Bordeaux vineyard


29 April 2024

Tom Jenkins

Let them have 2023s!

2023 is the vintage that contradicts the old proverb, “You cannot eat your cake and have it too.” Conventional logic dictates you either have a “solaire” vintage with concentration, texture and elevated alcohol levels, at the expense of freshness, or a cool “classical” vintage with moderate alcohols and plenty of acidity, but lacking in depth and flavour. At their best, the 2023s have it all: depth, concentration, texture, finesse, freshness and all at moderate or even low alcohol levels. Aurélien Valance summed this up very neatly with his appraisal of Château Margaux. “2023 has the ripeness and texture of a warm vintage with the freshness and purity of a cool year.”

wine bottle and carafe

It became apparent from our first tasting at Chateau L’Eglise Clinet with Noëmie and Constance Durantou that 2023 is more than just a nice vintage. As the week unfolded we found plenty of serious, concentrated wines with real verve and tension, and many with an unmistakeable touch of BordeauX-factor. Whilst we love the opulence and easy charm of the 2019s and 2022s, they are perhaps less reflective of their place. The 2023s are unique. Where else can you find such ripe, fragrant Cabernets and Merlots at 13% alcohol? Perhaps the most instructive tasting of our week was at Langoa Barton. Lilian very kindly presented her excellent 2021s next to her 2023s. Wonderful as the 2021s are (another modern-day Bordeaux vintage with moderate alcohol levels), the 2023s have so much more mid-palate depth – there’s no comparison.

“2023 has the ripeness and texture of a warm vintage with the freshness and purity of a cool year.”

Aurélien Valance

Château Margaux

Climatically, this is a vintage like no other. Philippe Blanc couldn’t think of any comparable growing season from his almost 30 years at Beychevelle. Even Omri Ram of Chateau Lafleur had difficulty describing it. “It’s not a solaire vintage, it’s not a “classical” cool vintage, it’s not another hybrid vintage like 2016, 2018 or 2020 with a wet, cold spring and then a very hot, dry summer… The best we’ve come up with so far is it’s an extreme vintage with no real extremes… It felt extreme when we were working in the vineyard, it was challenging and complex, but when we look back at the data, it was quite unremarkable.” The April to September average temperatures were the second highest on record although summer didn’t really start until mid-August. At key moments the stars aligned. Warm, dry conditions at the end of May and beginning of June were perfect for flowering. Everyone we spoke to was impressed by the abundance and size of the ensuing clusters. Tropical conditions followed for much of June and July, which presented huge mildew pressures. Lessons learned from 2018 and 2020 prevented significant losses for those who had the resources and could react quickly. One must sympathise with smaller producers in appellations like the Entre-Deux-Mers – some lost everything. For those who fought and won there was a plentiful crop; many decided to do a green harvest, but generally vignerons were cautious to de-leaf, knowing that a heat spike may be round the corner. And sure enough, the last half of August and the first fortnight of September brought a prolonged heatwave. Aurélien Valance explained that mildew wasn't their main concern… “the far bigger risk was sunburn”, which ultimately reduced their crop by 10%.

man holding wine bottles

Many chose to bring their Merlots in before the rains in mid-September, others decided to wait things out and were rewarded with fine conditions right until the end of October. Nearly everyone we spoke to observed large, tightly packed clusters, which have resulted in healthy to excellent yields. It is also worth noting that the September rains kick-started a wonderful wave of botrytis in Sauternes, resulting in lots of fresh, beautifully aromatic, vibrant wines.


Tasting barrel samples is not an exact science. Changeable climatic conditions throughout the week will affect how the wines present, but as ever, we have been as thorough and as analytical as possible, tasting at over 50 estates and several UGC (appellation) events. We have focussed our efforts on the best performing, most commercially interesting wines, so we have a rather rosy view of the vintage, especially on the Right Bank, where we found some of the most complete and ravishing examples of 2023. Lafleur, Cheval Blanc, Petrus, Le Pin, L’Eglise Clinet, Vieux Chateau Certan, Canon, Les Pensées, Belair Monange, Conseillante and Evangile were all exceptional. There is a sumptuousness, fleshiness and fluidity to the best Merlots, which is extremely attractive.

“At their best, the 2023s have it all: depth, concentration, texture, finesse, freshness and all at moderate or even low alcohol levels.”

Tom Jenkins

Bordeaux Buyer

We found a bit more variation on the Left Bank (and Pessac). The general consensus was to be patient and wait for phenolic ripeness in the Cabernet Sauvignons. Where this has been achieved, the Cabernets sing with noble aromas of flowers, graphite and cassis. The highest achievers on this side of the river boast impressive clarity, depth and precision. Notable successes include Mouton Rothschild, Lafite Rothschild, Margaux, Haut Brion, Mission Haut Brion, Montrose, Pichon Comtesse, GPL, Clerc Milon, Leoville Poyferre, Gruaud Larose, Leoville Barton, Duhart Milon, Domaine de Chevalier, Smith Haut Lafitte and Rauzan Segla.


And it’s not all just about the big names. We found some gems that will offer superb value for money and lots of pleasure with minimal cellaring. Highlights in this category included Les Cruzelles, Grand Village, Laroque, Croix Canon, Capbern, Tronquoy, Dame de Montrose, Meyney, Langoa Barton, d’Armailhac and Batailley.

red grapes being picked

Finally, a note about our notes… Everyone is expecting a fast start to this campaign, so in the interest of publishing our observations quickly, they are not going to be as verbose as normal. Please don’t misinterpret our brevity for lack of enthusiasm. Nothing could be further from the truth - these 2023s are superb wines, which deserve a place in the most discerning cellars.