2023 Bordeaux Wine Guide, Vintage, Harvest Analysis, What to Buy


2023 Bordeaux Vintage Report and Wine Buying Guide

2023 Bordeaux is a good vintage with some great wines. 2023 Bordeaux is not consistent. But the best wines are stylish, complex, charismatic, and a bit of a dichotomy. 2023 Bordeaux is lower in alcohol, in most cases, by 1% from previous vintages. Yet, there are no green flavors, or dryness in the better wines. In the best examples of 2023 Bordeaux, the wines are aromatically complex. On your palate, they also feel soft, and silky, with a vibrance. They are refined, gentle expressions of the vintage.

One key point readers should be aware of, reports of Merlot not being good. Issues with Merlot have been over-blown on the Internet. Of course, everything is localized. Generally speaking, there is terrific Merlot in 2023, but there is less of of it. That being said, as you will see, the Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc excelled. Though, when reading through my tasting notes, you will find examples of extraordinary Right Bank wines. It is important to note that two of the leading candidates for wine of the vintage are not from the Left Bank, in fact, they are from the Right Bank!

I was able to taste about 650 wines from the 2023 Bordeaux vintage covering all price points, styles and appellations. The notes can be read either on our producer pages using the article search button, or found through the tasting note search, else in the appellation articles in the links below.

2023 Left Bank Bordeaux Wines by Appellation

2023 Pauillac2023 Saint Estephe2023 St. Julien2023 Margaux2023 Pessac Leognan, Graves, Red and White2023 Haut Medoc2023 Medoc2023 Dry White Bordeaux Wine2023 Sweet White Bordeaux Sauternes and Barsac

2023 Right Bank Bordeaux Wines by Appellation

2023 St. Emilion Pt 1 Wines A-D2023 St. Emilion Pt 2 Wines E-L2023 St. Emilion Pt 3 Wines M-Z2023 Pomerol2023 Lalande de Pomerol2023 Cotes de Bordeaux and Bordeaux Superieur2023 St. Emilion Satellite Appellation2023 Fronsac2023 Bordeaux AOC Red and White Wine

2023 Bordeaux, Character and Style of the Wines

Simply put, 2023 Bordeaux wines are charming. They offer elegance, energy, length, and purity. The fruits are ripe. Tannins are soft, and most importantly, there are no pyrazines. There is no sensation of greenness. Of course, this is at the top end. On the other side of the coin, some estates did not embrace the gentleness of the vintage, choosing to extract as much as possible, and, or over-oaked their wines, producing, harsh, green, and charmless wines.

2023 Bordeaux is a good example of the current style of wine Bordeaux is seeking to produce. Of course, everything is climate-related. But today, there is a lighter touch everywhere you can taste and feel. Phenolic ripeness remains the game. But, vignerons and consumers are also seeking less extracted wines, with less oak, more vibrancy, purity, and lower alcohol levels these days.

Vintage comparisons are seldom useful, so take this with a grain of salt. But, 2023 Bordeaux reminds me of, for example, 1990 in the Left Bank. Except with better selection. And 2001 in the Right Bank, with selection as well. Regardless of the back vintage you want to compare 2023 Bordeaux wine, this is a modern classic that can only come from Bordeaux.

New Trends in Bordeaux

While Bordeaux is a region steeped in history and tradition, it is also the leader in technology and experimentation. Perhaps, some trends are about to go too far. 20 years ago, give or take, it was the fashion to use 100% new French oak as often as possible. Some, if not several of those wines have retained an oaky character. So today, chateaux use less new oak, lighter toast, and less time in the barrel. These are all positive trends, as it allows for more freshness, purity, and lift in the wines.

Along with the reduction in oak, there is a continuing increase in amphora, wine globes, and other neutral vessels. A little salt, pepper, sugar, or vinegar can raise the level of most dishes. But, too much of any of those finishing touches, and the meal is ruined. Similar to what took place when 100% new French oak became fashionable, I fear the use of amphora is becoming too much.

While neutral vessels allow the fruits to express themselves, when overused, the wines feel thin, less soft, less, round, and less creamy. Oak helps soften while ripening tannins, and there is a lot of tannin in Bordeaux. Texture, not trends is what makes Bordeaux unique, and separates the wines from every other wine region. The loss of those characteristics is not in the best interest in Bordeaux wine. Amphora should be seen as a dash of spice, not the entire meal.

