Exploring the Left Bank: Tasting Notes from Bordeaux 2023 – Part I

By | 12 June 2024

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 | Exhibiting a deeply pigmented, almost opaque core accompanied by aromas of cassis, spearmint, irises, and woodsmoke. The palate experiences an uplifting energy reflective of its ability to harmonize and soften the tannins. It presents a muscular and inherently savory character but also boasts luscious fruit and remarkable strength in its finale. | 92–93


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

SF | Vincent Millet elucidates that the alcohol content has somewhat reduced from last year, standing now at a more approachable 14% compared to the previous year’s hefty 15%. This adjustment appears beneficial as the wine shows more freshness and a clearer expression of its terroir in the characteristics of the Cabernet Sauvignon. The fruit quality is exceptional, being both pure and vivid, supported by robust, well-defined tannins and a notable savory finish. Vincent mentions the wine glides effortlessly on what he terms the “autoroute des tannins.” It stands as a quintessential St-Estèphe: intellectual, essential, yet impeccably structured. | 96–97

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

SF | This wine offers a complex array of dark fruits at its core, with the characteristic generosity of Merlot, supported by a substantial base of St-Estèphe’s typical rigor. The introduction of a nuanced layer of herbs and bay leaf adds further complexity to the rich plum and damson fruit flavors. Vincent indicates that some of the Merlot plots were previously part of the premiere wine, explaining its profound depth and complexity along with a composed and assured finish. | 93–94

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

SF | Nestled between Meyney and Phélan Ségur lies an expansive 48ha (119-acre) domain featuring diverse gravel-rich soils. In 2023, the estate’s wine impresses with its array of flavors including black cherry, fresh figs, and blue fruits, balanced by a generous mid-palate and skillfully controlled grippy tannins, culminating in an extravagant peacock’s tail finish. | 92–93

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

SF | The top-tier wine revisits a refined austerity. With an ABV of 12.9%, this wine diverges from the historical robust Cos, marked by a calm authority and maintaining the distinctive signature of its estate. It boasts an aromatic profile dominated by blue fruit and black tea, with undertones of incense and fig. Characterized by great concentration and smooth tannins, a subtle hint of “noble bitterness” on the finish adds complexity and suggests a promising aging potential.| 95–96

2023 Bordeaux Field Notes: Out of sorts?

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

Characterized by a soil composition that contains more clay, Les Pagodes, with vines averaging around 40 years, produced a robust vintage in 2023. It features a ripe mid-palate, vibrant energy, and a sharply defined finish. Dominique Arangoïts characterizes this wine with the paradoxical phrase “gentle austerity,” aptly capturing its essence. | 92–93

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

The presence of Semillon adds a layer of richness, with flavors of passion fruit, guava, and a subtle hint of pineapple, which nicely complements the crispness of the Sauvignon. This wine is well-balanced and textured with elements of lime and orange blossom that become more distinct as the wine is agitated in the glass, often irresistibly. | 91–92

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

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)

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)

Christophe Congé reports that the harvest at Lafon-Rochet was one of their longest, concluding on October 5 after an early onset of the season. He believed the inclusion of Petit Verdot would introduce an element of spice and lift towards the finish, which it successfully does. The standout variety, Cabernet Sauvignon, shines with its profound depth and length, crispness of fruit, and a delightful tension that flows throughout, allowing the oak to present itself in a plush manner without overwhelming. The influence of nearby Pauillac is palpable, possibly hinting at a tendency towards a richer, more indulgent style characteristic of a Lorenzetti house. The more ripe and plush presentation raises questions about the traditional expression of Lafon-Rochet or St-Estèphe, though they remain rhetorical. The wine displays a dense color with aromas of blueberry, wet coal, and slate, followed by undertones of forest floor and distant woodsmoke. The palate emphasizes the interplay of fruit and oak, which will require time to integrate fully. Solid tannins manage the structure from behind, ensuring a compact and robust profile. | 93–94

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

In its third year of organic conversion, Château Meyney luckily encountered minimal issues with mildew. The 2023 vintage carries typical Meyney characteristics: a smoky nose, a robust build, and a spicy, thoughtful finish contributed by the notable percentage of Petit Verdot. This is a dense wine with a substantial structure and complex, bittersweet fruit that adds vibrancy and underscores its serious nature. Its slightly dark and brutalist design will attract those who prefer their fruit deep and their wine crafted with a solid, defined shape. | 91–92

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

Sourced exclusively from the 45ha block known as Terrace 4 directly in front of the château, Montrose has narrowed its selection to emphasize quality, focusing precisely on the historically significant heart of the 1855 Classification. The wine exhibits a deep coloration and a dynamic aroma of cassis, bay leaf, fig, tobacco, and slate. Its taste profile is dense with dark fruits and other well-blended elements, presenting a robust structure without heaviness, and maintaining a sharp, linear progression supported by pure, strong tannins. It reaches a peak of grandeur akin to a symphonic finale by Bruckner, with an outstanding finish representative of a peak-performing St-Estèphe.

