by Tom Cannavan
2007 was a very, very difficult vintage. The summer was cool and wet all through July and August, and although sunny weather finally arrived in September, it was too late for those estates who did not
manage their vineyards well through the bad spell. The difference between the most and least successful châteaux this year is how much money and resources they could commit in the
vineyards. A huge amount of effort was needed to go through the vineyard repeatedly, opening up the canopy to aerate the vines and avoid mildew, and remove every grape showing signs of rot. Cheval Blanc
brought in less than 50% of its normal Merlot harvest for example, with a huge volume of sub-standard grapes removed during the wet summer months.
Yields are down overall on 2006 - by 20% at Château Lafite for example.
The cool summer meant ripening was slow, but very early bud break in spring meant a long hang time was possible - of up to 130 days instead of a more normal 100 in some cases - so many wines are showing
good ripeness and sweet fruit. There are a few that are slightly dilute and others showing a touch of greenness, and when this is allied with a lot of extraction, the result is wines that have an inkiness and insufficient
fruit sweetness to be really well balanced. Many of the more successful wines in my opinion are 'pretty' rather than being big, long-lived wines. How 'recommendable' these are, will depend largely on their price.
It is a forward, sometimes charming vintage, with a lot of wines that are already quite delicious. This is not a vintage for the really long haul, but to write it off as a disaster would be totally wrong.
Is there any need to rush out to place your en primeur order? Almost certainly not, as this vintage is one that will not be sending 'must buy' messages around the world. Almost everyone I meet (both press and wine trade)
said the same thing "much better than I expected, but I won't be buying any," which I think sums it up. There are some genuinely lovely wines: no dilution, no over-extraction, sweet fruit, fine tannins and pretty good acidity,
but with a handful of exceptions these are wines that should not command high prices.
My tasting notes follow. Scores come with the caveat that these are unfinished wines that still have a year or more in barrel ahead of them and I would like you to mentally bracket all scores by four point - so my score of
87 may well turn out to be 85 or 89, whilst a score of 92 may well be 90 or 94.
© 2008 Tom Cannavan