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Bordeaux 2023: wines of personality and lower prices in standout year

The Bordeaux 2023 vintage saw a growing period plagued by mildew and an en primeur campaign where pricing is under increased scrutiny. And yet, Lin Liu MW is pleasantly surprised by its ‘outstanding’ wines and early signals of a reduction in prices. Here, she delivers her analysis of the vintage and the wines to watch out for

Words by Lin Liu MW

Bordeaux 2023: Château Margaux
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Château Margaux, which has produced a wine in the 2023 vintage that is 'pure, refined, and elegant'

As early as March this year, there was talk of many châteaux offering an ‘irresistible’ price for the Bordeaux 2023 vintage, aligning more closely with prices from back in 2019 – undoubtedly an effort to entice investors in light of the current global economic climate. Whether to set the tone of the campaign or to secure the earliest possible interest, many prominent estates began releasing their prices immediately after the official en primeur week (which took place from Monday 22 to Friday 25 April this year), with Château Marjosse revealing its prices as early as April 18. A range of factors, both industry-specific and global, means prices for the 2023 vintage are expected to fall dramatically compared with 2022, with price drops of up to 40% expected, even for the most desirable First Growths. But how did the vintage itself fare?

The overall sentiment from tastings indicates that 2023 was an outstanding vintage. Unlike other so-called great vintages, which are celebrated often and exuberantly, the Bordeaux 2023 vintage expresses the characteristics of terroir precisely and without trending towards homogenisation. In fact, I’d go as far as to say that the wines of this vintage show heterogeneity to the extreme. From the bold, flamboyant nature of Petrus to the elegance and detail of Le Pin, the expression of diverse personalities is a key theme for Bordeaux 2023.

Angelus vineyards
Vineyards belonging to Château Angélus, an estate that has continued its 'graceful style' in 2023

The challenges of the Bordeaux 2023 vintage

One of the widely documented problems that Bordeaux’s vignerons encountered was mildew, its impact influenced by soil type, grape variety, vine age, and the preparedness of individual vineyards in their emergency response. Naturally, wetter and rainier areas suffered more significantly: Margaux, Pessac-Léognan, Saint-Émilion and Pomerol. Merlot was the most susceptible among all grape varieties in Bordeaux, contributing to a more Cabernet-dominant vintage on the whole.

But the wineries that stood firm in the fight against mildew and managed to get the optimum maturity at harvest time seem to have achieved quite satisfactory – sometimes outstanding – results.

The vintage began with a mild winter (17 nights in January below 0°C, consistent with the ten-year average), with significant rain replenishing water levels depleted by the hot 2022. Spring was wet, with temperatures higher than usual, but delayed budbreak due to a relatively cool and cloudy winter minimised frost damage. From April to June, rainfall wasn’t significantly higher than the decade’s average but persistent humid conditions posed challenges with powdery mildew, requiring repeated and timely intervention. Following heavy June rains, fluctuating temperatures facilitated the spread of black rot.

The Bordeaux 2023 vintage expresses the characteristics of terroir precisely and without trending towards homogenisation

By July, the warm but not excessively hot, cloudy, and dry weather led to reduced sunlight, slowing ripening. August, cooler than usual at 21°C (compared to 26.5°C in 2022), saw mid-month rainfall increase fruit-swelling risk, affecting flavour concentration. Yet, dry, hot late-August weather aided grape maturation, particularly for early-harvested white grape varieties. Early September’s high temperatures matured Merlot but mid-September rains delayed harvesting. Subsequent dry, hot weather accelerated final maturation, especially for later-ripening varieties like Cabernet Franc and Cabernet Sauvignon.

St julien vineyard
A vineyard in Saint-Julien, the outstanding appellation of the 2023 vintage on the Left Bank

The ratio of grape varieties in the blend has a significant influence on the style of the wines. Indeed, the increased use of Cabernet Sauvignon reached historical highs on the Left Bank for the likes of Château Beychevelle‘s Grand Vin (61%) and Château Smith Haut Lafitte‘s Grand Vin (70%).