| 97–98

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

A vividly colored wine that leads with alluring scents of cassis, bilberry, and woodsmoke complemented by a touch of elderberry. The vine sources primarily lie behind the château, using a subtle array of mature fruit. Light use of new oak (10%) is enhanced by the use of large casks, amphorae, and older barrels that serve to underscore the purity of the fruit and hint at its aging potential. The wine is sculpted with finely etched tannins and closes with a convincing, memorable finish.

| 93–94

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

SF | A classic representation of Ormes de Pez, delivering spicy, rich, and potent flavors. The soil of St-Estèphe lends a weighty dark-fruit profile to the mid-palate, balanced with an uplifting and somewhat sweet finish. This complexity is further enhanced by subtle undertones of bay, bitumen, and a refreshing hint of spearmint. | 92–93

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

SF | A bold and strapping expression of Château de Pez, featuring a scent profile heavily influenced by plum, damp coal, and soot. Upon airing, notes of graphite and a touch of licorice emerge. Supported by 50% new oak, the wine possesses a powerful structure and a pronounced, almost savory, mid-palate. It’s a wine that demands patience but will ultimately satisfy those who favor this robust style. | 92–93

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

SF | With the introduction of a new vertical press, enhanced parcel selection excluding Cabernet Franc, and a switch to native yeasts, Phélan Ségur is ascending in the St-Estèphe quality rankings. The 2023 vintage presents an intensely aromatic profile with rose petals and red berries, accompanied by subtle cedar and spice notes deriving from 55% new oak usage. While not as dense as some contemporaries, its elegance, fine tannins, and the lively finish are noteworthy. | 94–95

Frank Phélan (50% M, 42% CS, 8% CF)

SF | Utilizing diverse vineyards around the appellation, from the sandy, windswept western edges near Gironde to the terraced plots, Phélan Ségur showcases versatility. The extended 2023 harvest aimed to achieve peak ripeness, particularly in the gravely Cabernet plots on Terrace 4, complemented by a prolonged maceration. Aged without new wood, this vintage of Frank Phélan exudes appealing rose and red fruit aromas and offers a soft, lush mid-palate. It’s instantly pleasing and approachable. | 92–93

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

Under the ownership of the Bouygues family of Montrose, Château Tronquoy-Lalande is experiencing a revival in its prestige. Despite a high concentration of Cabernet Sauvignon, the wine is rich, ripe, and alluring in its texture. Its blue-fruit characteristics are pronounced and attractively heightened by hints of menthol and eucalyptus. The use of foudres alongside barriques in its aging process prioritizes fruit quality, achieving this aim with notable excellence. | 92–93

2023 Bordeaux Field notes: Single spies


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

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)

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)

For three years running, Cabernet Sauvignon comprises 80% of the blend in contrast to the older 70% ratio. This adjustment stems less from battling mildew, which was successfully controlled, and more from identifying which parcels better suit Merlot. Consequently, Cabernet prevails. Its presence is felt in the form of graphite and licorice balancing the dark fruits, with both clay and gravel soils making their influence known. Tannins are present, robust yet manageable; the wine’s structure is expansive yet not overwhelming. Described by the creators as akin to a Harley-Davidson symbolizing a long journey ahead, I find it more akin to a majestic bird, perhaps an eagle, indicating its elegant nature. Overall, it’s a well-crafted wine with character and smoothness. | 95–96

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

The revitalization at Grand-Puy Ducasse is notable, with the Quai at Pauillac winery beautifully restored after 200 years. The focus on vinification by individual parcels is crucial due to the disparate nature of its vineyard holdings. This new vitality is evident in the abundant cassis and black fruit flavors, complemented by cedar and a whisper of bitter chocolate that enriches the finish. The wine, forward and refined, has its 35% new oak presence slightly prominent at this stage but promises to integrate seamlessly over time. | 92–93

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

Emeline Borie characterizes the season as a dual-phase vintage, predominantly based on the contrasting maturation patterns between Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon. This variation underscores the pivotal role blending plays in defining their success; indeed, the 2023 vintage revels in triumph. The wine boasts a typical GPL aroma – a melange of blueberries, cherries, and subtle spices, intertwined with whispers of cigar boxes and gravel. The palate is of medium density yet exudes finesse and sophistication, the fruit notes smoothly integrated with silky tannins. Positioned on the refined side of the Pauillac spectrum, Château Grand-Puy-Lacoste 2023 captivates its avid enthusiasts, making it a genuine highlight. | 95–96

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

Under the direction of Clare Villars-Lurton, this stunning estate shines even brighter with its agroforestry endeavors. The interplay between the newly planted trees and microorganisms enriches the vineyard’s ecosystem, notably benefiting the 15ha (37 acres) which splendidly produced 53hl/ha in 2023. Despite its powerful neighbors like Lynch-Bages and Pichon Baron, this wine exudes a unique vibrancy. It offers a bouquet of floral notes, tapenade, and an infectious zest, culminating in a gracefully finessed and harmoniously textured finish. Its charm and supple composition are indeed impressive. | 93–94

