For Bordeaux, 2013 was definitely not a year to remember by. The level of despair is almost comparable to grim of SARS in Hong Kong, or the great real estate crash of 1997. Having said that, producing wine is of course an amalgamation of nature and nurture. When nature deals such bad cards, it is up to the people to persevere. Indeed, this vintage truly showcases the tour de force of the great winemakers and wineries.
To understand the severity of the conditions in Bordeaux for 2013, we must first gather some background on what would be the ideal case for production of quality wine grape:
1. 早而迅速的開花，以確保容易施肥，保證產量以及未來成熟平均。Early and rapid flowering to ensure quality as well as quantity of production by allowing plenty of time for ripening.
2. 適當的缺水壓力而保證年輕葡萄不會過大以及確保單寧。Water stress to ensure good concentration of fruit and tannins
3. 在缺乏水份的情況下，葡萄株在葡萄變色（véraison）前停止生長。Under water stress, the arrest of grape growth (véraison)
4. 採摘前日照充足，以保證葡萄可以完全成熟。Lots of sun before harvest to ensure proper ripening
5. 收獲階段氣候良好，以保證葡萄在收獲前不會受到黴菌的侵害。Good dry weather during harvest to prevent growth of fungus.
Sadly, none of the boxes beside these points were checked for the 2013 vintage. A wet and cold spring delayed flowering and caused wide spread flower abortion. This not only affected grape growth, but reduced quantity significantly. Even though July and August had plenty of sun, they were followed by periods of severe storms and hail. This prevented proper ripening of the grapes further, but the physical duress from the hail storms caused harsh flavours to develop in the grapes. The final nail in the coffin was hit when humid and cool conditions during harvest allow rot to spread widely and quickly. Preventing many vineyards the chance to leave their grapes until they have a proper chance to ripen. It became a big gamble to take because overnight, a significant portion of the grapes could be affected. Many wineries were completely devastated by rot.
Indeed, much of what we heard during our visit were complaints of the difficulty of the 2013 vintage, with many comparing it to the disaster of 1991. But our skills of wine making and certainly, the understanding of grapes has dramatically increased. With the power of knowledge in hand, many wineries were able to make the best out of what is possible. The clever use of “plot by plot” harvesting, fermentation and blending was pivotal – especially when wineries had good plots of Cabernet Franc (an earlier ripening varietal) to play with. Those that chose to over extract what is available were faced with wines that lacked balance, and complexity.
以左岸而言，Pauillac村其2013年一眾出品恰恰是上述風格分水嶺的典型例子，各個酒莊採取的風格頗為兩極。而Margaux村則表現出其一貫柔和風格，感覺該年表現良好的莊園比例較高。St. Julien村則表現中規中矩。而St. Estèphe村向來風格單寧均強烈，不過在這個葡萄熟成度普遍是問題的年份，明顯很難作出果味濃縮度可以和其單寧抗衡的出品。Pessac-Léognan村絕大多數酒莊表現出其一貫礦物味香氣特色，可惜濃縮度流於一般。值得一提的是，該區2013年的白葡萄酒今年表現十分出色，值得留意。
On the left bank, Pauillac producers really stood out as an example of how different directions in winemaking produced wildly varying results in a difficult vintage. Margaux wineries, on the other hand, was able to bring out their usual elegance in general. St. Julien wines were satisfactory while St. Estèphe wines seemed over extracted as well with strong tannings but lacking fruit. Pessac-Léognan wines were able to bring forth the minerality of their terrior, but lacked concentration. Of note, the whites of Pessac were excellent, and worth a try.
With 2013 such a disaster for many reds, the favorable conditions for botrytis offered a great opportunity for producers at Sauternes and Barsac. We found great concentration and complex aromas across many producers. Ready your wallets when the 2013 vintages hit the shelves!
On to the right bank, producers were in pretty much the same boat. We heard many stories of sleepless nights and stomachs full of butterflies during harvest time. Rot was on everyone’s minds! Some risk taking wineries were rewarded with ripe fruit that produced good wines, others were left with a field of moldy grapes. Château La Pointe was an example where the risks paid off.
向來以柔和香氣著稱的Pomerol, 在2013年反而表現不俗。由於該區莊園普遍不大，快速而有效率的成熟葡萄採摘令該年的基本質量得到保證，雖然不會是一個可以長時間窖存的年份，但許多酒莊出品都擁有迷人香氣風格。而Saint-Émilion區而言，也許是因為擁有足夠資源以保證葡萄採摘時質量的緣故，一眾Premiers Grands Crus Classés都算表現良好，而擁有較多Gravel以及limestone土壤的莊園（如Château Ausone及Château Cheval Blanc等），則在這個多雨的年份表現出格外的優勢。
The performance in Pomerol was surprisingly not bad. Littered with smaller wineries, they were able to react quickly and pick selectively during the critical periods – giving them wines with better fruity and body. This vintage is not meant for the cellar though. Finally, at St. Émilion, where the Primeres Grands Cru Classés have the resources to manage harvest and sacrifice volume, the wines were good. Plots with more gravel and limestone such as Château Ausone, and Château Cheval Blanc performed well in this wet year.
With such difficult conditions during the 2013 vintage, we were surprised to find many good wines during this years En Primeur. We also found that many wineries labeled their wines as having “the elegance of a good burgundian wine”. Come to think of it, given the cooler and wetter conditions of 2013 Bordeaux, choosing elegance over power might be the right route to take. After all, it’s not often that we are able to enjoy Bordeaux wines at a young age, the 2013 vintage gives us a chance to do so.
現時絕大部分酒莊已經宣布其2013年En Primeur價格，平均比2012年稍微下降或者持平，當然，對消費者而言，畢竟市場上依然有不少之前年份，現時購買並沒有明顯便宜的2013 En Primeur，似乎並沒有太多誘因。畢竟市場最終會將酒的價格調整至其應有水平。會不會發生在2013年份身上？我們拭目以待。
Today, many wineries have released the 2013 En Primeur pricing. Averaging similar or slightly lower than the 2012 vintage, it is not a very compelling proposition. With so much wine still on the market, it would be interesting to see how the market will eventually price the 2013s.