Bordeaux 2017: Petrus ‘wine of the vintage’

Fine wine merchants have tipped Petrus as the ‘wine of the vintage’ in 2017 but demand is expected to be significantly down on last year.

Every year in advance of the annual en primeur campaign, Liv-ex polls its 400 global members to get their thoughts on the vintage, compiling their answers to give something of a snapshot of the vintage including; the best wines, those tipped to be (with any luck) the ‘best value’, where the vintage ranks against its recent peers and expected demand from customers.

When asked to rank the ‘best’ wines of the 2017 vintage it was an even split of Left and Right Bank wines but all of them are the region’s most storied names including all of the first growths, and then Ausone, Cheval Blanc, Lafleur, Vieux Château Certan and Petrus on the Right Bank with Petrus ranked the best overall followed by VCC then Margaux.

For the eighth year in a row, Grand Puy Lacoste was nominated as the wine expected to be the best value (that is to say not exceeding £500 a dozen), which has not always turned out to be the case in recent years.

Also listed were Langoa Barton, Brane Cantenac, Capbern, Gloria and Talbot among others. With a certain grim irony, Haut-Batailley was among the best value hopefuls.

As the questionnaire was sent out a little while ago, many merchants at the time of answering no doubt expected the Pauillac fifth growth to stick to its fairly usual course of releasing around €30 a bottle ex-Bordeaux.

But Haut-Batailley’s new owners, the Cazes family, released the wine on Wednesday this week (25 April) with a hefty 46% increase on the 2015 vintage (the 2016 has not been released) in what was a clear intention to ‘reposition’ the estate.

At £495-£500 a case it does technically fall into the ‘value’ parameters of the questionnaire but it’s likely a bit ‘toppy’ for many. The Cazes’s other property, Ormes de Pez, was also listed in the best value chart – maybe better luck there?

There was such division over the list of most disappointing wines that there was no clear consensus although a few of the ‘best’ wines listed clearly left some unimpressed.

Overall the vintage was rated 92.6 points (out of 100), putting it just above the 2014 (by a nose), a little better than the 2008, 2011 and 2012 and much better than 2007 and 2013 but not close at all to 2009, 2010, 2015 or 2016.

Source: Liv-ex

The most comparisons in character were to the 2014 and 2012 vintages and while a few suggested it was redolent of 2001, many also set it completely apart from any vintage, certainly of recent times.

When ranking the quality of the first growths alone from 2011-2017 (though excluding the 2016s), the 2017 wines were ranked third behind 2015 (which was ranked first by 93% of respondents) and 2014.

In terms of expected demand, a cheery 4.1% are apparently expecting more demand than last year, 10.9% expect demand to be about the same but after that the views quickly become more pessimistic, with 31.5% expecting demand to be down as much as 20% and a considerable 53.4% expecting demand to be more than 20% down on last year – highlighting 2017’s position as a ‘conundrum’ vintage, perhaps filled with some very good wines but at a time when no one especially wants them.

Finally, when given a ‘shopping basket’ of labels (see chart) and asked to suggest their expected (not desired!) ex-négocient release prices compared to the 2016s, the average reduction turned out to be 11.5% – will it be enough?

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