2023 Bordeaux Field notes: Château Lafleur—La Balançoire

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

SF | The Cazes family has made significant investments in Haut-Batailley following their acquisition in 2017. A recent vertical tasting from 2017 to 2023 articulately showcased the benefits of this investment, featuring the power of patient, detail-focused cultivation. Located near both St-Julien and the Gironde Estuary, Haut-Batailley’s unique gravel and clay soil, including patches of rare blue clay, delivers a profile distinct from the robust Lynch-Bages. However, its approach to tannin management and fruit extraction brings it closer to its contemporaries. The 2023 vintage is characterized by vibrant, floral aromatics and soft plum flavors, culminating in a spicy, generous finish. This vintage surpasses the somewhat straightforward 2022 vintage, marking a period of reemergence and burgeoning confidence for Haut-Batailley. | 92–93

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

SF | “Serenity” is how Eric Kohler describes both the seasonal transitions at Lafite and its wine. The wine is reserved, not forward, developing its presence quietly. The blending was finished in December, sooner than usual, and Eric remembers the surprise at the wine’s early demonstration of harmony and balance. Ninety percent of the wine was aged in new oak barrels, which are barely noticeable given the natural richness and complexity of the wine. Flavors of cassis lead, followed by black cherry, charcuterie, coal dust, and iodine, opening up a broad range of descriptors. The Cabernet Sauvignon content is at 93%, not the highest historically but significant, echoing the lasting quality of well-aged Cabernet. This is a wine that promises to maintain its harmony well into the future. Superb! | 98–99

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

SF | This year’s blend is notably distinct, containing only two grape varieties and featuring an uncommon harvest sequence where some Cabernet grapes were picked before the Merlot, a rarity in 2023. It is a robust, structurally broad wine with an inviting nose of morello cherry, fig, and lavender. The palate is tightly textured and linear, incorporating herbaceous elements in the most positive sense and is supported by a firm tannic backbone. | 94–95

Château Latour 1er Cru (92% CS, 8% M)

SF | The richness of hues and scents distinctly marks this essential Latour, balancing between savory and sweet, with a noticeable inclination towards darker fruits. This year, production increased with four additional barrels of Cabernet Sauvignon. The profile includes layers of cassis leaf, woodsmoke, camphor, and black pepper, enriched with notes of soy, iodine, and a hint of eucalyptus. It’s a detailed and structurally impressive wine, yet it remains approachable. Notably, the alcohol content is 13.2%, which is lower than in many past years, yet the wine retains its robust power and the strength of its tannins. Despite its somewhat somber appearance, the wine exhibits vitality and reactivity. The aromatics persist across the palate with a fragrant and lively finish. Truly a grand Latour of towering stature. | 98–99

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

SF | Commanding and immense. The use of the term massif reflects its stature, assuming its meaning aligns with the identical English term, a word Hélène would presumably agree with. The Merlot showcases robust, convincing dark fruits followed by nuances of compote, bitumen, and perhaps camphorz,. It’s undoubtedly a complex wine. Despite having an alcohol content just below 14% and relatively moderate tannins (IPT 75), it avoids being too potent or excessively extracted. Comparing it to the luscious 2018 vintage, it’s excellent, yet the sharper, more defined 2023 version promises even greater potential. | 96–97

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

SF | This Pauillac embodies grandeur from Château Latour, marked by rigor, vibrancy, and complexity. Aromas of cassis and blue fruits lead to a concentrated palate, unusual for a generic classification, displaying a stately baroque richness followed by a precisely cut finish, balancing its initial robustness. | 93–94

2023 Bordeaux Field notes: The endless appeal of Sauternes

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

SF | An almost mysterious Lynch, unexpectedly divergent in its profile. Deeply colored with potent aromas of blueberry, vanillin, and sloe, this wine initially seems to follow its recent rich and modern trends. However, a thorough analysis reveals refined tannins, a moderate alcohol content of 13.2%, and an elegant finish that unveil a previously unnoticed dimension, reflecting meticulous winemaking and the success of the vintage in northern Pauillac. While still robust, Lynch-Bages now offers a thoughtful balance of power. | 94–95

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

SF | This early bottled Blanc de Lynch-Bages offers a delightful bouquet, featuring aromas of jasmine, nectarine, and chalk, complemented by verbena and oatmeal—contributions from substantial bâtonnage. An intriguing hint of orange-peel, provided by the Muscadelle, showcases its unique but temperamental nature, seldom seen in Médoc. It’s a subtly luxurious wine that consistently delights those who appreciate a vivid, textural expression of Sauvignon. | 91–92

