2007 Bordeaux: Petits Chateaux

Seeking Values Among the Petits Chateaux


I was fortunate to be invited to the Weekend of Grand Amateurs tasting in Bordeaux this past month, and while I do indeed look forward to tasting the much-heralded 2009s in such a format, this year's focus was the less acclaimed -- and often maligned -- 2007 vintage.

2007 is a vintage defined by its weather, in more ways than one. Not only does the vintage show many signs of the conditions that year, but its reputation was firmly established well before the harvest. The summer of 2007 was not one that brought much joy to France. It was cold and wet -- very wet, in fact.

But not all was lost. The year began with the hottest April on record, and ended with 64 days of uninterrupted sunshine, but what happened in between left its indelible mark on the vintage. June, July, and August all brought damp, cold, dreary conditions to Bordeaux. By late in the summer the media had essentially declared the vintage a dud, and the die was cast.

So, is it a dud?

Moulis: A 2007 High Point

While I always recommend sampling the wares of the Petits Chateaux, as they are generally a great source of values, I think there is a greater likelihood than ever of finding gems in a vintage like 2007. Some of these wines can sometimes take on a rustic character which is often attributed to the more primitive winemaking facilites many of these producers use. In an effort to tame their rustic quality, it is not unusual for these Petits Chateaux to seek to produce a lighter style of wine -- a style that is ideally suited to a vintage like 2007.

I have always been partial to the wines of Moulis, and from my tasting it appears that Moulis is one of the strong points of the 2007 vintage. This less famous appellation sits rather far back from the Gironde esturary, northwest of the Margaux appellation. It is rather well-known for its stable of over-performing Petits Chateaux, and I am thrilled to be able to make two of them my standout picks of this email!
Well, not really, or at least not universally. But after having been declared a dud, it is really very hard to change the public’s perception. It is an uneven vintage, and was cursed with horrendous pricing, but first a word about the wines.

2007 was a vintage marked by cold weather, and thus retarded vine development, until the very last weeks of harvest. So what does that really mean? In basic terms, it means that the grapes were set to produce wines that are high in acid, some what vegetal and green (particularly the unripe tannins) and not very generous overall.

And in fact there are quite a few wines that show elevated levels of acidity, and I am an acid freak, so if I think a wine is too high in acid, well, you are forewarned! Other wines showed some hard, green tannins, while a few wines were shrill, and several were dominated by herbaceous notes.

So then, 2007 is a vintage to avoid, you ask? Well, it might be (there’s that pricing issue again), but there were also many lovely wines made that I am happy to recommend. There were essentially 2 keys to success in 2007. The first was patience, and to a certain extent luck. Producers who waited out the harvest were rewarded with riper fruit, naturally, but there are some vineyards that are just better sited and were able to shine in a vintage like 2007.

The second key to success in 2007 was to produce a wine dictated by the style of the vintage and not visa versa. This will always be a vintage that is lighter, delicate, and easily-termed classic, though that is also a sneaky way of saying lean and ungenerous in certain circles (but let’s ignore that for now). In fact, this is a perfect place to take a break and take a look at my notes on the 2007 Petits Chateaux. I'll pick up here in next week's installment, when I analyze the right bank and how it performed in 2007!

Read my 2007 tasting notes, after the jump.

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Mentioned in this article


  • Snooth User: dmcker
    Hand of Snooth
    125836 5,301

    Good notes, Greg, and let me say again how much I appreciate them in all your articles--and view them as one of the high points of the Snooth experience, and of its value to its users, especially in combination with the enlightened overview you bring to the wines and regions you review.

    Good to see that Chasse-Spleen is its usual reliable self. It's been one of my knee-jerk go-to Bordeaux on the economical side of things for the past three decades (along with Poujeaux, which it seems to outshine in this vintage, and Potensac and Sociando-Mallet and Pontet-Canet, though the last one is no longer in that category since Parker took it under his wing and prices have sky-rocketed). I'll keep my eyes peeled for the Maucaillou, and maybe the Malecasse. How much do you think the Cantemerle and La Tour Carnet will evolve into better balance with cellar age?

    Jun 30, 2010 at 3:14 PM

  • Snooth User: StevenBabb
    Hand of Snooth
    296258 488

    i was wondering if anyone new how the '07 beychevelle was tasting.... i sold a bottle to a guy the other day that was bringing it to a dinner at the house of prime rib.... i knew that '07 wasn't a great vintage, but i was limited by what we had on the shelf.... and the beychevelle fell into his price range.... i hope i didn't disappoint the customer...

    Jun 30, 2010 at 3:45 PM

  • Snooth User: dmcker
    Hand of Snooth
    125836 5,301

    Not that it's exactly a 'petit chateau', but I've always felt that Beychevelle never lived up to its potential, and Suntory's ownership hasn't exactly helped. But if anyone else has more recent tasting experience than I....

    Jun 30, 2010 at 7:54 PM

  • Just tasted the 07's in Taipei. No 1st growth tasted but lots of 2nd, 3rd, etc. A vintage to be avoided when their are so many other vintages begging to be drunk. The pundits are obliged to turn a sows ear into a silk purse. My little darling, Leoville Barton was really poor, this wine is my barometer on how a vintage generally goes.

    Jun 30, 2010 at 8:45 PM

  • Snooth User: cigarman168
    Hand of Snooth
    227923 332

    Some Grand Crus will have good stuffs for 07 at good price ie Duhart Milon ( I got it half price regarding its 09 EP) that you need to dip for.

    I normally go for so called weak vintage for Grand Crus but good vintage ie 05, 2000 for some Non Grand Crus ie cru bourgeois.

    Will try to taste the Maucaillou. See how it perform.

