Bordeaux 2017: Right Bank rush

Cheval Blanc and other leading Right Bank estates led a last blast of releases to set the seal (or perhaps last nail in the coffin) on the 2017 en primeur campaign.

Vieux Château Certan, Cheval Blanc and l’Eglise Clinet all released in stages over the course of yesterday (20 June).

VCC led the way with a 13% cut to €168 a bottle ex-négociant, which means it was being offered at around £2,064 a case.

Volumes released to the market were also reduced by 15% on last year it was noted.

VCC was highly praised by both merchants and critics in this vintage. It was rated as the second most highly-rated wine by Liv-ex’s global members and given ratings such as 94-96 by Neal Martin, 96-98 by Lisa Perrotti-Brown MW and Julia Harding MW also gave it one of her highest scores of 18.5/20.

The estate has produced some excellent wines over the years but its pricing yesterday is more than a little off base.

Using its ‘fair value’ method, Liv-ex concludes its price is too high. The 96-point rated (Martin) 2014 and 2006 vintages currently sit at large discounts, the 95-point 2005 is also under £2,000 a case and the 96-point 2016 is only a touch more expensive.

Rarity might compel buyers but on current evidence there’s not much to suggest that the 2017 won’t be available in future at the same or an even cheaper price.

Another wine in short supply is Cheval Blanc’s 2017. Stocks released were down 65% this year (the estate having actually bumped up the stock it put on the market last year) as the estate was badly hit by the frosts.

Chris Kissack’s report noted 30% of the crop was lost and another side effect of the frosts was that Cabernet Sauvignon took a commanding role in the blend – the 2017 has the most Cabernet Sauvignon ever used in the blend apparently.

A slightly atypical wine from the Saint Emilion estate then and one Martin seemed in two minds about, calling it “cerebral” and if not “the greatest” from the property in recent years then certainly one of the more intriguing. He scored it 93-95.

James Suckling was more forceful, giving it 97-98 and calling it “very Left Bank in terms of power and depth” while Martin’s scoring colleague at Vinous, Antonio Galloni, was also intrigued calling it a “fascinating wine”.

Even with a 22% cut to €432 a bottle however it’s rather an expensive one. The wine is being offered for £5,304 a case in bond, which isn’t too far below the 98-point pair of 2015 and 2016.

The wine might be compelling for those who take their wines more philosophically but the 2014 and 2011, both with 95-points, sit at noticeable discounts as does the 2006.

And so to Eglise Clinet which, arguably, is the most compelling of the three releases.

With a cut of 25% to €168 a bottle and therefore a case price of £2,064 a dozen, critical reception of the wine, noted Liv-ex, “has been positive”.

It received one of Martin’s higher scores, 95-97, and a 94-97 spread from Galloni who said it was “one of the most polished, sensual wines of the year”.

Production at the estate was severely hit by the frosts, just 1,000 cases were produced and therefore stocks released were down 25% on last year.

Again, one could make a case for the 2006, 2012 and 2015 vintages which all have equal or better scores and sit at a discount but considering how little wine has been produced in 2017 and that this year’s Eglise Clinet has comparable scores to Lafite and Lafleur but it considerably less expensive, it will have likely caught the eye of some.

“If you’ve not bought much in 2017, but you only want the best, well, this is it,” said Farr Vintners in its offer.

Yesterday’s releases bring the campaign one step further to completion for those of us still watching. Ausone is expected by Thursday but barring some sort of miracle where the wine is given away for free it’s hard to shake the feeling it won’t be greeted with much fanfare.

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