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

SF | The trio of gravel croupes integral to the estate continue to be the primary contributors of the Cabernet Sauvignon. The 2010 vintage notably contained a higher percentage, with experiments in blending both Petit Verdot and Cabernet Franc ultimately not measuring up to the high standards set by their premier Cabernet Sauvignon. Described by Jean-Emmanuel as an elixir, this vintage doesn’t lack restorative qualities, offering notes of flowers, licorice, gum cistus, and thyme, with a hint of gunpowdouble-triggered by concentration. The wine perfectly integrates with the 100% new-wood tannins, which, while present, are not overpowering, adding a spicy, robust quality. At 13.3% ABV, it exudes the classic structure, balance and ornate depth that define the vintage, appealing on multiple sensory levels. | 97–98

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

An intensely dark, nearly black hue sets the stage for a powerful aromatic onset, featuring black cherry, briary, tobacco, and soot prominently. This intensity is mirrored on the palate, where the wine is dense and deep, bursting with a rich array of fruit flavors. The dominant Cabernet Sauvignon contributes a notably vibrant and spirited character. | 93–94

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

With an increased portion of Semillon and an earlier harvest year, this vintage radiates charming agrume aromatics, complemented by nuances of tilleul and slate, alongside white tobacco and lime. Notes of wildflowers, chalk, and a subtle touch of iodine enhance the bouquet. Despite the absence of malolactic fermentation and skin contact, 45% of the wine was aged in new barrels, leading to a well-balanced and simultaneously refreshing and profound profile, marked by meticulously sculpted acidity and a rich spectrum of flavors. | 92–94

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

The goal to raise the percentage of Cabernet Sauvignon in the vineyard to 75% is progressing well, with preference given to limestone-driven Merlot in the top blends and a favoring of the structure provided by Cabernet Franc. This wine exhibits a rich, floral character enhanced by 65% new oak, delivering a lush texture through the middle. The finish introduces subtle spice and licorice notes, and presents a slightly drying sensation, likely attributable to its youthfulness. | 92–93

Château Pibran (54% CS, 46% M)

It starts with a bold, aromatic profile featuring prominent cassis, followed by a wide, dense palate underpinned by sophisticated, well-balanced tannins. The freshness of limestone elevates the overall impression, contributing to the wine’s balance. With 40% new oak utilization, the integration is already evident. | 92–93

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

Dense in both color and texture, this wine boasts firm, robust tannins alongside a deeply fruited mid-palate filled with dark berries, moist coal, ripe figs, and touches of bitter chocolate. It epitomizes the Byronic Baron, balancing delicacy with strength—crafted with cool temperatures during cuvaison, careful selection of heart cuts from the press wine, and equal emphasis on both elegance and power. Remarkably, the alcohol content rests at only 13.2%. True to the Pichon name, it features a solid foundational core and dark essence, promising an extensive developmental journey. | 95–96

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

This 2023 vintage of Les Griffons is exceptional. It presents as a paradigm of gravel-derived, Cabernet Sauvignon-heavy Pauillac. Characterized by its structured, dark-fruited profile and taut tannins, it finishes succulently, bordering on savory. Historically, vines nearer to the Gironde Estuary, contributing to this vintage, were often designated for the premier wine—a testament to their quality apparent in this impressive showing. | 94–95

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

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 vineyard located west of the eponymous towers, showcases a personality distinct from Les Griffons, which shares closer stylistic attributes to the main estate wine. It’s delightful to experience the variety, and both wines are markedly successful. | 93–94

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

Overall, according to Nicolas Glumineau, Pichon Lalande experienced a drier year in 2023 compared to 2022. Mildew posed a threat, particularly because of the estate’s organic farming practices; however, careful monitoring and multiple treatments helped protect the vines. The harvested grapes were high in both quality and quantity and proved to be well worth the extensive efforts. The signature elegance of Lalande is vividly present, complemented by a natural, almost “earthy” undertone, evoking the essence of being in the vineyards with the salty breeze from the estuary. This expression authentically represents the high-grade Pauillac terroir with an undiminished, silky elegance, achieving what seems like an almost impossible feat with natural ease. | 95–96

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

SF | Marking its 50th year with grandeur, the Comtesse Réserve showcases a profile that is accessible yet profound. Reflecting the stature of a grande dame, the structure of the tannins deserves applause for their exquisite texture, enhancing the profile of the fruit and allowing it to shine alongside floral nuances and delicate spices. The finale is poised and stately. | 92–93

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

SF | Pontet-Canet is crafted for true aficionados. Its distinct character is deeply rooted in biodynamic farming, offering an intimate encounter with the land’s essence — from clay to gravel. The earthy, peaty scents intertwined with floral notes may seem robust, yet this complements an unexpected finesse and clarity. The tale woven by Alfred Tesseron over five decades captivates with fragrances of violets, plums, lavender, and earth, along with tapenade and eucalyptus, creating an impeccable blend. Harvesting was meticulously timed, with early-picked Merlots for freshness and fully matured Cabernets for depth. This coherence signifies the early signs of an extraordinary wine poised for greatness. | 95–96


Château Beychevelle 4ème Cru (61% Cabernet Sauvignon, 35% Merlot, 4% Petit Verdot)