On the positive side for new trends in Bordeaux, I really like all the fun, ready-to-drink white Bordeaux wine which blends non-traditional grape varietals. Chardonnay, Gros Manseng, Albarino, and other white wine grapes blended with Sauvignon Blanc, and Semillon are often, fresh, refreshing and delicious. I would not recommend any estates start pulling up their red wine grapes, and replanting, but when produced in small quantities, they are cool wines to taste, and perhaps, will help bring a younger crowd to know their Grand Vin.

It is also important to note another change in Bordeaux today, even with the top wines, with few exceptions, wines are produced for earlier consumption. While not mature, these wines are simply delicious and enjoyable in most cases after 3-5 of aging, or earlier! This is a good thing for today’s hurry-up-and-wait lifestyle. Plus, fewer people have cellars to store wines for decades. And, even fewer have the patience to wait 1-2-3 decades or more for a wine to mature.

2023 Bordeaux Futures… Buy, or Wait?

The interest from consumers in purchasing futures has been in a state of decline since the 2010 vintage. When I began buying Bordeaux, futures were the best way to purchase young Bordeaux. If buyers acted quickly, they were able to lock in a price that was almost guaranteed to be lower than what the wines would cost on arrival.

I remember the prices I paid in the good old days, and the increase in value the wines showed on release. There was a real incentive for consumers to buy En Primeur. However, for the majority of wines today, that is no longer the case. Of course, a handful of hard-to-find wines increase in value, but those wines are far, and few between these days.

Another point to consider, it was not that long ago that as a generality, perhaps 2-3 vintages a decade created truly cellar-worthy treasures. However, with climate change, that is no longer the case. In fact, it is quite the opposite with perhaps 2-3 vintages per decade not being cellar treasures! This is what is commonly referred to as Golden Handcuffs. Meaning, that there is an ocean of incredible wine available for consumers to purchase from back vintages. And, some, if not a lot of those back vintages are even ready-to-drink.

Should you buy 2023 Bordeaux Futures?

It depends. Every wine is not worth investing in, regardless of how good it is. And yes, buying any wine two years before its arrival is speculative investing. 12 months ago, at zero interest, buying these wines was a smart move. But, with interest rates hovering between 5-10%, (Depending on the country you reside in) it is a more difficult proposition, fraught with more risk than reward.

The chateaux are acutely aware of this dilemma. The proof is with discounts in pricing. so far, 2023 Bordeaux wines have declined in price by as much as 40% from 2022 from some estates. Lafite Rothschild, Mouton Rothschild and Leoville Las Cases being prime examples of properties understanding today’s market.

15-30% less than last year seems to be the average where most estates are pricing their wine. Is that enough to motivate consumers? Especially when 2015, 2016, 2018, 2019, 2020, and 2022 are available? For those buyers seeking special formats, or anniversary bottles, they will need to buy those wines now. Wine buyers that have not had the chance to purchase First Growths at these price levels before should also consider buying 2023 Bordeaux. My guess is, those few wines will increase in price as much, if not more than the value of your money. However, the majority of 2023 Bordeaux wines will need to find their market price when they are released in bottle.

The Future of Futures

En Primeur remains an important part of the Bordeaux system. For 30 days, the only wine region garnering any press is Bordeaux. Almost every writer, magazine and social media outlet devoted to wine talks about Bordeaux. They cover everything from the new vintage, to the weather, yields, harvest, trends and of course, prices. This is great for Bordeaux!

But, there needs to be a reason for consumers to purchase wines 2 years prior to delivery. That reason is a discount from the wines will sell at on release. Bordeaux is not a charity. It is a business that deserves to sell their wine for what the market bears. That is not greed. It is capitalism at work. However, the need for consumers to support the system of futures is rapidly declining. For this system to continue, changes need to be made.

Chateaux might want to consider smaller releases En Primeur, with guaranteed price increases on release. This would reward the consumer for buying early, and insure cash flow for the negociants and the chateaux. Or, the chateaux can hold their wine until it is bottled, and sell into the open the market like every other wine region. If that were too happen, the focus would be on the character and quality of the wine, without so much chatter about price.

