The annual Southwold Tasting of wines from Bordeaux, moved to a later-than-usual time this year because of pandemic restrictions, was back in action at the end of September.
The 2017 vintage was under the microscope this year. After the strong 2015 vintage and highly lauded 2016s, the 2017s had a tough act to follow.
A better vintage than 2013, the growing season nonetheless started with a hard frost (causing some severe losses in places), and a cool summer meant there were high acidities and leaner fruit profiles.
The chief problem, however, was that after the blockbuster prices of the 2016s, prices for the 2017s were not cut as ruthlessly as many in the trade might have hoped.
The accompanying en primeur campaign was a flop, but does this mean that the 2017s deserved to be condemned to the dustbin of memory? On tasting and reporting duty for jancisrobinson.com this year was Tom Parker MW.
He drew the distinction in his introduction between the outcome of the campaign and the quality of the wines.
Sales at the time were, he said, poor – with some merchants selling 75% less than they had of the 2016s. On the other hand, his notes from the initial tastings likened the 2017s with the 2014s and, “in the case of the best wines, with a modern 2001”.
The Right Bank came out of the tasting with some of the highest scores. L’Église-Clinet was broadly judged the favourite by the tasters.
In a vintage marked by high acidity, the richness of Pomerol proved a useful countermeasure to balance out the wines.
Parker added that the Left Bank didn’t have “the same peaks” as the Right, but there was “perhaps a touch more consistency”.
Bright spots in Margaux
He said that Pessac-Léognan and Saint-Julien stood out among the appellations, and that there were bright spots in Margaux. Pauillac, meanwhile, was “up and down” with the Cabernet showing a lot of “muscle”, but St-Estèphe “struggled to inspire us”.
The whites, on the other hand, were much more successful, both dry and sweet. The dry wines have “fulfilled their potential”, while Sauternes and Barsac “excelled in 2017”, according to Parker. Overall, he reflected that his initial view was largely unchanged, though he said that the Sauternes were “even better than I remember”.
The reds were more of a mixed bag, and careful selection was needed, though “there are successes at every price point”. That said, while the best examples were pleasant enough, he added: “I see little reason to fill up on 2017s that have not come down to be the cheapest vintage in the market other than 2013.”
fine wine monitor – in association with Liv-ex
So where do the 2017s sit today against those 2013s, as well as more favourably viewed vintages such as 2014 and 2019?
As can be seen from the chart to the right, on average the 2017s remain more expensive than the 2013s and 2014s in price. Currently a 12x75cl case of 2017 has an average market price of £1,049; having declined by 9% on average since release.
The 2014s, by contrast, cost £981 per case on average, and have gained 50% since release. Take L’Église-Clinet as an example. The 2017 may have declined by 20% to £1,650, but the 2014 is £1,200 and both (currently) have 95 points from Neal Martin. Is the 2017 still worth the £450 premium?
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