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4th week (20 to 24 May) : ON THE MOVE

Another week of "Primeurs 2023", following on from the previous one, with 34 new vintages:

• Bordeaux blanc sec : Arums de Lagrange, L'Esprit de Chevalier (new), Larrivet Haut-Brion, Domaine de Chevalier
• Sauternes / Barsac : ---
 
• Graves / Pessac-Léognan : L'Esprit de Chevalier (new), Larrivet Haut-Brion, Domaine de Chevalier
• Rive gauche / Médoc : Poujeaux
• Margaux : La Gurgue organic, Baron de Brane, Ferrière organic, Cantenac-Brown, Durfort-Vivens organic, Brane-Cantenac
• Saint-Julien : Les Fiefs de Lagrange, Lagrange, Léoville Poyferré, Beychevelle
• Pauillac : Lacoste-Borie, Haut-Bages Libéral organic, Grand-Puy Lacoste
• Saint-Estèphe : ---
 
• Rive droite / Libournais : d'Aiguilhe
• Pomerol : Mazeyres organic, Clos L'Église
• Saint-Émilion : Côte de Baleau, Clos La Gaffelière (new), Poesia, Barde-Haut, Clos de l'Oratoire organic, Fonroque organic, La Dominique, La Gaffelière, Canon-la Gaffelière organic, Clos Fourtet, La Mondotte organic
 
Good Spirit [positive attitude]. While we are not, a priori, ardent defenders of all second wines, we recognise the quality of the work accomplished by Domaine de Chevalier since 2006 (followed by Derenoncourt Consultants) and are delighted to welcome their second label, L'Esprit de Chevalier (Spirit of Chevalier), to our lists for the first time this year, as deserving and worthy of interest in both white and red. And with a quality/price ratio that is always judicious within the Pessac-Léognan range (€26.90 a bottle for the white and €21.80 a bottle for the red).
 
Château or Clos ? The same assessment and the same enthusiasm for Clos La Gaffelière, the second wine of Château La Gaffelière (Saint-Émilion's 1er grand cru classé, monitored by Derenoncourt Consultants). Clos La Gaffelière 2023 is the pleasure version of the grand vin: to be enjoyed from 2028, 90% Merlot, silky texture and mellow tannins. At a third of the price of the Grand Vin (€21.00 a bottle).
 
Derenoncourt Consultants. With his intuitive, self-taught and, for his time, innovative and unconventional approach (respect for nature, low-intervention winemaking, etc.), Stéphane Derenoncourt, who started from nothing, has, in just 30 years, acquired a worldwide reputation in the world of fine wines. Under the 'Derenoncourt Consultants' banner, he has assembled a fine team of young oenologists, agricultural engineers, biologists, etc. capable of advising all the winegrowers of Bordeaux and beyond, from the simplest estate to the most prestigious crus, both in the vineyard and in the cellar.
 
Stéphane et nous. We met Stéphane Derenoncourt in the early 90s at Canon-La Gaffelière, selected his Domaine de l'A from its first vintage in 1997 and still consider it a mark of the highest quality that an estate has chosen to surround itself with his advice. Among the 95 Bordeaux châteaux that are clients of Derenoncourt Consultants, here are the ones we regularly select (en primeur or by catalogue):
 
- Pessac-Leognan : Couhins, Larrivet Haut-Brion, Domaine de Chevalier, Smith Haut-Lafitte, Les Carmes Haut-Brion
- Medoc/Moulis : Poujeaux
- Margaux : Prieuré-Lichine
 
- Right bank/Libournais : Isle Fort, Gree Laroque, Charmes-Godard, Puyguéraud, Alcée and, of course, domaine de l'A
- Saint-Emilion : Côte de Baleau, La Gaffelière, Pavie-Macquin, Larcis-Ducasse, Clos Fourtet
 
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3rd week (13 to 17 May) : BUSY WEEK

An intense 5-day week with more than 50 Bordeaux 2023s selected:
 
• Bordeaux dry white : Couhins blanc organic, Carbonnieux blanc, Suduiraut Vieilles Vignes (new), Lilium de Climens organic (new), Blanc de Lynch-Bages, Pape Clément blanc, Cos d'Estournel blanc
Bordeaux sweet white : Haut-Bergeron, Suduiraut, Climens organic
 