Overall, Bordeaux remains one of the best priced wine regions in the world. The cost of Bordeaux when compared to other, age worthy wines from other regions almost always comes out in favor of Bordeaux. Bordeaux is also one of the world’s leading wine regions for fairly-valued wines with character, and quality, that can age and evolve. Plus, the wines are produced in massive quantities, making them easy to find. But, back to the future of futures, without reasons to continue buying En Primeur, for most estates, futures do not have much of a future.

2023 Bordeaux, the Growing Season.

Similar to what I said earlier about 2023 Bordeaux being a good vintage, with some great wines, it is important to understand what took place during the growing season.

2023 Bordeaux is the product of a generally average vintage. The year was moist, (It rained a lot) and temperatures were moderate, with heat waves, creating the perfect storm for the onset of mildew pressure. Interestingly what would be a flaw in many vintages, (a lack of sunshine which you find in average years,) helped keep the mildew pressure down. From there, a dry August, which included a late August, intense heat wave was followed by much-needed, cooling September rains prodding the grapes to maturity while propelling a seemingly average year toward a good vintage.

The search and discovery of phenolic maturity was the name of the game with 2023 Bordeaux. By harvest time, the chateaux with patience, and the ability to start and stop picking at will, sometimes taking up to two weeks between finishing their Merlot and starting their Cabernet, produced strong wines. For many producers, 2023 Bordeaux was an abundant crop, providing estates with a lot of wine to sell.

The keys to the 2023 Bordeaux Vintage by Professor Axel Marchal.

1. Slightly later-than-usual bud break, linked to weather conditions close to the seasonal average, helped to prevent damage from spring frosts.

2. Flowering was incredibly rapid and homogeneous and unfolded in good conditions, promising generous potential yields.

3. During spring, alternating high temperatures and rainfall led to the development of mildew. While the damage was not systematic, it was sometimes very significant, particularly in the Merlot plots. This phenomenon contributed to the wide difference in yields at harvest time.

4. The lack of water stress during the fruit set was propitious to the vegetative growth of the berries, while the mildew threat persisted.

5. Although hot and dry overall, the month of July suffered from a lack of sunshine. Véraison (color change) began quickly just after mid-July, then spread out over nearly one month. Vine growth continued in the majority of terroirs.

6. Following further storms at the start of the month, the weather changed drastically in mid-August and a heatwave set in towards the end of the month. Ripening began in dry and extremely hot conditions.

7. September was once again particularly conducive to producing ripe, healthy, and abundant grapes. The Merlot harvest began in early September while the Cabernet harvest got off to a somewhat hasty start due to fears of storms.

2023 Bordeaux Vintage and Harvest Summary.

You can read extremely detailed information on the growing season on numerous other sites. So, we are providing a condensed version, with the necessary, salient facts you should be aware of.

2023 Bordeaux is the product of an early, and warm spring, with bud break taking place at the start of March. Once again, Bordeaux had to contend with frost in April, but with little loss of crop this year. April brought the duo of warm weather and rain. This is a bad combination because it foreshadows the development of mildew, which can be devastating. With more rain, not only was vine growth exacerbated, but by June, growers were increasingly nervous over the onset of mildew due to the tropical weather patterns which were developing.

Vignerons with foresight and financial ability had to be alert to stave off the developing situation. Some producers sprayed between 10-20 times in 2023. The end result varied widely, with some estates losing more of their crop than others. The majority of the losses were to the Merlot, due to its early-developing characteristics. The vineyards without much crop loss ended with some of their highest yields in years, if not decades!

June was rainy and cool. July continued with moderate temperatures. By early August, veraison was completed. Due to the lack of sunshine, and tepid conditions, the rate of growth slowed down. In most vintages, this could have had a negative impact. But, with 2023 Bordeaux, it ended having a positive benefit, as it allowed for a longer hang-time, which helped the fruits reach maturity.

As August was drawing to a close, a welcomed heat spike, starting August 23 was exactly what was needed. Another heatwave from September 4 – September 7 boosted levels of ripeness. Growers were busy picking by mid September when more rain fell. Vignerons with patience waited until conditions improved. Estates that harvested in passes, similar to what takes place in Sauternes, were able to pick grapes at phenolic maturity. 2023 Bordeaux turned out much better than anticipated.

2023 Bordeaux is a large crop at most estates. Lower in alcohol by an average of 1%, and a bit lower in pH than in recent vintages, which gives the wines more, natural lift, and the properties more wine to sell, which should ameliorate prices for 2023 Bordeaux wines.

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