The dominance of Cabernet Sauvignon is more pronounced this year, enhancing the distinction from the Amiral and presenting a distinctly linear style. This vintage is classically inspired avant la lettre, showcasing a fine texture and subtly incorporating its 70% new oak. Floral notes meld with cassis and myrtle nuances, a harmony that continues onto the palate where a robust tannic structure is paired with clear linearity, a trait more pronounced in this rendition of Beychevelle. Subsequent layers reveal menthol and spearmint, ending with a hint of licorice in the finish. A well-rounded and fulfilling vintage. | 94–95

Amiral de Beychevelle (51% Merlot, 49% Cabernet Sauvignon)

SF | Attractive damson and strawberry fruit flavors dominate, with the higher percentage of Merlot creating a smooth and eloquent expression throughout the mid-palate. It is approachable and subtly vibrant, showcasing creamy tannins and a well-balanced, harmonious finish. This marks a distinct contrast to 2022 when the blend featured more Cabernet Sauvignon than the grand vin. The typical elegance has returned, displaying no shortage of panache and charm. | 92–93

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

SF | Produced in the new state-of-the-art, gravity-fed winery, this release is indeed impressive. The increase to 75 vats from 38 allows for meticulous attention to each parcel. While Merlot was prominent in 2022, 2023 highlights the excellence of Cabernet Sauvignon, maintaining a similar blend. The vintage showcases precision, rich fruitiness, and expert crafting of fine tannins. The essence of St-Julien is prominently featured, combining a diverse fruit profile with notes of pencil shavings and cigar box, all complemented by balanced wooden tannins and a refreshing finish. Showing a slightly more linear profile with lower alcohol content than the previous year, this vintage underlines the skilled leadership of François-Xavier Maroteaux, who continues to excel following his father Patrick’s untimely passing, affirming this estate as a key player in the region. | 96–97

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

SF | This year, a higher proportion of Cabernet Sauvignon contributes to the blend, subtly changing its character in line with the vintage’s more refined personality. Though always expressive, this edition of Ducru is comparatively subdued. Under the guidance of Bruno Borie in 2023, there’s a distinguished restraint typical of the vintage subtly expressed. As the wine breathes, its subdued nature evolves, revealing layers of tobacco and peat amid luxurious dark fruits, while the tannins weave seamlessly with the wine’s essence, showcasing both sophistication in craft and warmth in character. | 95–96

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

SF | On the other side of the D2, adjacent to the vineyards of Gloria and Léoville Barton, lies the Croix of Ducru-Beaucaillou vineyard. Dominated by Merlot, this plot allows the signature Ducru richness and charm to emerge distinctly. Its expression is robust, featuring bold notes of blueberries, cigar box, bay leaves, and cassis liqueur. It offers depth where it’s most desired and subtlety where complexity is key, ending on a classic pencil-shaving finish that subtly recalls its St-Julien roots. Its well-defined structure showcases its noble lineage. | 92–93

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

Château Gloria (50% Cabernet Sauvignon, 35% Merlot, 10% Petit Verdot, 5% Cabernet Franc)

Sacha le Baube-Triaud, representing the fourth generation at this estate, emphasizes the final year of organic transition for both Gloria and its sibling estate, St-Pierre. The shift towards biodynamic farming is evident, simultaneously driving both purity and a distinct, earthy intensity in their wines. Gloria particularly showcases an array of red fruits and offers an accessibility that masks its profound depths and the rigor of its tannins. The character of the wine is best captured by the term “croquant,” which hints at a certain delectable crunchiness. Notes of black cherry, spices, and fine fruity tannins culminate in a cleverly savory finish. | 93–94

Château Gruaud-Larose 2ème Cru (83% Cabernet Sauvignon, 14.5% Merlot, 2.5% Cabernet Franc)

A standout Gruaud from 2023, it embodies the classic cedar charm of St-Julien balanced with the house’s refined and thoughtful essence as articulated by technical director Virginie Sallette. In this vintage, “Cabernet Sauvignon reigns supreme,” which is evident in its superbly ripe and finely grained tannins. The fruit profile is both lavish and moderated, leading to an undeniably majestic texture. Maintaining its traditional roots and promising significant potential for aging, this wine is outstanding by any standard. | 97–98

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

The composition of their plots is very close to the historical layout of 1855, even as the renewal of the parcels progresses. Currently in the Sarget blend, some of the newly planted Cabernet Sauvignon is anticipated to be part of the premier wine eventually. This potentially suggests high quality; it already significantly enhances the blend with its vibrancy and depth of fruit flavor. The skillful handling of tannins, coupled with spice and energy, neatly wraps up the product. While it diverges starkly from the unparalleled premier wine, it stands on its own merits as a commendably crafted choice. | 92–93