• Graves / Pessac-Léognan : Couhins organic, Carbonnieux, La Chapelle de la Mission Haut-Brion, Pape Clément, Le Clarence de Haut-Brion, La Mission Haut-Brion, Haut-Brion
Left Bank / Medoc : Mauvesin Barton, Madame de Beaucaillou, G d'Estournel, Sociando-Mallet
• Margaux : La Tour de Mons, Deyrem Valentin, Siran, Prieuré-Lichine, Marquis d'Alesme, Malescot Saint-Exupéry, d'Issan
• Saint-Julien : Petit Ducru, Gloria, Langoa-Barton, La Croix Ducru-Beaucaillou, Saint-Pierre, Léoville-Barton, Ducru-Beaucaillou
• Pauillac : Lynch-Bages
• Saint-Estephe : Ormes de Pez, Meyney, Cos Labory, Les Pagodes de Cos, Cos d'Estournel
• Right Bank / Libournais : Les Trois Croix, Haut-Carles
• Pomerol : Gazin
• Saint-Emilion : Fombrauge, Le Dragon de Quintus, Moulin Saint-Georges, Quintus, Chapelle d'Ausone (new), Cheval Blanc, Ausone
 
With this week's releases, more than 3/4 of the Bordeaux 2023s have now been put on the market.
 
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Towards a new Sauternes appellation? As the market for sweet wines has become increasingly complicated over the last twenty years, the Sauternes crus classés have increased their production of dry white wines over the years in order to ensure a minimum of profitability. Then, discovering the real originality and potential of their terroir for great white wines based on Semillon, we see these same Grand Crus Classés now making increasingly ambitious cuvées, with truly dry wines closer to La Mission Haut-Brion blanc than to the 'Y' of Yquem. Perhaps one day we'll have a dry Sauternes appellation, in the same way as there are dry Jurançon and Jurançon?
 
Two recent examples (with radically different grape varieties and maturing methods) have been selected for this year's en primeur:
 
- Lilium. 2023 is the second vintage of this new cuvée from Château Climens, adding to its range of dry white wines (Asphodèle, Petite Lily, Fenouil and Camomille). 100% old Semillon vines (average age 30 years), pressed without destemming, fermented with natural yeasts, aged for 8 months in 220-litre glass globes, Lilium aims to capture and marry the mineral tension of the Climens limestone terroir with the richness of the Semillon, in a perfectly pure aromatic expression (without ageing in wood). A great dry white wine, 12.5° alcohol, pH 3.5.
 
- Suduiraut Vieilles Vignes. Since 2020, Vieilles Vignes has been the name of Château Suduiraut's dry white Grand Vin, half Semillon and half Sauvignon (average age of the vines: 45 years for both varieties), matured for 9 months in barrels (12% new, 88% single-vineyard). More classically defined than Lilium, this Suduiraut VV 2023 is rich and long, with 13°8 alcohol and a pH of 3.4. Antonio Galloni (vinous) gave it a very good score of 94-96/100.
 
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Chapelle d'Ausone. By 2023, Ausone's second wine was at the top of Saint-Émilion, garnering enthusiastic reviews from critics: "C'est magnifique ! Le meilleur 'second vin' de Bordeaux. Le frère d'Ausone." for Jean-Marc Quarin or "The 2023 Chapelle d'Ausone is fabulous, as it often is." for Antonio Galloni. And at the same price as in 2019 (excluding inflation)!
 
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Bargain Corner. We are updating the table of the biggest price reductions for 2023 red Bordeaux (in brackets their price per bottle including tax) compared to last year's "Primeurs 2022":
-46% at Léoville-Las Cases (€194.40),
-39% at Haut-Brion (€438.00), Mouton-Rothschild (€458.40), Cos d'Estournel (€159.60),
-37% at Clos du Marquis (€53.75),
-35% at La Chapelle de la Mission (€60.00),
-34% at Ducru-Beaucaillou (€172.80),
-32% at La Mission Haut-Brion (€252.00), Lynch-Bages (€99.00), Lafite-Rothschild (€570.00),
-30% at Carruades de Lafite (€210.00),
-29% at Saint-Pierre (€45.35), Quintus (€96.00),
-28% at Malescot Saint-Exupéry (€45.35),
-27% at Gloria (€31.90), Pontet-Canet (€126.00), Le Petit Mouton (€186.00), Gazin (€67.20), Le Carillon d'Angélus (€92.40),
-26% at d'Issan (€52.07), Le Petit Ducru (€28.50), Pédesclaux (€34.80), Dragon de Quintus (€30.00), Angélus (€363.60),
-25% at Le Clarence de Haut-Brion (€138.00), Potensac (€21.10), Talbot (€50.40)
...
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As a result of these reductions, most of the 2023 red Bordeaux wines have returned to the price of the 2019 en primeur vintage, without taking account of inflation in the meantime (+13.6% in 4 years, source: French National Institute for Statistics and Economic Studies). Here are the most remarkable in comparison with the price they had in "Primeurs 2019":
 
