Fresh off a week in Bordeaux tasting the 2023 vintage from cask, we have scarcely had a moment to catch our breath before the campaign kicks off in earnest today, with several key releases already scheduled for this week. Please refer to the release schedule on our landing page here to make sure you don’t miss out on any favourites.

At their best, the wines of 2023 possess all of the richness, density, and supple tannins of a sunny vintage, juxtaposed with the lively, expressive aromas and flavours typical of a more traditionally “Atlantic” season. The key descriptors which came to mind most often during our tastings were balance, freshness, purity, and salinity. There is no question in our minds that the best wines of 2023 more than rival the excitement of the best from 2022, and in fact in many instances, we found ourselves preferring their more restrained and refined nature.

The Growing Season

The 2023 Bordeaux vintage unfolded with a winter blessed by abundant rainfall, setting the stage for a promising growing season following last year’s drought. As temperatures rose, bud break arrived earlier than anticipated, a trend increasingly familiar in our changing climate. By May, a uniform and successful flowering hinted at the great potential for both quality and quantity in the vintage.

June then arrived with positively tropical conditions prevailing. Warmer temperatures and considerable rainfall fostered significant mildew pressure, threatening volume rather than quality. Vineyard teams toiled tirelessly to combat this menace, particularly those who have now fully converted to organic and biodynamic practices. To the larger extent, fending off the mildew in the vineyard came down to having enough people and equipment at one’s disposal, but it was also a question of timing and luck.

June and July were relatively cool until mid-August, when a heat wave transformed the vintage, providing the necessary potential to achieve optimal maturity in the grapes. Harvest started early in September for Merlot, but most Cabernet required more time to fully ripen. Some were alarmed when rain was forecasted around the 20th of September, but the estates who took a chance and waited it out were ultimately rewarded as there was far less rainfall than predicted. This allowed a leisurely harvest, stretching over a month for some estates well into October, allowing each block to be picked once it was at its very best. The conditions allowed the fruit to achieve full phenolic ripeness while preserving lively acidity and more traditional alcohol levels than in 2022. Notably, the wines exhibited some of the highest IPT (tannin) levels ever recorded, which can explain their exceptional structure. Because Merlot is especially susceptible to mildew, this led some estates to use more Cabernet in their blends than usual, and as a result, many are declaring 2023 as a “Cabernet vintage.” However, this oversimplification does not take into account the number of truly superb Merlot dominant wines that we encountered on the Right Bank this vintage. Overall, the estates who avoided mildew reported bountiful yields as high as 40-50hl/ha, a welcome increase after several vintages which faced challenging reductions in volume.

The Wines

It was immediately evident that 2023 defies any easy categorization within the traditional framework of Bordeaux vintages. Unlike the clear distinctions between being a “solaire” or “classic,” vintage, 2023 presents a unique hybrid. The finest examples from 2023 showcase ripe tannins and rich, opulent fruit akin to a sunny vintage like 2019. Yet, their vibrancy, purity and bright floral aromatics reflect the cooler conditions of the year.

In the case of dry whites, the 2023 vintage has some remarkable wines, which come highly recommended, particularly given the relative value they represent. The moderate temperatures and optimal ripening period have endowed the grapes with a perfect balance of acidity and aromatic intensity. As for Sauternes and Barsac, the climatic conditions were ideal, preserving the right measure of freshness required to balance the luscious nature of the wines.

While many would classify 2023 as a “classic” Bordeaux vintage, the abundant velvety tannins and classical pH levels provide the wines with serious structure and therefore ageing potential, leading many to redefine 2023 instead as “neo-classical” given the greater propensity for ripeness in modern Bordeaux’s climate.

From the Critics

As per usual, James Suckling has been the first out with his report of the vintage and he has expressed his usual unreserved enthusiasm for the wines, declaring, “the best reds show balance and freshness with deep center palates of ripe fruit and a complement of polished tannins. In many ways, I like them better than many of the highly touted 2022s because they are so Bordeaux in their nature with their tensioned mouthfeels and energetic finishes.” William Kelley’s report for the Wine Advocate is also fresh off the presses as of Friday afternoon and he has mirrored our own sentiments by asserting, “The best 2023s are just as exciting as the best 2022s.” We would expect a number of other reports from various international critics to release in the next week or two, but it is clear that the 2023 vintage will be one to rival 2022 in its critical acclaim.

The Market

It is impossible to discuss Bordeaux En Primeur without taking into account the state of the market and the anticipated release pricing. There is no question that the 2023 En Primeur campaign is set to unfold in rather challenging times. With high interest rates and a sluggish global economy, both the market at large, and negociants in particular, find themselves facing an uncertain future.

When speaking to many key players within the Bordeaux Place, they have indicated the possibility of 2023 wines being released at notably lower prices compared to the region’s last three vintages, perhaps even 30% below the release prices of 2022, in some cases. If this proves true, consumers will have a golden opportunity to secure exceptional wines at highly appealing prices.

Registering Your Interest

If you interested in the 2023 En Primeur campaign, kindly inform us via email or reach out to your dedicated Account Manager as soon as possible. We will ensure that you stay updated on any and all noteworthy releases from this year’s campaign. While we do not expect that every 2023 release will be a “wine to buy” En Primeur, there will certainly be a number of exceptional releases which should not be missed this year and we are at your service to provide this guidance.

Interested in the 2023 En Primeur wines? Check out our Bordeaux En Primeur home page here.

Related Posts