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

Under Matthieu Bordes’s capable management, a significant portion of this large estate’s harvest is redirected away from the premier cru, thereby reliably contributing to the creation of an intricate, well-structured St-Julien. Presenting a profound color and depth with flavors, particularly of blue fruits, and a fragrance that subtly reflects Matthieu’s confidence in the superb quality of the 2023 vintage, particularly for Cabernet Sauvignon. The substantial tannic structure and noteworthy finish are both compelling. Overall, a strong expression of Château Lagrange’s consistent excellence. | 93–94

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

The newly constructed winery impresses by architecture almost as much as it improves the wine’s quality. The process employs gravity to minimize harshness, utilizing small vats to enhance detail and precision in the wine. These innovations lead to a notable increase in the quality of Langoa Barton, with its bright fruitiness and robust flavors being fine-tuned with exceptionally sharp tannin delineation. Notes of blue fruits and floral elements mix with loam and subtle cigar box touches, all described as quintessentially Langoa and yet distinctly more elegant. | 95–96

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

This St-Julien wine stays true to the classic Léoville Barton profile, working from a new facility that adds its own enhancements. Although it might not surpass the extraordinary 2022 vintage, the 2023 release speaks with a robust and distinct voice of its own. It demonstrates an intricate increase of character, based on a strong sense of place. This version showcases a balance of refined tannins and soft, tobacco-laced fruit, leading up to a subtly unfolding and comforting finish. Crafted by Lilian, Damien, and their team, this wine proves to be another impressive expression of the vineyard. | 96–97

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

SF | Continuing the trend set by the stellar 2022 vintage, the new blend incorporates more Cabernet Sauvignon and less new oak to showcase the vintage characteristics. The wine starts reserved but soon unfolds into a generous array of flavors including cassis, damson, and hints of sloe, fig, and black cherry. Subtle notes of cedar, soy, and eucalyptus add complexity. A blend of self-assuredness and subtle allure may reveal the mysteries of this peculiar vintage. | 97–98

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

SF | The balance in Cabernet Sauvignon elevates this Marquis, making it captivating. It features enticing aromas like cigar box, boysenberry, plums, and raw beef, with a mouthfeel that balances firm structure and chalky tannins with smooth acidity. Exuding old-world restraint typical of St-Julien, the wine transcends perceived limits with finesse, leaving a lasting impression of elegance and satisfaction. | 95–96

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

SF | Recognized as the secondary wine of both Las-Cases and the Marquis, Le Petit Lion showcases formidable vitality. Matured for 16 months in 50% new oak, the wine features late-harvested grapes. The youthful Cabernet Sauvignon dazzles notably with its opulent, dark berry nuances and delicate, chalk-like tannins. The robustness through the meaty central flavors and a lively snap of acidity round out the essence. Bold yet welcoming, it stands as an impressive creation. | 92–93

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

SF | An exquisitely refined Poyferré, which neither scrimps on refinement nor on its signature lavishness, paired with a solid structural framework. It features 80% new oak, and an interesting approach with some of the malolactic fermentation occurring in vats. The debate may continue on its impact on the wine’s texture, but its sophisticated definition, straight-line profile, and assertive finish are unmistakable. Advised by Sara Lecompte Cuvelier to be enjoyed with laughter and smiles, though she modestly underplays its success, we gladly affirm its acclaim. | 94–95

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

SF | A more intense counterpart to Poyferré, Moulin Riche exhibits a darker hue and a firmer texture while maintaining elements of flamboyance and floral charm. It starts with dark cherry notes, progresses into brambles and tobacco, and concludes with hints of gravel and a zesty black pepper twist, a testament to the significant proportion of Petit Verdot. The use of only 25% new barrels, along with the balance in older wood and nine amphorae, adds to its richness without excess, featuring unique hints of camphor and smoke that serve to underpin its individuality and cater to its dedicated, discerning followers. | 92–93

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

SF | Displaying a firm and more structured character compared to the more mellow Gloria, St-Pierre demands some patience initially; however, it soon reveals a delightful mix of dark fruits and fresh kitchen-garden herbs, robust fruit tannins, and a commanding finish. The biodynamic practices of the Triaud family are clearly reflected in the fruit’s purity and the excellence of the Cabernet Sauvignon used. A bit of air exposure helps to unveil a spectrum of flavors from this, the smallest of the St-Julien crus classés. Worth monitoring. | 94–95

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

“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)

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


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

SF | Ben Sichel stands out for his commitment to genuine winemaking, and Château Angludet is a testament to this approach. The 2023 vintage showcases a notably concentrated production (20hl/ha) due to proactive pruning, avoiding issues with frost or mildew that were diligently managed at this biodynamic vineyard. The wine is rich in color and bursting with tightly-knit black fruit aromas and flavors. It is vibrant yet exhibits an elegant, almost ethereal finish. The current iteration is distinctively outstanding compared to its predecessors, displaying a clear expression of the vin de terroir with a harmonious structure. The significant presence of Petit Verdot adds a deeper, spicier dimension, while the use of amphorae enhances the texture, ensuring a smooth journey on the palate. | 92–93