-12% at Carruades de Lafite,
-10% at Fugue de Nénin,
-  5% at Gloria, Le Petit Mouton, Gazin,
-  4% at Saint-Pierre,
-  1% at Malartic-Lagravière,
same price at La Mission Haut-Brion, Prieuré-Lichine, Lafite-Rothschild, Valandraud, Chapelle d'Ausone,
+ 1% at Pape-Clément, Potensac, Léoville-Las Cases, La Vieille Cure, Ausone,
+ 3% at Carbonnieux, Ormes de Pez, Meyney, Clos Puy Arnaud,
+ 4% at Petit Manou, Connétable Talbot, Langoa Barton, Pédesclaux, Les Pagodes de Cos, Cos d'Estournel, La Mauriane, Fombrauge, Dragon de Quintus, Rocheyron
...
 
As a reminder, the thirty or so vintages listed above are, in constant euros, between 10% and 25% cheaper than the "Primeurs 2019", which at the time were considered to be remarkably low and attractive.

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2nd week encore (10 May) : ASCENSION BREAK

Two producers from outside Bordeaux took advantage of the Ascension break to offer their 2023s. These are two outstanding producers who have been part of our range for over 25 years and who, in our opinion, are among the most remarkable in terms of quality and the most consistent in terms of price.

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Tardieu-Laurent

From March to September 2023, the chronology of meteorological events was the same in the Rhône Valley as in Bordeaux, albeit with varying intensities and, above all, different impacts depending on the grape variety:
 
- A frost-free spring, beautiful flowering, but also very high levels of mildew, particularly on the Syrahs, Grenaches and Carignans. As in Bordeaux, the less attractive, wetter terroirs suffered the most damage, while the better, better-drained terroirs (hillsides, sand, etc.) were not affected.
 
- A clement summer, with regular rainfall, moderate heat and perfectly green vines by mid-August, giving winegrowers in both the north and south of the Rhône Valley the prospect of a (very) great vintage with elegance and maturity.
 
- From 20 to 24 August, a heatwave unprecedented for this period swept through the Rhône Valley, with temperatures soaring to record levels: 42.7°C in Orange on 22 August, 41.4°C in Lyon on 24 August. This late heatwave, so beneficial in Bordeaux as we have already mentioned, was damaging throughout the Rhône corridor. In less than 5 days of extreme heat, winegrowers saw young vines fry their leaves, the grapes wither and the sugar content rise without the grapes really ripening.
 
- The harvest was particularly spread out this year, starting in the week of 20 August and finishing in early October, in fine late-season weather.
 

All in all, the 2023 vintage is just as heterogeneous in the Rhône Valley as it is in Bordeaux:

white wines. The earlier-ripening white varieties did not suffer from the heatwave at the end of August, as they were already ripe and ready to be picked. The wines they produced were well-balanced, with fresh, mineral aromas (thanks to the mild summer) and a roundness on the palate that was a sign of complete ripeness, without any sign of heaviness. 2023 is undoubtedly a very fine vintage for Rhône whites, comparable in both north and south to 2021.

northern red wines. The Syrahs are in the same spirit as those of 2016: alcoholic balance around 13°, aromas of ripe fruit (more blackcurrant than raspberry), round tannins and, above all, a pleasant sensation of freshness on the finish. This is a magnificent Côte-Rôtie V.V. that will keep for a long time.

southern red wines. Grape varieties: Grenache is the success story of the vintage, followed by Syrah, which is more precocious in the south and suffered little from the late heat wave. Terroir: the southern part of Châteauneuf, the Crau plain, really suffered from the heatwave at the end of August, forcing Tardieu-Laurent to change its blends, this year favouring the northern part of the appellation (Rayas, Courthézon). The 2023s from the southern part of the appellation are also on a par with the 2016s, with the addition of some fantastic Grenache with intense fruit (the special Côtes du Rhône and Châteauneuf du Pape cuvées are 100% Grenache).

Provencal red wine. Thanks to its immediate proximity to the Mediterranean, the Bandol vineyards escaped the consequences of the heatwave at the end of August. The Mourvèdre grapes benefited greatly from the regular heat of the summer to produce a great 2023, eminently taut and refined, which is also destined for long cellaring.

