Bordeaux 2023 Vintage Report

A buyer’s vintage of pleasant surprises

The 2023 Bordeaux vintage release is now fully underway. In Bordeaux over the past weeks, Le Clos’s buying and private client team tasted over 200 wines from both sides of the Gironde estuary to get the inside track on the vintage. In short, 2023 is a vintage of pleasant surprises.  William Kelley, Bordeaux taster for Robert Parker’s Wine Advocate enthusiastically opined “The best 2023s are just as exciting as the best 2022s”. James Suckling suggested in many ways he prefers them to the highly touted 2022s. We could not agree more – tasting the 2023s was a pleasure with the best wines utterly compelling. Suckling scored 20 wines between 98 and 100 points. William Kelly has 8 wines with the potential to be scored 99 or above once bottled. This is a vintage to take note of. The only thing that can stand in the way of a successful sales campaign is pricing. We have seen several Chateaux already release their wines, and the hotly anticipated Cheval Blanc will be out on Monday.

Wines such as Lafite Rothschild offered a 31% reduction in price and Mouton Rothschild released 37% down in 2022. This shows the Bordelaise have indeed listened to the mood of the market and these wines are must-have cellar items for collectors and investors alike.

overview of the 2023 vintage

The year started with the water tables at very low levels. In March this changed and several months of very wet weather ensued. A normal and healthy budbreak took place in April. May was wet until the end of the month when the sun shone for long enough to allow a homogenous flowering across the region.

The summer months of June and July were warm but with lower sunshine, a factor that would help with balance. This changed at the end of August with a heat spike, accelerating phenolic ripening but with no change in sugar levels due to a shut down in photosynthesis. This was followed by another heat spike in early September, further advancing ripeness levels. At this point, most producers were in a good place and relaxed about picking dates. The Merlots, as is always the case, were the first reds to be picked. Cabernet picking commenced after a short burst of rain from around 20th September into early October at a leisurely pace. The grapes were generous, giving rise to relatively high yields, compared with 2021 and 2022. The generous crop gave lower alcohol levels than in 2022, with many lower than 13%. Tannin levels were high giving structure, the acidity high and pH quite low, most reporting 3.5 to 3.6 giving the wines energy. The result is a set of wines with remarkable balance, energy, and vivacity.

right bank 2023 vintage summary

Merlot performed very well on the right bank on both the côte and the plateau of Saint Emilion with its hallmark Asteries limestone. Merlot also enjoyed the clay and gravel soils of Pomerol.  The wines of Saint-Emilion have seen a renaissance of style in the past 10 years, with the days of saturated, extracted blockbusters mostly being replaced with wines of freshness and salinity. 2023 allowed a sense of place to show through and define the style according to unique terroirs, and not only in Saint-Emilion.

left bank 2023 vintage summary

The Cabernet Sauvignons, the key to left bank success, performed very well on the deep gravel soils, home to the best of Pauillac, Margaux, Saint-Julien, and Saint-Estèphe. These are balanced and energetic wines of purity and poise. but also.

The left bank Merlot on the best soils was supple and harmonious , so favourites such as Palmer and Pichon Comtesse with high levels of Merlot were able to produce superb wines ranking among our favourites. The same can be said for those of Pessac-Léognan, with wines such as Haut-Bailly producing a sensual and voluptuous wine.

The wines of the Médoc this year really show off their truly individual terroirs. Margaux with incredible aromatics and purity. Pauillac with high-toned, concentrated fruit with silky tannins and long finishes. Saint-Julien as is custom, sits in the middle balancing concentration with elegance, sapidity, and texture. In the north Saint-Estèphe is vibrant with dark cherry fruit and spice.

the big conundrum

The big conundrum of every vintage is which other vintage does it most resemble. Whilst early to make predictions, the consensus is that somewhere between 2016 and 2019 would best describe these wines. 2023 allowed for terroir expression, which is less perceptible in very hot years, such as 2022. No one appellation stands head and shoulders above the rest.  but we were surprised by the excellence achieved in Saint Emilion and Pomerol this year. With styles changing over the past few years and preferring freshness, texture, and elegance over pure Merlot power.

Explore Bordeaux 2023 Wines