2023 Bordeaux En Primeur – Grand-Puy-Lacoste, Lacoste-Borie, Brane-Cantenac & Branaire-Ducru

As my regular readers and members know, over the last couple of weeks, since this extremely early campaign kicked off, I have published 10000+ words on my favourite 2023 Bordeaux, free to view for all.

This is my last preview piece, as I have a further 30000+ words yet to publish in the formal, designed and illustrated format in due course.

As always, with my Reports, my 2023 Bordeaux En Primeur Report will be free to view for my loyal members of matthewjukes.com only. These people support this website, allowing me to spend time travelling, tasting and reporting back on my findings.  

Do not despair as wines continue to be released every day – hold your horses!  A great many of these wines are not worthy of consideration, and there is little need to act fast, as there are plentiful stocks in 2023. While some UK merchants report relatively brisk sales, others have only sold odd boxes here and there.  2023 is not proving to be the resurrection vintage everyone hoped it would be. But do keep your eyes peeled for my forthcoming critical commentary. There are many more fabulous wines to come, and a good few are worthy of serious consideration in this beguiling vintage.

Finally, thank you to all the Châteaux who have emailed me after I published my thoughts on their wines.  My inbox has never been busier!  It is highly gratifying to know that you enjoy reading my style of tasting notes, and so I thank you again for receiving me so graciously back in April. 

Château Grand-Puy-Lacoste (5ème Cru Pauillac)

77 Cabernet Sauvignon, 23 Merlot: 75% new oak: 13.2% alc: 48 hl/ha: Harvested 11 – 28 September: 55% of the property made the Grand Vin

The second wine at GPL, Lacoste Borie, is a star, so my mind was racing when I moved to the Grand Vin.  How would it differ?  How could it stamp its authority on my palate in such a way that it soared above its ‘diminutive stablemate’?  And then it arrived.  My goodness, there is so much style and grace here, and it is delivered with unwavering intent and force.  But this is not a heavy wine.  It is a single-minded and extremely targeted creation, and the Cabernet heart is so classy and detailed that it shocks the palate with its purity and, ultimately, tenderness and refinement.  Initially, the swarm of cassis and oak notes are carefully orchestrated, and they act with such momentum that you are at once subsumed by this wine.  And then it leaves you completely calm and cool with its sublime tannins and pin sharp acidic full stop.  This wine fuels one’s passions, making you think of great friends, great occasions, great dishes, great memories and it is wines like this that you need in this imaginary tableau.  While Merlot appears to underperform in so many properties on the Left Bank, the 23% in this exquisite wine is Fonteyn to Cabernet’s Nureyev!  19+/20

Lacoste-Borie (second wine of Grand-Puy-Lacoste)

56 Cabernet Sauvignon, 33 Merlot, 11 Cabernet Franc: 45% new oak: 13.2% alc: 48 hl/ha: Harvested from 11 – 28 September

What a stunning nose!  It takes my breath away: pinpoint accuracy and joyously welcoming, this is, at once, a generous and open-armed wine.  The perfume shows the superb qualities of the tiptop quality Cabernet Franc in this blend.  These complexities are heightened in this vintage, and they act like an ambassador for the flavour that follows.  Stunning and linear, with streamlined Cabernet Sauvignon forming the core and Merlot filling in the gaps in this beautiful mosaic.  It is incredible to think this is a second wine!  Chapeau.  17.5+/20

Château Branaire-Ducru (4ème Cru Saint-Julien)

61 Cabernet Sauvignon, 30 Merlot, 5.5 Cabernet Franc, 3.5 Petit Verdot: 60% new oak: 13.1% alc: 3.63 pH: Harvested from 12 September – 4 October

This is yet another beautiful vintage for Branaire, and it continues what must be the most consistently excellent era for this Château in its history. The stats listed above are almost identical to those in 2022, save for a 1.2% lower alcohol level, and this means that Branaire-Ducru is a fabulously suave and engaging wine with a bright, crisp feel about it from the nose to its tail. My knee-jerk reaction tasting notes say it all, ‘open, cleansing, velvety, pure, wonderfully lithe, complex, long and balanced’. This is a modern wine for classical palates, given it has a timeless Brainaire flavour woven into a dynamic chassis and the tannins and acidity frame the palate with lip-smacking drama and tension.  18.5+/20

Château Brane-Cantenac (2ème Cru Margaux)

77 Cabernet Sauvignon, 20 Merlot, 1 Cabernet Franc, 1 Carmenère, 1 Petit Verdot: 13.5% alc: 100% new oak: Harvested 4 September – 2 October: 45 hl/ha

While so many Margaux seem disjointed, overly oaky or just a little underripe, Brane-Cantenac shows calmness and quality from the very first moment it hits the palate. Considering there is a mighty 100% new oak employed here, this is an impeccably well-turned-out creation. It shows wonderfully exotic tones over a dark berry core and teasing spices, and a stunning, sooty, fine-grained finish makes this a theatre production like no other!  In fact, I think it is one of my favourite B-C vintages for a very long time!  18.5+/20

MATTHEW JUKES SCORE CONVERSION CHART

As a wine taster and writer, I prefer you to read my words rather than focus on my scores.  This is why I rarely score wines unless I write an extensive report like this one.  I believe that scores taken from the context of tasting notes are essentially meaningless.  I describe my featured wines fully so you can imagine the aroma, shape and flavour.  Scores don’t help with this.  You will know that several different scoring methods are used in the global wine trade.  Most of my wine-writing colleagues have been tempted to the dark side, using the 100-point rating system.  A few, usually older types, cling to the venerable five-star rating.

As you know, I favour the 20-point score.  It’s how I was taught and dovetails nicely with how I judge wines.  For those unfamiliar with the 20-point scoring system, here is a table that translates it into various other formats.

20-point score100-point scoremedal5 star
20100perfect gold5
19.598/99gold5
1996/97gold5
18.595gold4
1893/94high silver4
17.591/92silver4
1789/90silver3
16.588high bronze3
1686/87bronze2
15.585bronze2
1583/84no medal1
14.581/82no medal1
1480no medal1