Right Bank overview 2017


Whilst in Bordeaux I tasted many wines from all the main right bank AC's including St Emilion, Pomerol, Lalande de Pomerol, & Fronsac. What ever the vintage perception there tends to be more of a wide range of quality on the right bank but as with the left bank I have also noticed here that wines are starting to be toned down a bit in terms of concentration & ripe (& sometimes) drying tannin for barrel tastings. It does make it somewhat easier to keep going at it with professional gusto I must say. Troplong Mondot was for me traditionally presented as quite a muscular wine that then mellowed over a long time. However the new regime seems to have used a gentler hand while still maintaining a true expression of the (great) terroir. It's probably too much of a generalisation to call all this change 'post-parkerisation' but there is definitely something going on in terms of change in style. The right bank is perhaps more evident of this as I always found their wines a touch more tinkered with in the winery than their left bank counterparts. Some frost damage was very evident in the blend at some St Emilion estates..at Tour Figeac they used 80% Cab Franc because their Merlot was devastated. For me it was actually a very interesting & quite successful wine but of course very un-typical of a usual St Emilion. Curious collectors take note! Frost firstly affects quantity not quality. In Pomerol the famous plateau that houses the top end wines was largely unaffected by the frost & we once again have some superb wines to ponder that might actually be quite well priced. I detected a perception that because they have sold the previous 2 vintages at a premium, perhaps the market can't quite take another high price however good the wine might be! This can be interesting for buyers. Personally I did not feel that always exemplary Ch Le Pin (see my pic of Jaques T) 39th vintage was any better or worse than the 2016 about the same level to be honest. Maybe a tad behind but really not hugely. Jaques just has this very special unique terroir - lucky fella! His other St Emilion wine L'If which benefited from the cool early September weather for slow perfect full ripening. Neither were frost affected. It is the case that there is more variety of quality in St Emilion & Pomerol if you don't have the most blessed terroir. My usual favourite wine (in the world!) Vieux Ch Certan was a different animal to the jaw dropping 2016. It's 81% Merlot, 14% Cab Franc & 5% Cab Sauv this year & I think perhaps a more multi dimensional wine. Maybe it's not quite as immediately impressive as the 2016 (which was 2010++) but it's possibly just a bit more nuanced than last year. Both are just so expertly balanced & harmonious that they must be owned & compared. I'm a bit of a gushing fan about this wine which I hope doesn't affect my judgement too much! Others tend to agree with me thankfully. Cheaper Pomerols I also liked were Ch Rouget (especially) & Ch Gazin + I always feel that the much cheaper Croix de Gay is always a bit of a no brainer bargain buy! One St Emilion I noted had done very well this year was Ch La Gaffieliere. It really was a very lifted, fine grained wine that impressed for me above usual top tier neighbours like Clos Fourtet & Pavie Macquin. Valandraud was smashing this year too...pure cashmere & seems to be moving on from it's garagiste former self. Grand Mayne was far more subtle than the powerhouse of old too. I really enjoyed it's beguiling bramble/black cherry bouquet & silky but still quite forthright tannins. I'm not so sure that these are particular EP purchases but when I really like them I will usually follow suit & buy if I think it's a fair price. Even If I think it's unlikely to appreciate in value...one can never be totally sure who will agree & buy up a ton of it & then prices escalate due to the limit numbers involved. In summary I think we have a good quality if variable vintage in front of us & as I write this a 20-30% reduction in price to last year would make them reasonably attractive as EP purchases. As write Ch Palmer came down 20% which is kind of about right for me (if I was buying) but others have actually increased from 2016 for whatever reason they think fit. Of course all parties have to accept the others right to price & buy/walk away but as always, knowledge is power. I really do advise plenty or reading of a wide variety of opinions, preferably by folk not trying to market a product! Happy hunting!