The 2017 vintage in Bordeaux was a gauntlet that separated the best from the pretenders and for the victors, the rewards were tremendous. Unlike 2016, 2017 was a vintage where success was not easily attained. For the most part you needed ideally situated terroir in order to survive the April frost. If you made it through the frost, you needed to work judiciously in the vineyard and weather the September rains which made the harvest a terrifying guessing game for many. At that point if you harvested uniformly great fruit, you still needed to thread the needle in the winemaking process in a precise, balanced, finessed vintage that left much less room for error than the very ripe, concentrated years. One (or more) of those three hurdles tripped up a majority of the vignerons in Bordeaux this year to some degree, but those who were gifted and lucky enough to survive the frost, dodge the rain and take full advantage of what was otherwise an excellent growing season came out with absolutely extraordinary wines.
The best 2017s are intensely aromatic, perfumed wines bursting with vibrant, energetic fruit that floats across your palate in a balanced, elegant, fresh style. While this is a finesse-styled vintage (spiritually akin to vintages like 2015 and 2001) there is serious underlying structure here, but it is largely hidden by the ripeness of the tannins in these wines. These are wines that will be deliciously approachable when young but capable of aging for decades. Moreover they continue the trend that we have seen in 2015 and 2016 of intense precision and transparency of terroir thanks to advances in modern agriculture, meticulous winemaking and a stylistic movement toward ever greater purity of fruit. A fitting third chapter in what is sure to be a long associated trilogy of 2015-2016-2017, the greatest of the 2017s can go toe to toe with and in some instances even surpass the quality of 2015 and 2016, ranking alongside some of the greatest modern vintages.
Because the vintage was challenging for so many, this year it is especially crucial to focus on the finest terroirs and know the story behind each wine and be able to separate the truly great wines from the rest. Having personally tasted hundreds of barrel samples across the region this April, Wally's will happily be your guide to identifying the highs and avoiding the lows.