For both whites and reds, Tardieu-Laurent's prices are virtually unchanged (less than 1% increase compared to 2022), and we are mainly proposing their Vieilles Vignes cuvées, which are certainly the key to success (outside the great terroirs) in the 2023 vintage:

Tardieu-Laurent white wines 2023 : Crozes-Hermitage VV, Saint-Joseph VV, Saint-Péray VV, Châteauneuf du Pape VV, Condrieu, Hermitage VV,

Tardieu-Laurent northern red wines 2023 : Crozes-Hermitage VV, Saint-Joseph VV, Cornas et Cornas VV, Côte-Rôtie VV, Hermitage,

Tardieu-Laurent southern red wines 2023 : Côtes du Rhône cuvée Spéciale, Rasteau VV, Vacqueyras VV, Gigondas VV, Châteauneuf du Pape VV et Châteauneuf du Pape cuvée Spéciale,

Tardieu-Laurent provencal red wine 2023 : Bandol.

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Dominio de Pingus
(+Bodegas Alnardo)

In Ribera del Duero, 2023 was another very hot, dry year, in line with the vintages seen since 2015. The rainfall in June gave the soils good water reserves, perfect for coping with the summer drought.
 
The grapes ripened very early in August, heralding an early harvest. For the first time, harvesting began at Flor de Pingus on 8 September before Pingus. They ended at both PSI and Pingus on 23 September, while many Ribera del Duero vineyards had not begun harvesting and subsequently had to contend with much less favourable weather conditions (dilution of the grapes, appearance of rot, etc.).

• Dominio de Pingus. Peter Sisseck told us that in 2023 he experienced the easiest fermentations he can remember, with very fine aromas, fresh, pure, with no reduction, and moderate alcohol levels: 13.8° for Flor and 14.0° for Pingus. Although he admits that Flor is the more charming of the two, Peter Sisseck is particularly proud of his Pingus 2023, "easily one of the best wines we have made".

• Bodegas Alnardo. For the PSI, Peter Sisseck was very pleased to be able to use the Tribaie density sorting system in 2023, which automatically controls ripeness on a grape-by-grape basis. Although it has a lower alcohol content (13.5°) than Pingus and Flor, PSI 2023 shows real maturity, with the addition of 8% Grenache contributing to the mellowness and depth on the palate. Year after year, PSI has established itself as a great wine in its own right within the Ribera del Duero (at a very affordable price).

Here are Peter Sisseck's 3 wines, with prices strictly unchanged from last year, plus the possibility this year of reserving Pingus and Flor de Pingus in magnum:

Ribera del Duero red 2023 : PSI, Flor de Pingus et Pingus.

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2nd week (6 to 7 May) : A VERY SHORT WEEK

As short as it was, this week of only 2 days (due to public holidays in France) was nonetheless rich in great names from Bordeaux, with even a 1er grand cru classé :
 
• Bordeaux dry white : Malartic-Lagravière, Aile d'Argent
Bordeaux sweet white : Coutet
 
• Graves / Pessac-Léognan : Malartic-Lagravière
Left Bank / Medoc : Chasse-Spleen
• Margaux : ---
• Saint-Julien : ---
• Pauillac : Pédesclaux organic, D'Armailhac, Clerc Milon, Le Petit Mouton, Mouton-Rothschild
• Saint-Estephe : Lafon-Rochet

• Right Bank / Libournais : Puyguéraud, Alcée, La Vieille Cure, Dalem, Domaine de l'A
• Pomerol : Bellegrave organic
• Saint-Emilion : Rocheyron organic, Le Carillon d'Angélus, Angélus
 
American rankings. The 3 leading American critics, Antonio Galloni and Neal Martin of Vinous.com and William Kelley of the Wine Advocate, have already given their verdict on the 2023 Bordeaux wines.
Here, on the top step of their podium, are the wines that could merit the maximum score of 100/100 (noting the total disparity of their preferences):
 
• Antonio Galloni : Suduiraut, Palmer, Margaux
• Neal Martin : L'Église-Clinet
• William Kelley : Montrose, Lafleur, La Conseillante, Cheval Blanc
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If we broaden the lists to include vintages worthy of a score of 98/100 or more, we find, unsurprisingly, all the great names of Bordeaux, but with 11 vintages that are mentioned simultaneously by all three critics:
 
• Pessac-Léognan : Haut-Brion rouge
• Margaux : Margaux, Palmer
• Pauillac : Lafite-Rothschild, Pichon-Comtesse de Lalande
• Saint-Estèphe : Montrose
• Pomerol : La Conseillante
• Saint-Émilion : Ausone, Cheval Blanc, Figeac, Troplong-Mondot
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Of the three above-mentioned critics, only Antonio Galloni allows us to go back as far as the 2013 vintage (Neal Martin only joined Vinous in 2019 and William Kelley has only been with the Wine Advocate since 2021).
 
