2023 Bordeaux En Primeur – La Lagune, Clos Cantenac & Séraphine

UNTIL MY COMPREHENSIVE 2023 BORDEAUX EN PRIMEUR REPORT IS PUBLISHED IN FULL, I WILL NOTE DOWN MY FAVOURITE EARLY-RELEASE WINES FOR YOUR PERUSAL

La Lagune 2023

Château La Lagune (3ème Cru Ludon, Haut-Médoc)

65 Cabernet Sauvignon, 35 Merlot

50% new oak, 5% Clayver

13.5% alc

30 hl/ha

Harvest took place between 8 – 29 September

Caroline Frey was slightly stressed when I met up with her and her sister Delphine to taste at La Lagune.  There was a clear and present danger of frost in Bordeaux, the Northern Rhône and the Valais in Switzerland – three extremely important places where she makes wine.  Her connection to these vineyards and her forensic attention to detail meant that her nerves were shredded, and she was also racking up a lot of miles whizzing between these properties, protecting her precious vines.  However, one subject that was at the forefront of my mind was not a cause of any worry whatsoever for the Frey sisters.  Their 2023 La Lagune is a superb wine with purity, class, and balance from the tip of its pristine aroma to the tail of its refreshing pin-sharp acidity.  As you will have heard, mildew pressure was enormous in 2023, and Caroline’s viti-team is one of the most well-drilled in the region.  Her staff can treat the whole property in just seven hours, and they are on standby every day, including Sundays.  They were deployed regularly in this challenging vintage, including one particularly dangerous Sunday, and while others could not assemble teams, La Lagune prevailed.  The fruit is of the very highest quality in this wine, with incredible purity and an impressive volume and intensity of perfume.  This wine has a firm stance on the palate, and there is a vault of silky, slender, and refined black fruit at its core, surrounded by moments of enchanting delicacy and fragility.  While some wines resemble hulking pantechnicons, La Lagune is a carbon-fibre F1 racing car.  Direct, agile, sleek, and streamlined, this beauty will blossom gradually over two decades and more!  18+

Clos Cantenac 2023

Clos Cantenac (Saint-Emilion Grand Cru)

100 Merlot

45% new oak, 55% second and third fill for 12 months

14% alc

Production is 10000 bottles

Clos Cantenac continues its march towards greatness, and in 2023 this wine shows a newfound definition and control that brings refreshing rigidity and structure from which it suspends the thrillingly elegant flavours.  As the richness of fruit and hints of exoticism unfurl on the palate each lush moment is matched with equal and opposite expressions of tannic tension and brittle acidity.  It is exciting to experience this degree of complexity and freshness in this impressive wine and I can see it evolving gracefully for a good twenty years or more.  18+

Petit Cantenac (second wine of Clos Cantenac)

80 Merlot, 15 Cabernet Franc, 5 Cabernet Sauvignon

40% new oak

14% alc

18000 bottles

What a brilliant wine!  Petit Cantenac is a contrast to its carefully measured and formally assembled parent.  It has an open, superbly attractive perfume and a generously pliable palate.  The wine has a lovely, fresh-picked-berry nose with pleasing floral hints.  You’ll find yourself gently eased into the action, and then, the palate arrives with structure, presence, and superb energy.  I was expecting some tannins to interfere, but they did not crash the party.  Instead, discreet freshness and teasing friction complete the picture.  Petit Cantenac is forward, refreshing, classy and stunningly well-balanced. It’s always tremendous value for money, so keep your eyes peeled for this wine’s release!  17.5

Séraphine

Château Séraphine (Pomerol)

100 Merlot

45% new oak

14% alc

Production is 4400 bottles

With a deep, floral, exotic, and resonant perfume, this tiny property manages to bring a certain sense of luxury to this wine’s nose, and this is echoed on the palate with an initial burst of near-identical fruit and flower notes.  The mid-palate senesces with layers of juiciness and yet it never slips into fleshiness, and the finish is noble, firm, and raspy.  This is a fabulously elegant wine with admirable balance and there are all the ingredients here for a very successful future.  18+

L’Innocence de Séraphine (second wine of Séraphine)

75 Merlot, 25 Cabernet Franc

50% new oak – all barrels are 300-litre; clay amphora for the Cabernet Franc

14% alc

Production is 5000 bottles

This is an intriguing wine made from very young Cabernet Franc vines and lovely, juicy Merlot.  The tannins are that of a serious wine, and this is probably due to the amphora portion bringing its special kind of tension.  You might not expect this level of style and grandeur from a second wine, and the glossy fruit and a bright, engaging perfume make this a very successful debut vintage for L’Innocence.  16.5+

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