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2023 Bordeaux tasting notes: Left Bank Part I

Simon Field MW’s tasting notes from the 2023 Bordeaux en primeur tastings begin with wines from St-Estèphe, Pauillac, St-Julien, and Margaux.

By Simon Field MW

2023 Bordeaux: Enigma decoded


Château Le Boscq Cru Bourgeois Exceptionnel (47% CS, 46% M, 6% PV, 1% CF)

SF | Deeply pigmented, near opaque at the core. Then a nose of cassis, spearmint, irises, and woodsmoke. A lift on the palate signals energy and a facility to control and absolve the tannins of their darker intentions. Muscular and fundamentally savory, yet with no shortage of fruit and exceptional power on the finish. | 92–93

Château Calon-Ségur 3ème Cru (72% CS, 15% M, 12% CF, 1% PV)

SF | Vincent Millet hardly needs to reveal that the alcohol level has dipped a notch from 2022, and 14% seems far more manageable than 22’s immense 15%. The wine itself—to this taster, at least—is all the better for it, fresher and with more terroir definition in its fruit character, especially the significant plateau of Cabernet Sauvignon. Outstanding quality of fruit, both pure and expressive, with firm, sinewy tannins and a flourish of sapidity on the back. Controlled power and plenty of gliding style on what Vincent describes as the “autoroute des tannins.” Essential St-Estèphe: vital, cerebral, and yet also beautifully constructed. | 96–97

Le Marquis de Calon-Ségur Cru Bourgeois Exceptionnel (50% M, 48% CS, 1% CF, 1% PV)

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SF | A symposium of mid-palate dark fruit, with Merlot generosity at is core, but a firm foundation of St-Estèphe rigor, hints of herbs and bay leaf adding complexity to the pure plum and damson fruit. Vincent reveals that some of the Merlot parcels had previously been included in the grand vin—an entirely plausible explanation for its depth and complexity, its composure and reassurance on the finish. | 93–94

Château Capbern Cru Bourgeois (69% CS, 29% M, 1% CF, 1% PV)

SF | An impressive 48ha (119-acre) estate located between Meyney and Phélan Ségur, adorned by a complex tableau of gravel-topped soils. A regular overperformer, certainly thus inclined in 2023, the wine is a festival of black cherry, fresh figs, and blue fruit, its mid-palate generosity harnessed by deft, grippy tannins, then a bold peacock’s tail of a finish. | 92–93

Château Cos d’Estournel 2ème Cru (65% CS, 33% M, 1% CF, 1% PV)

SF | Gentle austerity is revisited with the senior wine. At 12.9% ABV, it is a far cry from the Cos of yesteryear, yet with such composure and authority that the signature of the house is clearly inscribed. The aromatics are dominated by blue fruit and black tea, then incense and fig. Impressive concentration and finely tapered tannins, the hint of “noble bitterness” on the finish signaling both complexity and a potential to develop gracefully. | 95–96

2023 Bordeaux Field Notes: Out of sorts?

Les Pagodes de Cos (51% CS, 45% M, 2% CF, 2% PV)

SF | With a little more clay in the soil, the vines of the Pagodes, autonomous and averaging nearly 40 years of age, have yielded a powerful 2023, with mid-palate ripeness, plenty of energy, and a firm, focused finish. Dominique Arangoïts describes the wine in terms of “gentle austerity”—a most fitting oxymoron. | 92–93

Clos d’Estournel Blanc (70% SB, 30% Sem)

SF | The Semillon contributes a touch of opulence, with passion fruit, guava, and even a hint of pineapple serving to round out the linear citric rigor of the Sauvignon. Harmonious and integrated, with a pithy texture and additional notes of lime and orange blossom, complexity unfurling as one swirls the glass, which one is sure to do, repeatedly, in a fit of Pavlovian pleasure. | 91–92

Château Cos Labory 5ème Cru (55% CS, 34% M, 8% CF, 3% PV)

SF | The first year under full control of its neighbor Cos d’Estournel, and already the qualitative indicators are on the up. This is a relatively large estate (35ha [85 acres]), its wines vinified separately and with a different aspect (more north- and west-facing) and therefore different wind exposure in the vines. The rusticity of yesteryear has been banished, and we are left with a very pure expression of St-Estèphe, its musculature taut, its mid-palate concentrated and matted with dark fruit, its finish lifting and refreshing, its potential vast. One to watch with interest, both in terms of the future of this wine and of subsequent vintages. | 92–93

Château Le Crock Cru Bourgeois (60% CS, 33% M, 2% CF, 5% PV)

SF | Very much a property in the ascendant, Le Crock has impressed Sara Lecompte Cuvelier in 2023; it has impressed us, too, such is its muscular dexterity, its nuanced tonality, and its gentle authority on the finish. The Cuvelier imprimatur (charm and depth reunited) is evidenced, but with a challenging, sinewy backstory that is perfectly resolved. 30% of the oak is new, some of it larger format than usual (500 liters). The Petit Verdot from the plateau of Marbuzet has added a spicy twist to the finish. Ultimately rewarding, very much so. | 93–94

Château Lafon-Rochet 4ème Cru (64% CS, 29% M, 3% CF, 4% PV)

SF | Christophe Congé advises that the harvest was one of the longest ever at Lafon-Rochet, finished eventually on October 5, and this after a relatively early start to the season. He felt that the Petit Verdot would add spice and lift on the back of the palate, as indeed it does. The Cabernet Sauvignon, of course, is the star of the show, and it rejoices in depth and length, purity of fruit, and pleasing tension, which runs down the palate and allows the slightly plush oak style to make itself felt but not to dominate. One senses the proximity, in every sense, of Pauillac, and also, maybe, a Lorenzetti house style, which is slightly richer, more indulgent even, than of old. Riper, plusher, less obviously Lafon-Rochet or St-Estèphe? The questions are rhetorical but appear true beyond doubt. Dense color, with a nose of blueberry, wet coal, and slate; behind that, the forest floor and distant woodsmoke. The palate accentuates the fruit/oak matrix and will need time to resolve. Stentorian tannins sing in tune and control the ensemble from the back. Compact and powerful. | 93–94

Château Meyney (50% CS, 38% M, 12% PV)

