Bordeaux En Primeur 2013 – Conclusion and Summary

I am now back in the UK and have had time to reflect on last weeks tastings. Numbers were noticeably down at the tastings and to summarise I think this is a unique vintage producing, in the main, pretty mediocre wines with a few exceptions (which I will list below).

It is ‘unique’ in the sense that invariably you can find a past vintage which has similar traits but 2013 has no such comparison. It can not be termed a ‘classic’ vintage which is normally the adjective often used to describe a vintage if people can’t think of anything else to say.

If this vintage had taken place 20 years ago when todays technology and knowhow were not around very little wine would have been made and there wouldn’t be a vintage.

Some have tried to compare 2013 to 1984 as there was a Merlot crisis back then. The only comparison I can make is that the 2013 Left Bank wines seem to be more Burgundy in style and the Right Bank wines are similar to the style of the Rhone.

As I said, there are a few exceptions, but if people are interested in buying Bordeaux wines at this time I think they would be best advised to look at past vintages where the quality is far superior and is attracting some very reasonable prices.


The 2013 Bordeaux dry white wines and sweet wines from Sauternes and Barsac however are exceptional.

Sauternes and Barsac

To be fair I could hardly fault any wines from Sauternes and Barsac – the majority contained all the characteristics of the terroir and the grapes with all the fruit and honeyed sweetness of true sweet wines.

These AOCs are also producing some very good dry whites as well as the more traditional sweet wines and S de Suduiraut (from Sauternes Chateau Suduiraut) is a good example.

Dry Whites

The dry whites produced from the following estates are excellent:

Domaine de Chevalier
Chateau Pape Clement
Chateau Smith Haut Lafitte
Chateau Haut Brion


For those insist in buying or those who would like to buy the 2013 reds the following wines from various AOCs would be a reasonable bet and are probably the best wines from this poor vintage in my opinion.

The reason I say the vintage is poor and the wines mediocre is down to the fact that there were common traits in the wines; they were lacking in colour and did not possess the usual opulence and complexity that Bordeaux lovers like to see present in these wines.

New Chai at Chateau Pichon Lalande

First Growths

Chateau Haut Brion

Saint Estephe

Chateau Calon Segur
Chateau Le Croix (A Cru Borgeois made by Leoville Poyferre)


Chateau Lynch Bages
Chateau Grand Puy Lacoste

Saint Julien

Chateau Leoville Poyferre, their Second Wine Pavillon de Poyferre and Chateau Moulin Riche
Chateau Ducru Beaucaillou, their Second Wine Croix de Beaucaillou and Chateau Lalande Borie
Chateau Branaire Ducru
Chateau Talbot


Chateau Palmer
Chateau Lascombes
Chateau Monbrison

Horse working in the vines at Chateau L’Evangile


Chateau Clinet
Chateau Gazin
Chateau Beauregard
Vieux Chateau Certan

Saint Emilion

Chateau Troplong Mondot
Chateau Soutard
Chateau La Laurence
Chateau Sansonnet
Chateau la Fleur Cardinale
Chateau de Pressac

Pessac Leognan and Graves

Chateau Les Carmes Haut Brion
Chateau Haut Bailly
Chateau Olivier
Chateau Smith Haut Lafitte
Domaine de Chevalier
Chateau Pape Clement

Haut Medoc, Moulis and Listrac

Chateau Chasse Spleen
Chateau Cantermerle
Chateau Beaumont

The biggest problem that I feel will affect the 2013 vintage will be the price tag the chateaux put on their wine.

Chateau Angelus new building works

To some degree I can understand why their prices are high in good years but I can not understand this thinking in poor years. As 2013 is a poor and at best a mediocre vintage it should attract representative prices.

However chateaux will argue that their production is down and that their costs have increased due to the technical demands of the vintage, therefore there will be less profit.

In my observations travelling around Bordeaux the opulence that is lacking in this vintage is very evident in the larger chateaux themselves thanks to their investment programmes which they have been pouring into rebuilding their chais. Figures in excess of 80 million euros have been mentioned.

Do the chateaux have an ulterior motive for these expensive refurbishments? For this reason I believe they will maintain their prices as close to those of the 2012 vintage as possible, as is evident with the wines already released. That said the wines in my opinion are not worthy of a price tag that high.

Building at Chateau Margaux

This is definitely not a speculators vintage

This is definitely the vintage for Francophiles who like to drink Bordeaux wines. The wines are thinner, brighter and less complex than normal and will definitely drink a lot younger.

Having tasted numerous wines at the Cru Bourgeois tasting (which presented over 240 wines) there were wines there which are better than those made by some of the Grand Cru Classé.

I believe true value will be from the lesser known estates at Cru Bourgeois level

In my travels I was introduced to a small winemaker who has estates in Saint Emilion and Lalande de Pomerol. I tasted his wines (which he makes in back yard) and I honestly could not believe the level of fruit he had managed to maintain in a wine that would cost about 7 euros. Without being coy I am not going to name him but I will be endeavouring to purchase some.

Small winemaker

This has shown me that if the winemaker has empathy with their terroir and its conditions they can still make good wines without the investment in technology. This winemaker has certainly done that.


In conclusion the 2013 vintage is a very good year for Dry Whites and sweet Sauternes and Barsac and a pretty mediocre year for the Reds with some exceptions; which is why – if you want to buy – you will really have to trust your wine merchant to be honest with you.

For the true Bordeaux drinker I would advise you to look at the lesser known estates for real value or back vintages which are going to be far superior in quality at a similar price.

I hope you have enjoyed reading my thoughts on the En Primeur campaign this year.  Should you like to discuss any of my writings please do not hesitate to contact me.

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