Using Antonio Galloni's ranking of red wines that can merit a score of 98/100 or more, it is possible to establish a ranking of vintages according to the number of wines cited, and thus to position 2023 in relation to its predecessors:
 
• 2022 : 26 red Bordeaux wines listed
• 2016 : 24          "          "          "
• 2018 : 22          "          "          "
• 2023 : 16          "          "          "
• 2020 : 15          "          "          "
• 2019 : 13          "          "          "
• 2021 :   5          "          "          "
• 2017 :   4          "          "          "
• 2014 :   0          "          "          "
 
Without going into the details of this empirical (and surely debatable) ranking, it emerges that 2023 holds its own among the great recent Bordeaux vintages.
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1st week (29 April to 3 May) : KICK-OFF

The ‘Primeurs 2023’ campaign is set to be a fast-paced, dynamic affair, with all the crus set to offer their 2023s by the beginning of June, in just 5 weeks.

The proof is in this first week, with some very famous classified growths already on the board:

Bordeaux dry white : Clos Floridène, Doisy-Daëne, Caillou Blanc, Valandraud blanc
Bordeaux sweet white : Doisy-Daëne, Rayne-Vigneau, Guiraud organic

Graves / Pessac-Leognan : Clos Floridène
Left Bank / Medoc : Du Retout, Petit Manou, Clos Manou, Potensac
Margaux : ---
Saint-Julien : Connétable de Talbot, Talbot, Clos du Marquis, Léoville-Las Cases
Pauillac : Duhart-Milon, Pontet-Canet organic, Carruades de Lafite, Lafite-Rothschild
Saint-Estephe : Haut-Marbuzet

Right Bank / Libournais : La Mauriane organic, Clos Puy Arnaud organic, Clos Louie organic
Pomerol : Fugue de Nénin, Nénin
Saint-Emilion : Puyblanquet (new), Virginie de Valandraud, Valandraud
 
On the price front : Léoville-Las Cases, Pontet-Canet and Valandraud offered their 2023s on Tuesday with significant price reductions (compared to 2022):
 
-46% for Léoville-Las Cases, i.e. €194.40 incl. VAT per bottle (€360.00 in 2022),
-37% for Clos du Marquis, i.e. €53.75 incl. VAT per bottle (€85.20 in 2022),
-32% for Lafite-Rothschild, i.e. €570.00 incl. VAT per bottle (€834.00 in 2022),
-30% for Carruades de Lafite, i.e. €210.00 incl. VAT per bottle (€300.00 in 2022),
-27% for Pontet-Canet, i.e. €92.40 incl. VAT per bottle (€126.00 in 2022),
-25% for Talbot, i.e. €50.40 incl. VAT per bottle (€67.20 in 2022),
-25% for Potensac, i.e. €21.10 incl. VAT per bottle (€28.20 in 2022),
-24% for Valandraud, i.e. €126.00 incl. VAT per bottle (€165.60 in 2022),
...
 
The first cuckoo does not necessarily indicate the arrival of spring: we had announced price cuts for the 2023 Bordeaux wines, but had not imagined that they would be so steep from the outset: by a quarter for Pontet-Canet, Talbot, Potensac or Valandraud, by a third for Lafite-Rothschild and by half for Léoville-Las Cases.
This means that Léoville-Las Cases and Lafite-Rothschild are back to exactly the same price as for the 2019 Primeurs 4 years ago, at the height of the Covid-19 crisis, without taking into account the 13.5% inflation that has occurred in the meantime. Let's hope that all the other future grands crus follow the same dynamic, and that the 2023s meet with the success they deserve (as the 2019s did in their day).
 
Two opinions are better than one. The French critics' notes and comments on Bordeaux 2023 are about to be published: Jean-Marc Quarin on quarin.com is on the way, Le Point on May 23, La Revue du Vin de France on May 29... In the meantime, here are the scores and comments of vinous.com's two (excellent) critics: Antonio Galloni and Neal Martin. You can find them by clicking on the wines of your choice.
 
Back home. After belonging to the Malet Roquefort family (owners of Ch. La Gaffelière) from 1807 to 1959, Puyblanquet returned to the family fold in 2020. On the clay-limestone slopes to the north-east of Saint-Émilion (neighbouring Valandraud, Rol Valentin, Fombrauge, Poesia...), the 12 ha of Puyblanquet vineyards, 80% Merlot and 20% Cabernet Franc, have produced, under the guidance of the La Gaffelière team supervised by Derenoncourt Consultants, a fine 2023, silky, greedy and reasonable (€26.40 incl. VAT per bottle). With confidence.