SF | Meyney is now in its third year of organic conversion; fortunately, however, there were few if any mildew problems in this part of St-Estèphe. The 2023 has all the Meyney hallmarks, including a smoky aromatic, a muscular physique, and a spicy, cerebral end to the palate, this largely as a result of the high proportion of Petit Verdot. The wine is dense and has a firm grip, with restorative, bittersweet fruit adding color and confirming seriousness of intent. Of a somewhat saturnine disposition, this Meyney will appeal to those who like their fruit dark and their wines sculpted in a somewhat Brutalist fashion. | 91–92

Château Montrose 2ème Cru (75% CS, 21% M, 4% CF)

SF | Now sourced only from the 45ha (111-acre) block (the plateau known as Terrace 4) in front of the château, Montrose has sacrificed several sources of fruit in the name of focus on the best and, maybe coincidentally, the heart of the 1855 Classification. Deeply pigmented, with a powerful aromatic of cassis, bay, fig, tobacco, and slate, the wine builds on the palate, its dark fruit one of many perfectly integrated components. There is muscle but no gras, complexity but no deviation from a linearity that is buttressed by intense, pure tannins. The crescendo has Brucknerian resonance, the finish all that one may hope for from a St-Estèphe at the top of its game. | 97–98

Château La Dame de Montrose (61% M, 32% CS, 5% PV, 2% CF)

SF | A richly pigmented hue, then attractive aromatics of cassis, bilberry, and woodsmoke, with a hint of elderberry behind. The plots are mainly behind the château, though not necessarily from younger fruit. The modest use of new oak (10%) has been complemented by foudres, amphorae, and older barrels, all requisitioned in order to show off the pure fruit and to foreshadow its potential. Finely chiseled tannins and a persuasive finish. | 93–94

Château Ormes de Pez (55% M, 34% CS, 6% CF, 5% PV)

SF | Spicy, rich, and powerful—a quintessential Ormes de Pez—the St-Estèphe clay bestowing dark-fruit mid-palate weight, but a pleasing lift, too, and a certain sweetness on the finish, which tempers the robust, firm tannins. There are hints of bay and bitumen, too, and even a sprig of spearmint. | 92–93

Château de Pez Cru Bourgeois (61% CS, 38% M, 1% CF)

SF | An uncompromising and muscular Pez, with aromatics dominated by notes of plum, damp coal, and soot. With aeration, graphite and a little licorice join the party. There is 50% new oak to support the broad structure and an intense, near-savory, mid-palate. Patience will be required, but this will please those who like the style. | 92–93

Château Phélan Ségur (60% CS, 38% M, 2% PV)

SF | A new vertical press, allowing the proportion of press juice to be increased, allied to stricter parcel selections (no Cabernet Franc this time) and a focus on indigenous yeasts—these are but three of the quality initiatives in play at Phélan Ségur, which is making great strides in the hierarchy of St-Estèphe. The 2023 is highly aromatic: red berries and rose petals, with hints of spice and cedar from 55% new oak. Less concentrated than many of its peers, it still impresses with the finesse of the tannins and the charming, lifted character of the finish. | 94–95

Frank Phélan (50% M, 42% CS, 8% CF)

SF | There is a broad vineyard palette to play with at Phélan Ségur, covering all four corners of the appellation, from the windier, Gironde-influenced, sandy soils to the west, all the way back to the numbered terraces. An extended harvest in 2023 was, however, due to the wish to ensure optimum ripeness, especially for the gravel-strewn Cabernet vineyards on Terrace 4. The maceration itself was also extended; the ensemble thus took time but has been aged with no recourse to new wood. The result is an aromatic, pretty Frank, with aromatics of roses and red fruits and a soft, gourmand, character to the mid-palate, which renders the wine delightfully approachable. | 92–93

Château Tronquoy-Lalande (61% CS, 38% M, 1% PV)

SF | Under the ownership of the Bouygues family of Montrose and undergoing something of a renaissance in terms of reputation. Despite unusually high levels of Cabernet Sauvignon, the wine is fleshy, ripe, and seductive, its blue-fruit personality intense and pleasingly lifted by touches of menthol and eucalypt. Foudres have complemented the barriques for the élevage, ensuring that focus is on quality of fruit above all. This it does with conspicuous success. | 92–93

2023 Bordeaux Field notes: Single spies


Château d’Armailhac 5ème Cru (70% CS, 15% M, 13% CF, 2% PV)

SF | A rich, ripe spicy d’Armailhac, its exuberance held in check by linear, focused tannins and a pleasing, eucalypt freshness on the finish. Wood spices and black tea are neatly woven into the package of perception, and the tension between the exuberant fruit and the finely poised acidity works successfully. | 93–94

Château Clerc Milon 5ème Cru (72% CS, 19% M, 6.5% CF, 1.5% Carmenère, 1% PV)

SF | This is appreciably more open than the 2022 at the same stage, despite its third-highest proportion of Cabernet Sauvignon (after 1983 and 2019), underlining once again Jean-Emmanuel Danjoy’s assertion that this really was a fantastic vintage for Cabernet. It also brings back the topic of conversation as to whether 2023 will turn out to be like the 2019, which is highly appreciated. 2019 maybe had more sugar in the grapes and maybe a little more weight, whereas the best 2023s have an elegance and a lift and maybe a little more tension. The Clerc Milon illustrates this neatly; it is finely tapered, indulgently restrained, and harmoniously constructed, notwithstanding its rare five grape varieties. | 94–95

Château Duhart-Milon 4ème Cru (80% CS, 20% M)

SF | For the third successive year, the Cabernet Sauvignon takes up 80% of the blend; it used to be 70%. This is less to do with the mildew (itself successfully vanquished) than to the suitability of some of the parcels for Merlot. Cabernet victorious, then, and rightly so. Graphite and then licorice temper the dark fruit, both the clay and the gravel given full expression. The tannins are firm but not overbearing, the shape broad without being overweening. The team compares the wine to a Harley-Davidson, with a very long journey ahead. I think that it is far too graceful to be machine, so I will concede an analogy with a large bird—an eagle, maybe. Whatever it might recall, it is a splendid, composed wine, with no rough edges but plenty of personality. | 95–96

