Decanter’s January issue has a piece on Bordeaux’s ugly duckling vintages; amongst them is the 2007. Ugly ducklings turn into swans and I have some top tips to help you cherry pick the beauties that were overlooked.
It pays to be patient with vintages. When scores are released on Bordeaux’s Grand Cru Classes they are only babies, freshly hatched as it were. Barely 6 months old, and still in the barrel, these fledgling wines are criticised and examined for their future potential. Some vintages are strong and full of prowess, others are a little more hesitant and need time to develop before they leave the nest. 2007 is one of these. Now, 7 years down the line the 2007 vintage is starting to flex its wings.
‘The ugly duckling, 2007, is becoming a swan.’
I’ve always been an advocate of the 2007 vintage as regular readers will know from my writing (see further reading below). I believe that the reason why the 2007 vintage was over shadowed is due to the fact that people confused wine investment with drinking. The 2007 vintage generally had a high pH level and as a consequence lacks the longevity that you see in the extraordinary vintages of 2009 and 2010 that followed it. This makes 2007 a very good year for drinking but not for laying down for investment. And good drinking it is, too! I’ve often told customers who know me well that if they are ever in a restaurant and spot a Bordeaux 2007 on the wine list that they should go for it. Their feedback has confirmed my advice.
Vintages in Bordeaux are tasted and assessed at En Primeur during April when the great and the good descend en masse to sample the wines in barrel, a good 18 months or so before it is bottled. The wine at this point in time is made from grapes harvested the previous September or October and is only 6 months old. Judgement is passed, the all important critics scores are allocated and prices set.
You might ask why the wines are tasted, appraised and purchased at such a young age and it would be a very good question. It makes more sense to taste the wine when it has developed rather than in its infant state. The answer is that En Primeur is a tradition from the bad old days when chateaux needed to make money fast to survive. Selling the wine young meant that the chateaux would have the funds in place ready for the next harvest and following vintage. This has evolved over the years and nowadays En Primeur has matured into the buying and selling of ‘wine futures’ (purchasing a wine in its early stages at its lowest price either as an investment or as a means of securing limited stock).
Before wines at tasted at En Primeur Harvest Reports on the growing season are issued and interpreted by the wine industry. They are an early predictor of what you can expect the style and quality of the vintage to be. Harvest Reports tend to fall into those that bear glad tidings and those that are the harbingers of doom. We tend to get very excited in the wine industry if the harvest looks exceptional (there have been no less than 3 vintages heralded as the ‘vintage of the century’ in the last decade: 2005, 2009 and 2010). As for the harbingers of doom, well to be honest unless there is an extreme weather event resulting in disaster it’s pretty much impossible for the top chateaux to make a bad wine these days.
‘Wine making technology is cutting edge if you can afford it and poor harvests can be saved in the blending room’.
With the 2007 harvest temperatures were unseasonally low; there was a lack of sun and rain fell at the wrong time of year. However there is an old saying in Bordeaux: ‘Wait until the last grapes are in before making a judgement.’ Wise words. Sure enough the weather came good. Right at the end of the season the sun shone and grapes matured nicely under ripening blue skies. The style of the wine in 2007 was very different to the blockbusters of 2005, 2009 and 2010. The 2007 wines have lower alcohol content compared to their heady peers and when I tasted them at En Primeur 7 years ago I enjoyed their refreshing approachability. At the time I wrote that 2007 should appeal to younger drinkers who are used to drinking New World wines. In their infancy these wines were uncomplicated and were easy drinking – perfect for those who hadn’t tried a Grand Cru Classe Claret before as the 2007 is a good year for appreciating what Bordeaux can offer.
‘The 2007s hark back to the classical Bordeaux of 20 years ago which were very popular in the UK.’
Skip forward to the future and these wines have had time to put flesh on their bones. Light and subtle they may have been but the years in bottle have allowed them deepening balance, polished tannins, harmony and structure. The ugly duckling has turned into a swan.
The 2007 vintage is not only very reasonably priced thanks to being eclipsed by its peers (you can pick up some real bargains here) but it is also a vintage that you can drink NOW. The greatest Bordeaux vintages are slow burners and are cellared for years, taking decades to reach their peak, with some wines having an anticipated maturity of 20 – 50 years. 2007 gives you the opportunity to taste these wines without the wait.
This vintage also has something for everyone and every pocket. The Bordeaux Superieurs and Petit Chateaux also produced some good wines, although you will have to work hard to spot these as they mature more quickly than the Grand Cru Classe and most have been drunk already. 2007 was a wonderful year for Bordeaux’s white wines. My top dry white Grand Crus are Chateau Pape Clement Blanc 2007, an incredible wine, followed by Chateau Laville Haut Brion 2007. The 2007 sweet whites are very good indeed and the top Premier Crus are superb: Chateau d’Yquem, Chateau Climens and Chateau Rieussec. The Bordeaux Superieurs and Petit Chateaux also produced some good wines, although you will have to work hard to spot these as they mature more quickly than the Grand Cru Classe and most have been drunk already.
These 2007s are available from Bordeaux-Undiscovered’s fine wine merchant branch, Interest In Wine. The wines have first class provenance; being stored in bond, direct from chateau.
If you are interested in learning more about the 2007 vintage and its wines checkout my blogs listed below: