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A concise guide to Bordeaux 2007-2016

When was a good year for Sauternes? Was 2011 really that bad? Is 2012 better for the Left Bank or the Right Bank?

On the following pages are some quick but concise guides to the last 10 Bordeaux vintages covering 2007-2016. It’s been an extraordinary decade for Bordeaux, with some of the best and worst vintages ever produced.

Modern winemaking techniques have come to the fore and vintages have been ‘saved’ from utter disaster by last minute good weather and rigorous sorting in brand-new, expensively-designed chais.

It’s also the period in which asking prices for the great wines of the region reached their zenith, then collapsed and have since, somewhat, recovered once more. The rise and fall and rise again, on and on the circle (circus?) goes.

The rollercoaster ride on the secondary market aside, however, what of the wines themselves? What can drinkers expect from the reds and whites of both banks of the Gironde?


Track down Sauternes for some of the best of what 2007 has to offer.

Overview: A difficult year all round, lots of mildew, never enough sun and buckets of rain. The advent of more modern techniques and extremely rigorous sorting meant something was salvageable but this is generally a very patchy crop of wines, except for Sauternes which produced excellent stuff.

In short: Poor (except Sauternes)

Best bits: Tasting the wines now there are more than a few that have ‘come good’ and are offering rather bright, fresh, classic clarets that are really very pleasant if not hugely interesting. Most need drinking up but some of the very best classed growths will undoubtedly keep a little longer. Also worth seeking out are the dry and sweet wines, which, as so often in poorer red vintages, are truly excellent.

Worst bits: If the best wines of the vintage are bright and fresh then the worst are bound to be green, leafy and astringent, occasionally with poorly integrated alcohol; though it might all depend on one’s threshold for Cabernet greenness of course.

Wine of the vintage: Hard to single out one but the dry and sweet whites are worth seeking out.

Drink up: Drink the reds but the sweet whites are for the ages.


Overview: Not the most glorious of weather conditions throughout the year with heavy rains, periods of sunshine, cold snaps followed by heat waves. A difficult year all round but one which, somehow, conspired to produce what have turned out to be some ‘proper’ claret.

In short: Good to really very good in parts

Best bits: The best wines are very clear and defined with lovely silky fruit, freshness and supple tannins, a real joy to drink.

Worst bits: Personally, it’s not easy finding a 2008 that is a real letdown but the tougher conditions earlier in the year have no doubt left their mark on some wines. The whites are rather unremarkable.

Wine of the vintage: Pauillac and the Right Bank produced some truly outstanding wines.

Drink up: Yes but no great rush at the top end.


Overview: An almost flawless growing season with a long, very warm summer and lovely cool nights. There’s not much more to say really, it was almost hopelessly easy.

In short: Vintage of the century

Best bits: Everything. They’re gorgeous fruit bombs as wines go. Not fruit bombs in the negative sense that that term is sometimes applied, however. They’re very ripe but not (for the most part) overripe. They’re complex and occasionally crystalline in their fruit profile and with good acidity but always lush and expansive. The whites are extremely good too; never forget the whites. The hot weather gave both the dry and sweet wines a fabulous tropical edge.

Worst bits: If you had to make a complaint, you could argue that the wines’ ripeness detracts from their ability to express individual terroir. In fact, many would say they display little to no terroir at all, especially on the Left Bank where communal differences are so distinct. It niggles some, others not so much. One might also point to quite high alcohol and over-extraction among some wines, especially on the Right Bank.

Wine of the vintage: Wines of the century I think you mean.

Drink up: The nature of these wines meant they were approachable young and indeed it’s rather terrifying to think that in a couple of years they’ll be 10 years old – not exactly ‘young’ anymore. They still taste young though and they’ll keep.


Overview: Another exceptional, sun-drenched growing season that lasted all the way into early autumn with everything a vigneron could ask for.

In short: The other vintage of the century

Best bits: All of it. As with the 2009s this was a spectacular year across the board. What makes the 2010s such a nice counterpoint to the 2009s is while they have the same weight and richness they also have more tannins and structure. They’re supremely elegant and monumental wines. “More appealing to classical palates,” as Jancis Robinson MW’s web guide notes. Another stellar year for the whites as well and, as with the reds, they’re not as rich as their 2009 counterparts but every bit as sophisticated.

Worst bits: Stylistically one might again zero in on high alcohol and over-extraction in some of the wines, where over exuberant winemaking got the better of a defter touch. From another angle, although it has largely escaped censure, it was the 2010s that took Bordeaux to the peak of its period of ludicrous pricing and, in many ways, ushered in the pricing crash and decline of the fine wine market for the next four years.

Wine of the vintage: It would be difficult to choose one wine or bank that really flourished more than any other here. Buy the best you can afford and you’re unlikely to be disappointed.

Drink up: Some will be approachable young but these are certainly wines that will keep very well.


Has the 2011 been judged unfairly?

Overview: Another topsy-turvy set of growing conditions with a hot spring, followed by a wet summer and then an excellent autumn. It was a bumpy landing after two fabulous and easy years but not a disaster. People seem to forget that most reports out of Bordeaux around primeurs were largely positive about the quality of the wines. Since then, after a farcical and abysmally poor en primeur campaign the wines closed up and became quite hard and this is how the wines have generally come to be viewed. Taste many of the better examples now and it’s clear they’re entering a happier place. Worth seeking out.

In short: Not as appalling as everyone remembers

Best bits: Robert Parker’s own scores are heavily weighted towards the Right Bank although Haut-Brion and La Mission Haut-Brion were there representing the Left of the Gironde. One needs to search around for the better reds but they are there, with Pauillac and Saint-Julien considered good hunting grounds and the tannic structure of the wines may make them longer-lasting than the easy-drinking 2012s. The whites, once again, are extremely good.

Worst bits: The vintage is very inconsistent. Although there are good wines there will be poor examples too, with thin fruit and hard tannins. Pretty joyless stuff all in all, the bulk of them at the lower end of the scale.

Wine of the vintage: AXA Millèsimes’ managing director, Christian Seely, rated the 2011 Pichon Baron the “star of the show” at a recent vertical tasting.

Drink up: Yes, many of the better wines seem to be entering a drinking window but don’t sleep on some wines being able to age a little.


Overview: A cold spring and a sharp frost reduced volumes quite considerably. Lovely weather in August and September brought on the crop nicely and made for some lovely wines.

In short: Classic drinking stock

Best bits: Charming, fresh, very drinkable wines. Sweet spots, according to Parker when he re-tasted the wines in 2015, are Pomerol, Pessac-Léognan and parts of Saint Emilion. The Médocs, said Parker, were more of a “mixed bag”. There are some excellent dry whites out there as well.

Worst bits: A disaster for much of Sauternes where many estates declassified their wines or produced no botrytised wine at all – such as Yquem. Some of the upper Médoc wines are marked by rather taut tannins thanks to rain in October.

Wine of the vintage: Any excellent Pomerol and Haut-Brion is a stand out.

Drink up: Certainly drinking well now but the very top wines from either bank have the capacity to age.


Overview: If 2009 and 2010 were the years when everything went right then 2013 was when everything went wrong. Spring was cold and wet and although the sunshine hours in summer were actually very good (better than many remember) the vineyards were hit again and again by devastating storms and outbreaks of hail which caused uneven ripening, dilution and rot. It was a tiny harvest and severe sorting was required.

In short: Extremely poor

Best bits: Much like the 2007s a poor year for reds often means a good year for the whites. The dry whites are good but the real stars were the sweet wines which are outstanding. The best of the reds can be found in Pomerol, Saint-Julien and Saint Estèphe. Alcohol levels were at least low which makes for fresh, bright red fruit in the best instances, “like Pinot” is usually the best compliment. Roc de Cambes and Château de Puy are two notable success stories from the vintage.

Worst bits: Thin, rasping and lacking complexity are traits of the worst wines and even if the best are ‘like Pinot’ why buy Bordeaux if that’s what you’re after?

Wine of the vintage: Yquem and other sweet wines.

Drink up: Definitely the reds although the Sauternes you should treasure.


Overview: There’s no doubt that 2014 marked a real return to form for Bordeaux after the awful 2013. It was billed as the ‘best since 2010’ but don’t let that fool you it’s on that stellar vintage’s level. It was a cold, wet start to the year which didn’t fill the Bordelais with confidence but an Indian summer did a lot to ‘save’ the vintage in the end.

In short: Very good

Best bits: Lovely, classic wines with bright fruit, fine tannins and good acidity. Look for Saint-Estèphe, Pauillac and Saint-Julien in particular and there are good Right Bank wines to be found too.

Worst bits: Not too many. It’s not a homogenous vintage although the Left Bank is probably more consistent. There are some thin Merlot-dominated wines due to early season rains and some of the whites are possibly lacking a bit of zip and there’s not much Sauternes but nothing too drastic.

Wine of the vintage: Montrose, Vieux Château Certan and Latour are all highly rated.

Drink up: Worth tucking into reasonably early at the lower levels for some serious drinking pleasure but top wines, as usual, should last a fair while.


Overview: A healthy harvest with a hot early summer giving way to a cooler August which was extremely wet. Heavy rains hit the northern Médoc, especially Saint-Estèphe, which rather took the edge off what was otherwise shaping up to be a superb vintage. The lower part of the Médoc and Right Bank had no such issues but the high temperatures made some wines a little ‘hot’ themselves.

In short: Excellent though far from ‘perfect’

Best bits: Ripe, bold, powerful wines with firm tannins. The Right Bank has some absolute blinders, especially in Pomerol, and it’s an exceptional vintage for Margaux, Pessac-Léognan and Graves, the latter two with some lovely wines. Oh and the Sauternes are fantastic.

Worst bits: It’s not as homogenous a vintage as the Bordelais might like to put across. Saint-Estèphe got clobbered by rain late in the season and some of the northern Médoc wines seem a little austere in places, a little unforgiving although age may mellow them and terroir is very important in which estates handled the rains better. On the Right Bank there’s the usual tendency for high alcohol and over extraction with Saint Emilion being probably the worst offender.

Wine of the vintage: Margaux.

Drink up: These are powerful, very structured wines that will need some ageing, especially at the top level.


Overview: If there is a vintage that matches up to the heights of 2009 ad 2010 then it is most likely 2016, which is “unequivocally great,” thinks Neal Martin. As with the 2009/2010 match-up, which is ‘better’ is largely academic and a matter of personal taste. The season began wet and cool but picked up over the summer when it verged on becoming a drought in which some young vines suffered. Cool nights and some rain in September however contributed to a fantastic vintage, liked a souped-up version of the best 2014s.

In short: Double plus excellent

Best bits: It’s perhaps a year that favours Left Bank Cabernet wines and as with the 2014s Saint-Estèphe, Pauillac and Saint-Julien have offered up some magnificent examples. Margaux and Pessac/Graves are also top notch but didn’t quite match the heights they reached in 2015; not that you’d turn your nose up at them if offered. The Pomerol plateau and limestone of Saint Emilion have likewise turned out some beautiful wines, with Saint Emilion having the edge on Pomerol this time round thought Martin. These are classic, linear, terroir-driven wines; an ecxcellent foil to the 2015s as 2010 was to the 2009s.

Worst bits: Nothing truly appalling but bearing in mind the heat it wasn’t so great for younger vines and Merlot and the whites both dry and sweet, sadly, had a bit of a duff year.

Wine of the vintage: Lafite.

Drink up: Well, the wines haven’t been released yet so that would be a bit difficult but the opinion at the moment is that, broadly speaking, the 2016s will provide a few early-drinking wines but most are going to be worth sticking away for a while.

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