Château Grand-Puy Ducasse 5ème Cru (52% CS, 44% M, 4% PV)

SF | Exciting times at Grand-Puy Ducasse, with the winery on the Quai at Pauillac beautifully restored after a mere 200 years. The installation is impressive, with a focus on vinification by parcel—very important in a wine with quite a scattered tapestry of vineyards. The wine is also revitalized, with a wealth of cassis and black fruit on display, the cedarwood and hints of bitter chocolate carousing the finish. Forward, ripe, and elegant, its oak (35% new) just a little intrusive for now. But not, assuredly, forever. | 92–93

Château Grand-Puy-Lacoste 5ème Cru (77% CS, 23% M)

SF | Emeline Borie describes the vintage as a “two-in-one” phenomenon, given the dramatically different ripening conditions experienced for the Merlot and the Cabernet Sauvignon. If the imprint of success, therefore, resides in the subsequent blending of the two, then 2023 must be marked as very successful at this address. There is a classic GPL nose of blueberries, cherry, and soft spice, hints of cigar box and gravel, then a palate of medium concentration but lift and elegance, the fruits harmoniously cushioned by chalky tannins. From the elegant end of the Pauillac spectrum, with an understandably loyal following, Grand-Puy-Lacoste 2023 is a delight. | 95–96

Château Haut-Bages Libéral 5ème Cru (86% CS, 14% M)

SF | A beautiful property made even more beautiful by Clare Villars-Lurton’s agroforestry initiatives. The microorganisms that are of mutual benefit to both trees and vines are hugely enhanced by such new plantings. The 15ha (37 acres) have yielded magnificently in 2023—53hl/ha—but for all that, here we have a wine of such concentration, such liveliness, such floral elegance that one may find it hard to believe that the property is surrounded by Lynch-Bages and Pichon Baron, two of the sturdier members of the Pauillac community. This wine sings in a different register: flowers, tapenade, vitality, and a fine, harmonious finish. Great charm and textural composure. | 93–94

2023 Bordeaux Field notes: Château Lafleur—La Balançoire

Château Haut-Batailley 5ème Cru (71% CS, 25% M, 4% PV)

SF | The Cazes have put a lot of effort into Haut-Batailley since its acquisition in 2017, and a vertical of 2017–23 eloquently demonstrated the merits of investment, of patience, and of attention to detail. The proximity to both St-Julien and the Gironde Estuary, allied to the distinctive gravel and clay terroir (some of the latter blue clay, we are told), ensures that the differences from the more forthright and powerful Lynch-Bages are appreciable, even if, in a certain sense, the tannin management and fruit extraction tilt the wine toward its new sibling. The 2023 is marked by a bright, floral aromatic and soft plum notes on the palate, then a generous, spicy finish. Altogether more successful than the somewhat foursquare 2022, Haut-Batailley is, it seems, reemerging from the shadows, more impressive and with more self-belief. | 92–93

Château Lafite Rothschild 1er Cru (93% CS, 6% M, 1% PV)

SF | “Serenity” is the word that Eric Kohler chooses to describe both the passage of the seasons at Lafite and the wine itself. It is not demonstrative; indeed, it is initially a little reticent. The assemblages were completed earlier than usual, in December, and Eric recalls how everyone was amazed that harmony and equilibrium, a sense of completeness, even before élevage, had been achieved. Thereafter, 90% new oak—hardly noticeable, such is the innate richness and depth of flavor of the wine. Cassis is the first to emerge, then black cherry, charcuterie, coal dust, iodine… The descriptive gates are pushed wide open. The proportion of Cabernet Sauvignon, at 93%, is high but not the highest ever (it was 99% in 1994 and, lest we forget, 100% in 1961), but this is an ode to the virtues of long-maturing Cabernet; harmonious now and destined to be harmonious long into the future. Superb! | 98–99

Carruades de Lafite (60% CS, 40% M)

SF | Somewhat atypical this year, in that it comprises only two grape varieties and also in that some of the Cabernet was harvested before the Merlot, virtually unprecedented elsewhere in 2023. A big-boned, broadly structured wine, with an attractive nose of morello cherry, fig, and lavender, then a grippy, linear texture, with herbaceous hints (herbs in a positive sense!) and a tightly wound tannic structure. | 94–95

Château Latour 1er Cru (92% CS, 8% M)

SF | Dense of color and aroma, a quintessential Latour, the savory and the sweet sharing the honors, albeit if the fruit tilts toward the darker end of the spectrum. Four extra barrels of Cabernet Sauvignon were made this year. Cassis leaf and woodsmoke, camphor and black pepper, soy, iodine, and a hint of eucalyptus. Encyclopedic, for sure; architecturally imposing but in no way overwhelming. The alcohol is 13.2%—lower than most recent vintages—and yet there appears to be no loss of latent power and no compromise when it comes to the vigor of the tannins. For all its saturnine guise, the wine is vibrant, alert, responsive. The aromatics linger across the palate; the finish is finely scented and vital. A magisterial wine—a towering Latour, indeed. | 98–99

Les Forts de Latour (56% CS, 40% M, 4% PV)

SF | Magisterial and massive. (I am presuming that massif in French means the same as its English homonym, and if Hélène uses that word, I feel entitled to do so also.) Classic Forts, the Merlot with powerful, persuasive dark fruit, then hints of compote, bitumen even, camphor maybe. Complex certainly, yet at under 14% ABV and with relatively modest tannins (IPT of 75), this is not overblown or in any way overextracted. We taste the 2018 by way of comparison with the current commercial release. The ripe 2018 is fantastic, but the more chiseled, more focused 2023 looks set to be even better. | 96–97

Pauillac de Latour (61% CS, 34% M, 5% PV)

SF | A glorious, emblematic Pauillac from the Latour stable: rigorous, energetic, savory, and complex. Cassis and blue fruits on the nose, then incredible concentration on the palate (for a generic wine—or for any other wine, come to think of it). An imposing baroque grandeur, then a finely chiseled finish as an antidote to the power of all that has come before. | 93–94

2023 Bordeaux Field notes: The endless appeal of Sauternes

Château Lynch-Bages 5ème Cru (71% CS, 25% M, 4% PV)

