, requiring a case-by-case assessment, appellation by appellation, and even producer by producer. Although the right bank initially seemed weaker, on closer inspection, the vines planted on the limestone soils produced some great wines, such as Château Canon and Château Cheval Blanc. The late heat waves also played a crucial role, allowing the Cabernet and Merlot grapes to ripen fully, saving what could have been a lacklustre vintage.

In the Médoc, the dilemma was whether to pick Cabernet Sauvignon before or after the storm forecast for September. Those who waited were rewarded with grapes that were ripe but not excessively so, the storm having brought a welcome freshness. The well-balanced alcohol levels, lower than in previous years, are one of this year's strong points.

The 2023 vintage is shaping up to be another classic, with robust, well-controlled tannins, fruit concentration without excess, and invigorating acidity. Unlike the monumental 2022 vintage, it will be ready to enjoy sooner, while offering great longevity to those who know how to wait.

Browse our En-Primeur wines catalogue

The 2023 vintage by region

Saint-Émilion appellation

In 2023, the Saint-Émilion appellation faced some complex challenges, offering both triumphs and setbacks in our En-Primeurs wine tastings. Fortunately, the majority of estates escaped the mildew that appeared in the spring, occurring after the initial flowering and thus preserving the robustness of the vines. The precise timing of the harvest proved crucial in this very hot part of Bordeaux, and winemakers who waited until the end of September to pick the Cabernet Franc and Cabernet Sauvignon grapes were rewarded with exceptional results. Among this year's most outstanding estates, our hats are off to Château Canon, Château Figeac, Château Cheval Blanc, Château Faugères and Château Jean Faure, who particularly shone during our Bordeaux En-Primeurs tastings.

Château Cheval Blanc

Pomerol appellation

The Pomerol region showed notable stability this year compared to Saint-Émilion. Although the weather conditions were similar, the differences in soil composition played a decisive role. Vineyards on gravel and clay soils did particularly well. They benefited from their ability to retain water and provide essential nutrients for the vines. On the other hand, estates planted in sandy soils have had more difficulty with water shortages. Among the Pomerols En-Primeurs wines tasted, and among the best in our opinion, were Château La Conseillante and Vieux Château Certan. Their wines reflect not only the quality of their work, but also the richness and complexity of the Pomerol region's unique characteristics.

Château La Conseillante

Margaux appellation

This year, the Margaux region proved to be one of the most demanding appellations to assess during En-Primeurs week. The appellation has had its moments of glory, as well as its failures. However, in the 2023 vintage, Château Margaux was absolutely stunning, and its white wine, Pavillon Blanc, was hailed as one of the best dry white wines in the whole Bordeaux region. As for Château Rauzan Segla, it remains true to its traditional charm and captivated our palates.

Château Rauzan-Ségla

Saint-Julien appellation

This wine-growing region, a veritable patchwork of soils and grape varieties, demanded a meticulous and attentive approach to our En-Primeurs wine tastings. Every parcel of land seemed to hold potential, requiring careful exploration to extract its full richness. Those lucky enough to grow large Cabernet plants were able to patiently allow their grapes to mature to their full expression. Château Langoa Barton, Château Beychevelle and Château Ducru Beaucaillou stood out. Their ability to wait for the perfect moment to harvest, combined with exceptional winemaking skills, has produced some remarkable wines.

Château Langoa Barton

Pauillac appellation

Bordeaux's largest wine-growing region clearly came out on top in the 2023 vintage, generating widespread enthusiasm. En-Primeurs wines from the most prestigious vineyards, such as Château Lafite Rothschild and Château Clerc Milon, really shone at the tastings. Their quality and distinctive character won over the palates. What's more, the generous yields produced an average of 53 hectolitres per hectare. This combination of quality and quantity not only lived up to expectations, but also generated great enthusiasm among wine lovers and connoisseurs during the En-Primeurs week in Bordeaux.

Château Lafite Rothschild

Saint-Esthèphe appellation

Located in the most northerly region of France, Saint-Estèphe has brilliantly exploited its abundance of Cabernet Sauvignon to make inspiring wines. Leading estates such as Château Calon Ségur and Château Meyney have capitalised on this distinctive characteristic to create wines of remarkable quality. These En-Primeurs wines, imbued with the soul of their terroir, embody the quintessential character of this region, demonstrating the exceptional potential of its grape varieties.

Château Calon Ségur

Pessac-Léognan appellation

The Pessac-Léognan region offered diversity in both red and white wines. It was the scene of some successes in its 2023 vintage, driven by some remarkable Merlots. Domaine de Chevalier excelled, producing top-quality reds and whites. Château Les Carmes Haut-Brion has emerged as one of the jewels of the 2023 vintage, seducing with its distinctive character and finesse. Similarly, Château Haut-Bailly has lived up to its historic name by creating a stunning red that perfectly embodies the excellence and tradition of the region.

Domaine de Chevalier

En-Primeurs wines deserve to be accompanied!

The 2023 vintage in Bordeaux is proving to be rich in surprises and nuances, offering Bordeaux wines that are ready to be enjoyed quickly but also have ageing potential. The varied climatic conditions and the characteristics and subtleties of each soil have shaped En-Primeurs wines that require careful evaluation, region by region.

This wine season underlines the importance of surrounding oneself with experts to navigate through the varied choices and capture the rare gems. Whether it's the promising Sauternes or the complex reds of Pauillac, the support of a professional will guide you to the best En-Primeurs wine selections.

So if you want to buy En-Primeurs wines with a view to consuming them or investing in them, call on our Personnal Shopper! 

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