For those who waited for the optimal ripeness for the Cabernets, the resultant wines are truly outstanding: the grapes acquired lively and dynamic tannins, plus a velvety texture from ripe Cabernet Sauvignon. The two varieties bring great depth to many of the Bordeaux 2023 wines, helping them stand out from the pack.

The 2023 vintage for white wines is exceptional, with many wines showing magnificent performance, both dry and sweet

In terms of regions, the Saint-Julien appellation on the Left Bank stands out the most, followed by Pauillac and Saint-Estèphe; meanwhile, many of the red wines from Pessac-Léognan and Margaux are disappointing. The complex terroirs on the Right Bank make it more difficult to generalise, with a stark contrast between excellence and mediocrity for the resulting wines. Overall, the 2023 vintage for white wines is exceptional, with many wines showing magnificent performance, both dry and sweet.

The wines to seek out

This year, I awarded two potential perfect scores, one to Château Léoville Las Cases on the Left Bank and one to Le Pin on the Right Bank. Both share the characteristics of flawless ripeness, exquisite texture, outstanding temperament and remarkable personality. The former is expressive, commanding, and grand in structure, while the latter is elegant, refined, and intricately detailed.

Château Pavie is also remarkably good. While it maintains its longstanding grandeur and robustness, the excellent ripeness of the tannins this year, dense yet smooth as velvet, makes it a vintage not only worth cellaring but also appealing at a younger age.



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Château Angélus continues its graceful style, shifted in recent years responding to the complaints of excessive oak usage and extraction – now demonstrating precise focus and amplification of fruit expression, maintaining a continuous stream of detailed output on the palate. Château Cheval Blanc, with its restrained and delicate fruit expression, boasts a delicate and dense texture like fine velvet, its energy unfolding steadily and deeply. Meanwhile, Petrus exhibits a more unrestrained attitude this year, expressing itself more boldly and flamboyantly than in its classic expression, with a plethora of black fruit and spice flavours, clear layers, and distinct veins.

For those who waited for the optimal ripeness for the Cabernets, the resultant wines are truly outstanding

Most of the First Growth reds on the Left Bank are of a high standard, with Château Haut-Brion slightly lagging behind, showing less vitality and detail in the mid-palate compared to its stellar vintages. The crown for reds should go to Château Latour, poetic and majestic, fitting and elegant; Château Margaux and Château Lafite Rothschild are equally matched, the former pure, refined, and elegant, the latter solemn, robust, and precise; Château Mouton Rothschild has significantly improved in the concentration of fruit in the mid-palate, overall expression, precision, and balance, and 2023 is no exception.

For those less concerned with the high-profile wine brands, there are many other estates worth noting. For example, Grand-Puy-Lacoste is a classic Pauillac, with a robust style and distinctive personality, a model of both drinkability and ageing potential. The estate has shown consistently impressive performances over the years and 2023 sees that trend continue.

Château Durfort-Vivens, once almost forgotten by the market, has made significant strides in recent years. The 2023 vintage is rich, gorgeous, and profound, bursting with ripe black cherries on the palate, with a succession of silky texture in the mid-to-late palate and many delicate details to follow.

Foudre at Château Angélus
Foudres at Château Angélus, where the influence of oak has been reduced in recent vintages to allow the fruit to shine

Bordeaux 2023: The white wines

As for the white Bordeaux 2023 wines, whether it’s Château Haut-Brion or other classic estates in Pessac-Léognan, such as Château Smith Haut Lafitte, Domaine de Chevalier, Château Pape Clément, it can be considered a great year. Additionally, Château Margaux Pavillon Blanc and several white wines from AXA Millésimes are also worth noting. A special mention goes to Château Jean Faux Blanc, which follows biodynamic practices and consistently produces white wines with a crystal-like texture and brilliance, showing restraint and precision in winemaking as warming and touching as the winemaker himself.

I didn’t have a complete tasting of sweet whites this year, so I will hold off commenting on these as a whole. But most of the wines I tasted showed excellent complexity and balance in acidity. Particularly memorable is Sauternes from Château Suduiraut: which managed to create ever-changing aromas, but also maintains a ‘crystal-clear’ core in the wine, breaking through the creaminess and oiliness, and releasing exquisite, harmonious beauty.