SF | A fascinating, almost enigmatic Lynch, which is really not what one was expecting. Dense of color, with marked aromatics of blueberry, vanillin, and sloe, the wine, at first blush, appears to fit effortlessly into the rich, modern template that it has cherished of late. And yet further contemplation—focused on the finesse of the tannins, the relatively low level of alcohol (13.2%), and the elegant finish—lands on a hitherto unappreciated side of this wine; reflection both, I think, of the careful and skillful winemaking and the great success of the vintage in the north of Pauillac. Lynch-Bages is still a powerful beast, for sure, but the power is more measured and—dare one say it?—more contemplative. | 94–95

Blanc de Lynch-Bages (81% SB, 11% Sm, 8% Mus)

SF | Bottled early, the Blanc de Lynch-Bages is beautifully expressive, with notes of jasmine, nectarine, and chalk, then verbena and oatmeal, the latter from the extended bâtonnage. The final orange-peel flourish is courtesy of the Muscadelle, sometimes a somewhat temperamental variety and therefore relatively rare in the Médoc.  A gently indulgent style, but one that will not  fail to please anyone who likes their Sauvignon  to be marked by an expressive texture. | 91–92

Château Mouton Rothschild. The 2023 is “Spicy, rich, and persuasive, its 13.3% ABV reminding us of the classicism of the architecture, of the poise and precision behind the flamboyant façade.” Photography by Shutterstock.

Château Mouton Rothschild 1er Cru (93% CS, 7% M)

SF | The three gravel croupes that rise above the plateau make up, as they always have, the key vineyards supplying the Cabernet Sauvignon. Only 2010 Mouton, indeed, has ever had more. Both Petit Verdot and Cabernet Franc were blended and tried out; both fell short of the quality of this peerless Cabernet Sauvignon. Jean-Emmanuel describes it as an elixir, and I am sure that the 2023 does not lack for restorative power. There are flowers here; licorice, gum cistus even; thyme, gunpowder. There is magnificent concentration and most definitely the capacity to marry with the 100% new-wood tannins, which are hitherto not remotely intrusive. Spicy, rich, and persuasive, its 13.3% ABV reminding us of the classicism of the architecture, of the poise and precision behind the flamboyant façade. This, therefore, encapsulates the essence of 2023 and appeals in many different ways. | 97–98

Le Petit Mouton de Mouton Rothschild (79% CS, 12% M, 7% CF, 2% PV)

SF | An intense, near-onyx color presages an intense aromatic attack, with black cherry, briary, tobacco, and soot to the fore. The intensity is revisited on the palate; this is compact and profound; a casket of explosive fruit, with the high proportion of Cabernet Sauvignon once again showing an almost precocious exuberance. | 93–94

Aile d’Argent Bordeaux Blanc (50% SB, 44.5% Sm, 5% SG, 0.5% Mus)

SF | More Semillon than usual and an earlier harvest. Pleasing agrume aromatic, with hints of tilleul and slate, then white tobacco and lime. Wildflowers, chalk, and a hint of iodine follow. There has been no malolactic fermentation and no skin contact, but 45% new barrels. A finely judged wine, both refreshing and profound, the acidity chiseled around a broad palette of flavor. | 94–95

Château Pédesclaux 5ème Cru (70% CS, 20% M, 10% CF)

SF | The aspiration to increase the Cabernet Sauvignon plantations to 75% is firmly in train, with only limestone Merlot favored in the senior blend, and the tension offered by Cabernet Franc favored. A rich, floral style, with a sheen offered by 65% new oak and a plush, full mid-palate. The finish is marked by a hint of spice and licorice; it dries a little at the moment, though this may be a function of youth. | 92–93

Château Pibran (54% CS, 46% M)

SF | Forward, aromatically expressive (cassis aplenty), then a broad, matted palate, with fine, poised tannins in support. Limestone freshness lifts the ensemble and underscores the harmony. As usual, 40% new oak has been used; already nicely integrated. | 92–93

Château Pichon Baron 2ème Cru (80% CS, 20% M)

SF | Dense of color and texture, with muscular tight tannins and a brooding, dark-fruited mid-palate. Dark berries and wet coal, ripe figs and hints of bitter chocolate—the quintessence of the Byronic Baron, in other words, yet one that has been crafted with delicacy; low temperatures during cuvaison, minute care in the selection of only the heart of the press wine, and a focus on elegance just as much as on power; the alcohol is only 13.2%. This being Pichon, however, there is a robust core, a firm heart of darkness, and plenty of scope for a lengthy evolution. | 95–96

Les Griffons de Pichon Baron (57% CS, 41% M, 2% PV)

SF | A fabulous Griffons in 2023. An archetype of gravel-sourced, Cabernet Sauvignon-dominated Pauillac. Tight, with dark fruit, regimented tannins, and a succulent, almost savory finish. Many of these vines, closer to the Gironde Estuary, would historically have gone into the first wine. On this showing, it is easy to see why it was deemed to be worthy. | 94–95

Les Tourelles de Longueville (72% M, 20% CS, 8% CF)

SF | Merlot-dominated, with the clays of the richer soil lending textural richness and depth of flavor. Sloes and damsons, blackcurrant leaf and petrichor. The more generous face of Pichon, its vineyards situated to the west of the eponymous towers, its personality pleasingly different from that of Les Griffons, the latter a little closer in style to the senior wine. It is nice to have the contrast, and both are successful. | 93–94

Château Pichon Longueville Comtesse de Lalande 2ème Cru (80% CS, 17% M, 3% CF)

SF | Overall, confides Nicolas Glumineau,  Pichon Lalande was drier in 2023 than 2022.  The mildew was a danger, especially given Pichon’s organic approach in the vineyards, but was kept at bay by vigilance, multiple spraying treatments, and the weight of human intervention. The crop that was saved proved to be high in  both quality and quantity and well worth saving. The Lalande trademark elegance is gloriously present, albeit allied by a natural, almost “earthy” subtext, where one almost feels that one is in  the vineyard, breathing the salty air wafting in from the estuary. A very authentic statement of high-grade Pauillac terroir, then, but not lacking for a silky elegance. An almost impossible feat, carried off effortlessly. | 95–96

Pichon Comtesse Réserve (60% CS, 30% M, 5% PV, 5% CF)

SF | Celebrating her 50th anniversary in style, the Comtesse Réserve is typically approachable, but has seriousness of intent and depth of purpose. A grande dame, indeed; the quality of the tannins is especially impressive, and their gentle weave allows the fruit a full, eloquent expression, rejoined soon enough by flowers and hints of soft spice. Composed and dignified on the finish, too. | 92–93

Château Pontet-Canet 5ème Cru (52% CS, 39% M, 6% CF, 3% PV)

SF | Pontet-Canet is for the cognoscenti. It is unique. The biodynamic viticulture brings us as close to the soil, to the clay and to the gravel, as we are ever likely to get; it may, to some, seem a little rustic, with aromas that recall something earthy, something peaty, something unusually floral. All true, but all with such lift and such a purity, that one becomes embroiled in a story that Alfred Tesseron has taken 50 years to complete. Violets and plums, lavender and loam, tapenade and eucalypt—all harmoniously married. An exceptionally long period of harvest, with the Merlots picked young to preserve vibrancy and the Cabernets given the longest hang-time to ensure phenolic complexity. No disjoint here, however—merely the vital signs of a superb, honest wine limbering up for greatness. | 95–96


Château Beychevelle 4ème Cru (61% CS, 35% M, 4% PV)

SF | The Cabernet Sauvignon is allowed a greater say than usual, thereby heightening the contrast with the Amiral and yielding a powerfully linear style, classique avant la lettre and beautifully textured, its 70% new oak worn lightly. Floral aromatics join forces with the cassis and myrtle; this is echoed on the palate, which has a firm tannic grip, yet a clearly discernible linearity, more apparent than sometimes with Beychevelle. Thereafter, hints of menthol and spearmint are evidenced, with a touch of licorice on the finish. Very complete and reassuring. | 94–95

Amiral de Beychevelle (51% M, 49% CS)

SF | Attractive damson and strawberry fruit; the high level of Merlot speaks eloquently through the mid-palate and is forward and modestly lifted, with creamy tannins and a gently harmonious finish. A far cry from 2022 when the Amiral actually contained more Cabernet Sauvignon than the grand vin. Normal service has been resumed, and with no lack of panache and charm. | 92–93

Château Branaire-Ducru 4ème Cru (61% CS, 30% M, 6% CF, 3% PV)

SF | A first vintage in the smart, new gravity-fed winery, and a very good one it is, too. There are now 75 vats where there had been 38—more than enough to give special attention to each of the demarcated parcels. If technical director Jean-Dominique Videau felt that Merlot excelled in 2022, in 2023 it is the turn of Cabernet Sauvignon to take the center of the stage, even if the blend is pretty much the same. This has been achieved with typical precision, generosity of fruit, and dexterity of the finely chiseled tannins. St-Julien character is writ large, with an encyclopedic fruit basket and then pencil shavings and cigar box, all rounded out by poised wood tannins and a pleasing lift on the finish. The alcohol is lower than in 2022, the profile a little more linear. The inspirational François-Xavier Maroteaux has had big shoes to fill after the premature death of his father Patrick, but he is doing so with vigor and skill, making this one of the most significant addresses in the appellation. | 96–97

Château Ducru-Beaucaillou 2ème Cru (85% CS, 15% M)

SF | The Cabernet Sauvignon takes up a little more of the blend this year, which, allied to the more nuanced identity of the vintage, leaves us with a less demonstrative Ducru, though, nota bene, Ducru will always be reasonably demonstrative. In 2023, Bruno Borie has captured the zeitgeist of a quietly persuasive year. With time in the glass, the persuasion becomes less quiet: Tobacco and peat unfurl over the plush dark fruit, and the tannins, far from upholding a block of resistance, ebb and flow with the spirit of the wine. Intelligent winemaking but, as always, with a big heart. | 95–96

Croix Ducru-Beaucaillou (58% M, 40% CS, 2% PV)

SF | Cross the D2, and the Cross of Beaucaillou vineyard (a single vineyard) neighbors Gloria and Léoville Barton, its high proportion of Merlot allowing plenty of scope for the Ducru imprimatur of gloss and generosity to shine forth. And so it does, with great success. Blueberries and cigar box, laurel, and liqueur de cassis; depth where one would hope for depth, and nuance where one would hope for nuance. Pencil-shaving notes on the finish bring us back to St-Julien—not that we had really traveled too far away. The pedigree is shown off in the bone structure. | 92–93

2023 Bordeaux Field notes: La Tour Figeac—La Chartreuse de St-Emilion

Château Gloria (50% CS, 35% M, 10% PV, 5% CF)

SF | Sacha le Baube-Triaud, the fourth generation here, is keen to stress that both Gloria and brother St-Pierre are in their last year of organic conversion. The viticulture has tilted toward a full biodynamic approach, and there is a clear thread of purity and an almost earthy intensity in both wines, Gloria majoring more on red fruit and an approachability that belies the depth of its intent and the seriousness of the tannins. The style is well described as “croquant” (“crunchy” being not quite accurate but the nearest translation). Black cherries, spice, fine fruit tannins, and finally, a resourceful sapidity on the finish. | 93–94

Château Gruaud-Larose 2ème Cru (83% CS, 14.5% M, 2.5% CG)

SF | A mighty impressive Gruaud in 2023—all that one would hope for in terms of St-Julien cedary charm and Gruaud’s pixilated and cerebral savoir-faire. As technical director Virginie Sallette says, “Cabernet Sauvignon is king in 2023,” and the variety repays the compliment with tannins that are both ripe and finely granular, with fruit that is both generous and restrained, and with a texture that is indeed magisterial. Traditional and with great aging potential, this is a terrific wine from the first rank, however one ranks such things. | 97–98

Sarget de Gruaud-Larose (52% CS, 40.5% M, 4% CF, 3.5% PV)

SF | The restructuring of the parcels continues apace, but their essential makeup is close to that of 1855. Some of the younger, replanted Cabernet Sauvignon—for the moment in the Sarget—is destined for the grand vin. Its potential quality is high, therefore, and it is certainly eloquent here, lending lift and depth of fruit. Confident tannin management, spice, and vigor complete the job, which is highly accomplished, even if radically different from the superlative grand vin. | 92–93

Château Lagrange 3ème Cru (84% CS, 16% M)

SF | Matthieu Bordes is a safe pair of hands, ensuring that a large proportion of the fruit from this large estate is diverted from the senior wine and thereby underwriting, with admirable constancy, the production of a beautifully structured, complex St-Julien. The color is deep, the flavors profound (blue fruit to the fore), and the aromatic—after a little gentle coaxing—underlines Matthieu’s confidence in 2023 as a strong vintage, especially for Cabernet Sauvignon. The tannic support is convincing and the length impressive. All in all, an excellent statement from the journeyman of St-Julien. | 93–94

Château Langoa Barton 3ème Cru (60% CS, 37% M, 3% CF)

SF | The new winery not only stuns with its cathedral-like composure; it also ensures that the raw materials (the grapes) are treated to a delicate, gravity-free experience, with smaller vats allowing more precise definition. All very positive and all helping to raise the quality once more in Langoa Barton, its natural exuberance and generosity of fruit now brought into even sharper focus by the pinpoint definition of the tannins. Blue fruits and flowers, loam, and a hint of cigar box. Very Langoa at heart, but just even more refined. | 95–96

Château Léoville Barton 2ème Cru (87% CS, 10% M, 3% CF)

SF | Classic St-Julien and classic Léoville Barton; the second to be made in the new winery, and though it may struggle to match the superlative 2022, the 2023 has its own, deep, gravelly voice, its own, less potent personality, and its own fascination, a beguiling crescendo of intent. The vintage defers to the terroir, as elsewhere, and given that this is the epitome of St-Julien elegance, there is a great deal to like here—from the supple tannins, through the gentle, tobacco-infused fruit, all the way along to the allusive, descanting finish, which is deeply reassuring. Another very fine effort from Lilian, Damien, and their team. | 96–97

Château Léoville-Las-Cases 2ème Cru (86% CS, 10% CF, 4% M)

SF | How to follow the brilliance of 2022? Easy: Make another brilliant wine, this time with even more Cabernet Sauvignon but a little less new oak, thereby reflecting the virtues of the vintage—a vintage that is well suited to the Las-Cases style, initially reticent, but then, oh so soon, expressive and generous, its savory core tempered by wonderfully demonstrative cassis and damson fruit, with sloe, fig, and black cherry allied in support, then cedar, a touch of soy, and a whisper of eucalypt. Self-belief challenges cerebral inclinations with a dazzling and sensual subtext, thereby perhaps unlocking the secret of this more than usually enigmatic vintage. | 97–98

Clos du Marquis (56% CS, 35% M, 9% CF)

SF | A spellbindingly brilliant Marquis, with Cabernet Sauvignon levels restored and suitably restorative. Compelling aromas of cigar box, boysenberry, plums, and raw beef. An equally compelling mouthfeel, with a firm but beautifully balanced structure, chalky tannins and poised acidity, and an authoritative finish. Classic St-Julien restraint wins through, apparently against the odds, and the impression of power and weight is suddenly, effortlessly lifted, so that all that remains is pure pleasure. | 95–96

Le Petit Lion (61% CS, 31% M, 8% CF)

SF | De facto second wine of both Las-Cases and the Marquis, the small lion has a big heart, beating strongly for 16 months in 50% new oak, with late-harvested fruit. The Cabernet Sauvignon, despite its relative youth, impresses with its generous, black-berried fruit and fine, chalky tannins. A meaty mid-palate rigor and a refreshing clasp of acidity complete the tableau. Forthright yet approachable, this is a fine achievement. | 92–93

Château Léoville Poyferré 2ème Cru (60% CS, 32% M, 5% CF, 3% PV)

SF | A very accomplished Poyferré, not lacking for detail or, for that matter, for trademark generosity, but with obvious structural integrity. Of the oak, 80% is new, but some of the malolactic fermentation took place in vat rather than barrel; whether or not this has substantially informed the texture is a matter for debate. As a matter of record, however, is the beautiful definition, the linear profile, and the confident finish. Sara Lecompte Cuvelier advises us to share this wine with a laugh and a smile but is far too modest to confirm that this is one of her most successful wines. We are happy to do that for her. | 94–95

Château Moulin Riche (49% CS, 33% M, 18% PV)

SF | A fascinating antidote to Poyferré, Moulin Riche is deeper in color and sterner of texture, though not lacking in flamboyance or floral appeal. Dark cherry, then brambles and tobacco, finally gravel and a twist of black pepper, both courtesy of the large incursion of Petit Verdot. Only 25% new barrels, together with older wood and nine amphorae. Rich without being overworked, and with distinctive notes of camphor and smoke to underwrite individuality and satisfy a loyal, educated coterie of adherents. | 92–93

Château St-Pierre 4ème Cru (80% CS, 17% M, 3% PV)

SF | Firm of purpose and more linear in style than its softer sibling Gloria, St-Pierre takes a little time to befriend; then it offers a pleasing array of dark fruit and kitchen-garden herbs, firm fruit tannins, and an authoritative finish. The biodynamic inclinations of the Triaud family are writ large in the purity of the fruit and the quality of their Cabernet Sauvignon. A little aeration will coax a gamut of flavors from this, the smallest of the St-Julien crus classés. Keep an eye on this. | 94–95

Château Talbot 4ème Cru (77% CS, 20% M, 3% PV)

SF | “When it came to harvest, we were relatively surprised by the maturity levels of the grapes, which were higher than expected,” reveals Jean-Michel Laporte. Thereafter, a gentle extraction in the name of St-Julien purity rather than a flight to power and ambition. Only 60% new barrels and 13% ABV; both attributes allow the terroir to speak out, with eloquence, by turns sightly leafy, then slightly gravelly, all balustraded by dark fruit and a lovely lift. The fine-grained tannins support the edifice admirably, and a distinct (noble) cocoa bitterness marks out the finish neatly. | 95–96

Connétable Talbot (56% M, 41% CS, 3% PV)

SF | Marked by relatively low alcohol and a pleasing lift of fruit, the Connétable is poised and relatively approachable. Generosity of fruit notwithstanding, there is an impressive linear profile, deft, hard-working tannins, and a pleasing sapidity on the finish. Jean-Michel discerns salinity, too, which he attributes to the modest  but influential Petit Verdot component. | 92–93

Bordeaux wine regions
Photography by Shutterstock


Château Angludet (43% CS, 40% M, 17% PV)

SF | Few winemakers exude dedicated authenticity the way Ben Sichel does, and few wines feel as genuine and close to the soil as Château Angludet, for better or for worse. The 2023 is very much in the former camp, its low yields (20hl/ha) the result of a preventive pruning regime rather than any issues with frost or mildew, both of which had to be addressed with rigor at this biodynamic address. Dense of color and with beautifully focused black fruit on nose and palate alike, the wine impresses with its energy yet has a light balletic touch and reassuring lift on the finish. Dramatically different from both of its forbears, this is a splendid effort, with vin de terroir writ large and a harmonious composition. The high proportion of Petit Verdot contributes darker, spicier notes; the amphorae ensure that the texture is pure and that the voyage across the palate is satisfying. | 92–93

Château Brane-Cantenac 2ème Cru (77% CS, 20% M, 1% CF, 1% PV, 1% Carmenère)

SF | A powerful, black-fruit Brane, aged in 100% new oak and carrying it with great aplomb, such is the inherent ripeness and phenolic quality in both the Cabernet and the Merlot. Figs, cassis, black tea, and graphite; an excellent Margaux nose, with eucalypt and pepper in the background, reflecting and highlighting the glory of the fruit. “Airpulse” technology has facilitated a gentle extraction, and old-vine authority underwrites a well-earned second-growth status. Great potential here. | 94–95

Baron de Brane (48% CS, 44% M, 7% CF, 1% Carmenère)

SF | There is more of both Cabernets in Baron this year. Henri Lurton advises that some of the Merlot was bled, to extract flavor and concentration, such was the size of the berries that survived the mildew threat. The soils marry gravel and sand, the latter lending softer, fruitier notes, ensuring that the 2023 Baron is characteristically approachable and generous. Plums, cherries, and ludic tannins offer a pleasing coda. | 91–92

Château Cantenac Brown 3ème Cru (71% CS, 27% M, 2% CF)

SF | With the magnificent new eco-friendly winery having been finished just before the harvest, technical director José Sanfins is not only able to breathe a sigh of relief; he is also able to vinify his wines with much more precision than previously. 2023 is a good year to have such an option, and he has clearly relished the pixilated approach. The wine, accordingly, is focused and intense, majoring in elegance rather than power, balance rather than weight for weight’s sake. Lighter, then, structurally and alcoholically, than the generously layered 2022, but highly appealing in its own right, this is a highly successful Cantenac Brown and a worthy marker for a significant development in the history of this sometimes undervalued third growth. Not for much longer, one suspects. | 94–95

Brio de Cantenac (53% M, 45% CS, 2% CF)

SF | Bright of color and purpose, with lifted summer fruits, a generous, succulent mid-palate, good concentration, and a eucalypt freshness on the finish. 30% has been aged in foudre, ensuring that the oak enhances rather than suppresses the ensemble. Very approachable; very agreeable! | 91–92

Château Durfort-Vivens 2ème Cru (92% CS, 8% M)

SF | An impressive Durfort from Gonzague Lurton, the biodynamic practices (Demeter-certified)more than a match for the unpredictable growing season. Deeply pigmented, with fantastically uplifting aromas of eucalypt, blackcurrant leaf, and flowers, the wine has impressive concentration, fresh and pure acidity, and finely entwined tannins, ripe and resounding. Long across the palate and beautifully sustained. | 94–95

Château Ferrière 3ème Cru (68% CS, 28% M, 3.5% PV, 0.5% CF)

SF | Old-vine Merlot co-planted with Petit Verdot and a small plot of Cabernet Franc, all blended with gravel-strewn Cabernet Sauvignon, a paean to red and black fruit. This impressive biodynamic wine bears all the hallmarks of the Clare Villars-Lurton style—namely, purity of fruit, a clean-earth aromatic (not dissimilar to Pontet-Canet), and a finely chiseled finish. | 93–94

2023 Bordeaux Field notes: House of cards

Château Giscours 3ème Cru (71% CS, 23% M, 6% CF)

SF | A subtly beguiling Giscours, its high Cabernet Sauvignon content (the Merlot was reduced by the mildew) captured less in weight and potency, more in shape. Linear, chiseled, and almost austere, with herbal notes adding lift and energy at the back of the palate. Before we get there, however, there is plenty of ripe, expressive fruit to enjoy and a finely tailored cloak of tannin. Any intimation of “austerity” is hereby prefixed by the adjective “generous,” so that there can be no sense of deficiency, merely of complexity and nuance. | 94–95

Château d’Issan 3ème Cru (70% CS, 25% M, 2.5% PV, 2.5% CF)

SF | No Malbec in the senior wine for the first time in two decades, but plenty to appreciate even so. The twin challenges of mildew earlier in the season and sunburn at the end of August were successfully negotiated, with only the low yields (30hl/ha) charting the legacy. A ripe, forward style, with plenty of flamboyant plush at the front of the palate and impressive grip at the back. Well judged, therefore, and if one can discern a house style across the Lorenzetti properties, d’Issan in 2023 is its most successful manifestation. Elegant, finely grained tannins and plenty of matière across the palate. | 93–94

Château Labégorce Cru Bourgeois (47% CS, 45% M, 5% PV, 3% CF)

SF | Elegant purple; an attractive floral nose, iris and peony, then plum and crushed strawberry. Charming summer fruits on the palate, damson to the fore. Approachable; even aérien, as the French may say. Medium concentration; not for the long term but with no lack of charm for now. | 92–93

Château Lascombes 2ème Cru (60% CS, 37% M, 3% PV/CF)

SF | The first full vintage from Axel Heinz, formerly of Ornellaia, and a very good year to show off his skills and to bring out the best of this excellent Margaux terroir. His aim is clearly stated: to restore Lascombes to the glory imputed by its ranking as a second growth, and to be as good as any of its peers. On this evidence, he is certainly on the right track. A deep color and complex aromatics, which marry blue and black fruit, with cassis and bilberry to the fore; behind that, violets and licorice. The finely chiseled tannins and nuanced architecture are both impressive; ditto the lifted, appreciably saline composure of the back-palate. Extremely promising. | 94–95

Chevalier de Lascombes (70% M, 27% CS, 3% PV)

SF | Axel Heinz’s first vintage is highly successful, and the stars seem to be aligned once again at Lascombes, for a period an address somewhat unfamiliar with the nuances and subtleties. Merlot is, for now, the most planted variety at Lascombes, and in 2023 it was harvested in two distinct tranches. The assembled plots are juicy and fresh but also have depth and a granular texture. The hints of spice and pepper on the finish underline the quality here. A very Médocain Merlot, as Axel rightly says. | 92–93

Château Malescot St-Exupéry 3ème Cru (58% CS, 37% M, 5% PV)

SF | A very impressive Malescot, now partially aged in large foudres, therefore with only 60% new barriques. The color is deep, the aromatics seductive and dominated by raspberry compote, blueberry, cherry, and hints of chocolate. Medium-bodied but with the imposing influence of high-quality Cabernet Sauvignon to the fore, as manifested across a filigree matrix of firm acidity, robust tannins, purity of fruit, and a pleasing lift on the finish. High-toned and, by the standards of the vintage, relatively potent at 14%. | 93–94

Château Margaux 1er Cru (89% CS, 5% M, 4% CF, 2% PV)

SF | Representing 41% of the production and therefore on a par with 2022, the 2023 is a delight. Forward, lyrical, generous, and accomplished, with plenty of matière and a harmonious interface between the filigree of tannins and a benevolent fruit basket of flavor. One would hardly think that the wine is aged in 100% new oak, and it is interesting to note that 15% of vin de presse has been added. Philippe Bascaules advises that there is a dash more Cabernet Franc than sometimes and reveals his aspiration to increase the amount to 8–10% over the next decade. The perfume, accordingly, is bright and floral, with hints of graphite and chalk behind the red and black fruit. The wine does not lack for energy and structural tension, but the takeaway, as it should be from this address, celebrates a line of ethereal beauty. | 97–98

Pavillon Rouge (79% CS, 14% M, 5% PV, 2% CF)

SF | The Pavillon comprises 30% of Château Margaux’s production. There is a little less Merlot this year (some parcels succumbed to mildew) but plenty of forward juicy fruit and a pleasing mid-palate intensity. Philippe advises that, unlike in 2022, the extraction in 2023 was a long, settling process—“forgiving,” to use his word—and the wine itself has a forthright and honest appeal, its framing tannins not without rigor, and the quality of its fruit focused and forthright. | 94–95

Pavillon Blanc (100% SB)

SF | Picked early in the morning in the heatwave of the last week of August and now sharing its spoils with a second label (not offered en primeur), the Pavillon Blanc is delightfully complex and, despite the heat of its birthday, incredibly fresh. Notes of tilleul, fig, grapefruit, and chalk, then just a hint of something riper, a little more tropical. (Philippe described it as “confit”.) All is perfectly integrated, elegant to a fault, and with a lick of spice and white pepper at the back of the mouth to underline the inherent complexity. | 95–96

Château Marquis de Terme 4ème Cru (68% CS, 28% M, 4% PV)

SF | Full, rich color and an attractive nose of plum, black cherry, violets, and bitter chocolate. The aromatic intensity is deftly translated to the palate, with plenty of rich fruit, firm but ripe tannins, and a persuasive aromatic persistence. Articulate and affirming. | 92–93

Château Palmer 3ème Cru (50% CS, 46% M, 4% PV)

SF | Thomas Duroux compares the winemaking process to the improvisation of jazz music, even to “organized chaos.” What on earth does he mean? What is the endgame for this biodynamic powerhouse, which could not be less like a traditional Margaux if it tried? This is all about power, resonance, and the reflected glory of a very distinct terroir. Notes of cocoa, tar, and dark chocolate accompany more usual descriptors such as black cherry and liqueur de cassis. An intense and, some may feel, slightly indulgent wine, destined to pass from oak to foudre in July and also destined, one hopes, to settle down and to capitalize on its latent prowess. Few wines are this intense, certainly in Margaux—indeed, on the Left Bank in general. Its quality is excellent beyond doubt, however; one has only to sense the sublime composure of its tannins and the regal authority imparted on the finish. | 95–96

2023 Bordeaux Field notes: Mixed blessings

Alter Ego de Palmer (53% CS, 43% M, 4% PV)

SF | Gravel and sand are the key soil types for Alter Ego, which, with its healthy slug of mature Merlot, has a deep color, fleshy, almost indulgent richness, and an impressive quota of ripe, almost heady, dark fruit. The explosion of the colorful aromatic and powerful mid-palate does not mean that this is not elegantly and harmoniously constructed. Its attack, forward and inviting, is held in check by mid-palate intensity, firm acidity, and marked salinity on the finish. | 92–93

Château Rauzan-Ségla 2ème Cru (85% CS, 13.5% M, 1.5% PV)

SF | Nicolas Audebert is wasting no time in fulfilling his aim of increasing the proportion of Cabernet Sauvignon in Rauzan-Ségla: It was 72% in 2022, and in 2023 it is up to 85%. Almost by definition, some of the vines will be relatively young. And it must be admitted, some of the increase is due to the mildew attacking some of the Merlot. This does not appear to have compromised the quality, and even the additional use of new barrels (55% this year) has not compromised the sense of place or diminished the famous floral aromatic. What one is gifted, however, is a concentration and architectural integrity that allows the fruit full and glorious expression. Very precise, pinpoint tannins and nurturing acidity. It manages somehow to be both intense and ethereal. Serious and uplifting—and seriously uplifting. | 95–96

Ségla (78% CS, 18% M, 4% PV)

SF | The long-term restructuring of the vineyards at Rauzan-Ségla continues apace, with the focus on Cabernet Sauvignon on Terrace 4 terroir seen as the priority—for both wines, as it turns out. Despite their similarity of terroir and of encépagement, there are compelling differences, the site selection refined minutely to foster nuance and identity. The Ségla is ripe and forthright, red fruit to the fore, then notes of juniper and Assam tea leaf. The tannins are bold and mouth-coating, the finish meandering and yet persuasive. This is a second wine in name only. | 92–93

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