    Jun 30, 2010 at 11:21 PM

  • Why should we take pot luck with good money dipping into a market where the producers know more than consumers, about which of their products are reliable, when we can get good wines year after year from less over-rated regions than Bordeaux?
    It just doesnt make sense to puff up this unhappy state of affairs further.
    I am being quoted, yet again, lots of "en primeurs" for the latest vintage, 2009.
    They will be shipped for Christmas 2011.
    I will be expected to store them until 2016 when they will be "fit to drink".
    Why on Gods Earth should one bother with this "maybe/Maybe not" rigmarole when you can buy wines that are fit to drink from release, and regions that are strong in every vintage due to rigorous selection, good rootstock, terroir, and winemaking skills?
    I really dont get it.

    Jul 01, 2010 at 5:21 AM

  • Snooth User: Gregory Dal Piaz
    Hand of Snooth Voice of Snooth
    89065 238,749

    A couple of points I want to make here.

    First off thanks for the kind words.

    Beychevelle showed well in this tasting: http://www.snooth.com/wine/chateau-...

    About my scores and broad generalizations.

    If anyone is convinced that no good wine was made in the "bad" vintage of 2007 then I would have to say - don't buy them. But, having said that I would also say that you would be better off buying wine from someplace with a more consistently warm climate because you either don't like or don't care to explore one of the elements that make Bordeaux what it is: Vintage variation.

    I am not recommending to anyone that they buy any of these wines. I am saying that given the potential of the vintage many producers did just fine. My scores are based on the potential of the vintage in as far as I can manage it.

    Why a person feels it necessary to compare the wines of say a 2005, with their power, depth, tannic richness, and potential for improvement an an absolute scale with a wine from 2007 that offers a more elegant, lighter bodied, ready soon expression of varietal Cabernet is beyond me.

    Simple question - anyone enjoy the 1999 Bordeaux?

    I certainly found much to like in that quickly dismissed vintage and bought a fair amount. The wines are wonderful today, and I would be kidding myself if I was to not admit that their greatly reduced price played a role in my purchases, and frankly my enjoyment of the wines as values.

    The problem with these wines, the 2007s, is two-fold.

    First they are not the super-ripe super rich wines that everyone is convinced they should like - and frankly that most grand Chateau now produce in place of the Bordeaux they used to produce.

    And secondly these are generally way too expensive, I'm speaking about the 2007s at the moment but this seem applicable to the 2009s as well.

    End of story in my view. I might buy a few of these on close-out once, and if, it gets to that, but I am an atypical case. I have a cellarful of wine and an understanding of what is good out there in the marketplace.

    Are 2005s better than 2007s, in virtually every case.

    Are 2005s better to drink tonight than 2007s? That's a question only you can answer, but for me the answer is an easy no in many cases, especially as those 2005s shut down.

    So few easy answers to be found here. Bottom line - drink whatever you want to.

    Jul 01, 2010 at 9:56 AM

  • Snooth User: schellbe
    Hand of Snooth
    247770 225

    To williamsimpson

    What I don't get is how anyone can drink cabernet-based wine with less than five year's age. The CA cabernet wines are coarse and tannic when young, even though they are pumped up with overripe fruit.

    And they are overpriced compared to equivalent quality Bordeaux. Compare the price of Phelps Insignia or that Caymus Special Selection fruit-bomb (both well above $100) with equivalent quality second or third growth Bordeaux on futures. You can get a lot of Bordeaux wines rated in the mid nineties (if you care about these scores) for fifty to seventy dollars per bottle, e.g. Gruaud Larose 09. The age them for ten or more years and see how wonderful these wines are.

    Jul 01, 2010 at 3:47 PM

  • Snooth User: KASSADO
    336791 2

    With the marks coming after the note, I find it very helpful for me as a reference one day I run into these bottles. Thanks for that.

    Jul 02, 2010 at 7:03 PM

  • Snooth User: PierreC
    559206 12

    You have to know that today, Bordeaux offers the best values. Outside the Classified Growths, which represent less than 4% of the volume of Bordeaux, you can easily find some great values.
    Indeed most of thoses wines are selling between 5€ and 15€ retail.

    Some producers have always give to the customers constant quality and values, vintage after vintage: some example under $20 retail:
    Chateau Patache d'Aux, Chateau Liversan, Chateau de Fontenille, Chateau Sainte Barbe....
    Those producers are very stable on price, and even do not follow the inflation rate. The quality of those wines are great.

    The problem is that today, people don't know wines under 90 Points from Parker or Wine Spectator.
    Well it is quite easy for those guys to rate Classified Growths. I do it also every year. But it is not easy for them to rate and enjoy Affordable wines. Imagine the reaction if once they rate a Classified under 90 points from 1st or 2sn Growths..... I
    ndeed tasting are never blind for those wines.

    Same for 2007 vintage. Most of journalist said that 2007 was a bad vintage in August. In August??? How come? Harvest have started around the 20th of september... And september and october, weather was sunny, dry, windy with temperature around 24°C. Indeed srping was wet and july too.
    But customers cannot say 2007: NO!!! They don't know the truth... Here is the problem.

    Some few ago, Wine Enthusiast, and New York Times have done an article on Affordable Bordeaux Wines: BRAVO!!!!

    Bordeaux wines are always balanced with acidity and sugar. You will not find red wines at 15% alc by vol or from some very few crazy winemakers... The finesse and the elegancy from Bordeaux is totaly unique and rare.

    This is one of the reason you can age Bordeaux wines.
    As for vintages impact: CLIMATE !!!
    But indeed, if you want to enjoy your 2005 now: Good Luck!!!! they are totally closed and will keep like that for some few years.
    So you better enjoy 2007 which is tasting very well today. Of course you will not keep 2007 in your cellars for 15 years... but who can???

    Aug 20, 2010 at 2:22 AM

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