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

SF | This robust Brane, boasting intense black fruits and fully matured in new oak, gracefully supports its weight, showcasing the exceptional maturity and phenolic richness found in both the Cabernet and Merlot grapes. The aroma is a stunning blend of figs, cassis, black tea, and graphite, typical of a fine Margaux, enhanced by undertones of eucalyptus and pepper that accentuate the fruits’ magnificence. Utilizing “Airpulse” technology has allowed a soft extraction process, and the strength of old vines confirms its second-growth prestige. This wine displays immense potential. | 94–95

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

SF | This year’s blend includes a higher proportion of Cabernets, inspired by Henri Lurton’s approach to bleed some Merlot to enhance flavor and concentration, thanks to the large berries that prevailed over the mildew. Combining soils of gravel and sand, the latter contributes to a softer, fruit-forward profile, ensuring that the 2023 Baron remains notably pleasant and rich. Its profile of plums, cherries, and playful tannins concludes with enjoyment. | 91–92

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

SF | The completion of the new sustainable winery just in time for the harvest season has brought great joy and relief to technical director José Sanfins. Now, in 2023, he can manage his wine production with unprecedented precision. This year’s wine is notably precise and expressive, favoring refinement over sheer strength and harmony over mere mass. It is proportionally lighter in structure and alcohol content than the richly layered 2022 vintage, yet it shines brightly on its merits. This vintage marks an important milestone for Cantenac Brown, likely elevating its status from an often overlooked third growth. | 94–95

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

SF | Exuding a vibrant hue and intent, this wine showcases aromatic summer fruits, a lush and full mid-palate, and solid density, finished with a refreshing hint of eucalyptus. 30% of the wine was matured in foudre, which subtly complements the overall profile without overwhelming it. It is both highly accessible and delightful. | 91–92

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

SF | This Durfort, crafted by Gonzague Lurton using biodynamic farming techniques (certified by Demeter), handled an unpredictable season commendably. The wine features a deep color and releases delightful scents of eucalypt, blackcurrant leaf, and flowers. It offers a solid concentration with fresh, clean acidity and well-integrated, mature, and vibrant tannins. The tasting experience extends impressively along the palate, maintaining a beautiful continuity. | 94–95

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

SF | Coming from old vines of Merlot inter-planted with Petit Verdot and a minor section of Cabernet Franc, mixed with gravel-mixed Cabernet Sauvignon, this wine is a tribute to both red and black fruits. As a biodynamic product, it epitomizes the Clare Villars-Lurton approach with its fruit purity, earthy aromas reminiscent of Pontet-Canet, and its meticulously sculptured finish. | 93–94

2023 Bordeaux Field notes: House of cards

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

A notably refined Giscours, distinguished by its high Cabernet Sauvignon proportion (with Merlot reduced due to mildew), is defined more by its structure than its might. It offers a linear, precise, and somewhat severe profile, with the inclusion of herbal nuances providing vibrancy and vitality toward the finish. Prior to reaching this point, there’s a bounty of mature, articulate fruit to savor, accompanied by a well-crafted veil of tannin. Words like “austere” are tempered with “generous,” ensuring the wine is recognized not for a lack but for its depth and subtlety. | 94–95

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

For the first time in twenty years, the prime wine has no Malbec, yet it remains highly admirable. It overcame the early challenge of mildew and the later problem of sunburn in August, with only the reduced yields (30hl/ha) marking these difficulties. It exhibits a ripe, assertive character with abundant allure at the front of the palate and substantial structure at the back. It is a well-executed wine, consistent with what might be recognized as the Lorenzetti properties’ signature style. This 2023 vintage of d’Issan highlights its exceptionally polished tannins and substantial presence across the palate. | 93–94

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

SF | Displays elegant purple hues complemented by a floral aroma of iris and peony, blending with notes of plum and crushed strawberry. The palate teases with summer fruits, prominently featuring damson. Approachable and airy—aérien, as the French may suggest. Exhibits medium concentration; while not destined for long term aging, it currently radiates ample charm. | 92–93

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

SF | This marked the inaugural full vintage overseen by Axel Heinz, ex-Ornellaia, unveiling a splendid opportunity to elevate this stellar Margaux terroir. Heinz is determined to return Lascombes to its storied second-growth status and match the quality of its legendary counterparts. Demonstrated by a deep hue and intricate aromatics that fuse blue and black fruits with cassis and bilberry, underscored by floral violets and hints of licorice. The finely crafted tannins and subtle structure impress greatly, as does the refined minerality and salinity in the finishing notes. A vitally promising wine. | 94–95

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

Axel Heinz’s inaugural creation at Lascombes is a standout success, marking a fortunate resurgence at this estate once somewhat detached from the finesse and intricacies of winemaking. Presently, Merlot dominates the vineyards here, and in 2023, the harvesting was completed in two phases. The resulting wine is vibrant and lively yet exhibits complexity with a textured finish. Subtle notes of spice and pepper accent the taste, showcasing its distinctive Médoc identity, as Axel himself affirms. | 92–93

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

This iteration of Malescot is extraordinary, with a portion now matured in sizable foudres, thus only using 60% new oak barrels. It features a rich hue and enticing aromas predominantly of raspberry compote, blueberry, cherry, and chocolate nuances. It is medium in body yet supported significantly by the prominent presence of top-tier Cabernet Sauvignon. This structure is revealed through a delicate framework of stiff acidity, sturdy tannins, pristine fruit expression, and an uplifting finale. It stands out as particularly vibrant for this vintage, with an alcohol content at 14%. | 93–94

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

SF | Making up 41% of the production and matching the 2022, the 2023 vintage is compelling. It is expressive, abundant, and well-rounded, featuring substantial depth and a well-blended interplay of delicate tannins with a generous array of fruits. Surprisingly, the wine is matured in entirely new oak, and interestingly, 15% of vin de presse is included. Philippe Bascaules points out an increased use of Cabernet Franc, expressing a desire to boost its share to 8–10% in the coming years. The aroma is vivid and floral, enhanced by undertones of graphite and chalk amid layers of red and black fruits. The wine is vibrant and structurally sound, yet it ultimately celebrates a sublime grace. | 97–98

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

SF | Pavillon Rouge comprises 30% of Château Margaux’s production. This year sees a slight reduction in Merlot due to mildew damage, yet it retains plenty of lively, juicy fruit and robust mid-palate density. Philippe notes that unlike in 2022, the extraction process in 2023 was extended and more gentle. The wine showcases a bold and straightforward charm, with its structural tannins providing firmness, and the fruit character being pronounced and direct. | 94–95

Pavillon Blanc (100% SB)

SF | Harvested at dawn during the last hot week of August, this vintage now offers its delights along with a second label (not available en primeur). The Pavillon Blanc boasts a wonderfully complex profile. Despite the heat during harvest, it retains remarkable freshness. It presents aromas of tilleul, fig, grapefruit, and chalk, with a subtle nod to riper, slightly tropical flavors, described by Philippe as “confit.” The wine is seamlessly balanced, exquisitely elegant, and it finishes with a touch of spice and white pepper that highlights its intricate character. | 95–96

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

SF | Boasting a deep, vibrant hue and a nose that captivates with plum, black cherry, violets, and bitter chocolate. This aromatic intensity carries through to the palate, showcasing lush fruit, supple yet structured tannins, and prolonged aromatic appeal. It speaks with eloquence and conviction. | 92–93

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

SF | Thomas Duroux likens the winemaking process to a jazz improvisation, or even “organized chaos.” One might wonder, what does this mean exactly? This vanguard biodynamic estate vastly contrasts the conventional traits of Margaux, emphasizing power, resonance, and the notable expression of a unique terroir. Flavors such as cocoa, tar, and dark chocolate mingle with traditional notes of black cherry and liqueur de cassis. This wine exudes intensity and a lavish character, scheduled to transition from oak to foudre in July, and is anticipated to mature, harnessing its considerable potential. This expression stands out robustly amongst Margaux and Left Bank wines alike. Its exceptional caliber is irrefutable, as evidenced by the sublime texture of its tannins and a commanding finish. | 95–96

2023 Bordeaux Field notes: Mixed blessings

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

SF | The soil makeup of gravel and sand at Alter Eigo, richly enhanced by its substantial Merlot content, grants the wine a profound hue and a sumptuous, almost luxurious richness. This wine is replete with mature, powerful dark fruits that explode into a riot of colors and aromas. Despite the vigorous and beguiling mid-palate, the wine maintains an elegant and harmonious structure. The approach is proactive and appealing, stabilized by a vibrant intensity in the middle, strong acidity, and a distinctive salty finish at the end. | 92–93

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

SF | Nicolas Audebert continues to rapidly increase the Cabernet Sauvignon proportion at Rauzan-Ségla, raising it from 72% in 2022 to 85% in 2023. The rise inevitably includes some younger vines. Despite challenges like mildew damaging parts of the Merlot crop, the wine’s excellence remains uncompromised. Even the use of a greater percentage of new barrels (55%) this year has not obscured the wine’s inherent character or diluted its noted floral scent. The wine impresses with its dense structure and the vivid expression of its fruit. It features precise, finely-tuned tannins and supportive acidity, achieving an intensity that is both profound and sublime—a combination that proves both profound and elevating. | 95–96

Ségla (78% CS, 18% M, 4% PV)

SF | The ongoing vineyard renovations at Rauzan-Ségla are advancing, with emphasis initially cast on cultivating Cabernet Sauvignon on Terrace 4, which interestingly impacts both their wines. Despite shared terroir and encépagement, distinct contrasts are evident, with site choices finely tuned to enhance subtle differences and unique characteristics. The Ségla showcases pronounced ripeness and a bold array of red fruits, layered with hints of juniper and Assam tea leaves. Its tannins are robust, enveloping the palate, leading to a complex, lingering finish. Indeed, it’s termed a “second wine” in name alone. | 92–93

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