2017 Bordeaux Vintage Q & A

Spec’s Annual Bordeaux Cru Classé Tasting is coming up next Thursday January 16thWe’ll be tasting the 2017 vintage so I thought a little question and answer on Bordeaux 2017 might be in order.

Question: How is 2017 as a Bordeaux vintage?
Answer: 2017 is complicated.
 As a vintage, the wines are Very Good to Excellent with some Outstanding wines. So why complicated? Because 2017 is a “frost vintage” and most people don’t understand what that entails.

Q. What’s a “frost vintage?”
A. Just that – a vintage affected by frost.
Which is to say springtime temperatures dropping below freezing when the vines are at a vulnerable stage. In 2017, this happened on April 27th when temperatures in some parts of Bordeaux locally dropped to as low as 25°F. It should be noted that that most of chateaux in Bordeaux had at least some small part of their vineyard affected by the cold with a few properties suffering close to 100% frost effect.

Q. What was the effect of the frost?
A. There were two ways the frost affected the vines, primary and secondary.
 The vines that suffered the primary affect either didn’t bear fruit or yielded less than 20% of the crop of a normal year as the vine set a “second crop” after the initial crop was frost damaged. We’ll come back to the secondary effect (which turned out to be a bit of a blessing) in a minute.

Q. How did the primary frost affect effect quality?
A. It didn’t. 
The primary affect simply reduced production. The vines that were affected did not produce. The other vines did and what they produced was as noted above Very Good to Excellent with some Outstanding wines. One of the reasons why is the secondary frost effect. The vines that showed no primary frost damage were affected in that the cold stopped the vegetative growth of the vine which then had to restart and slowly regain momentum after a several-days pause (the secondary frost effect). This growth pause very likely explains the extraordinary freshness and pretty red fruit character the best of the 2017 wines exhibit.

Q. So you’re saying that 2017 is a high-quality Bordeaux vintage that made less wine than normal?
A. YES!
 2017 is the fourth in an unprecedented string of at least five and maybe six consecutive vintages (beginning with 2014) making high quality wines. Of them, 2017 is the freshest and “prettiest” of the lot. The wines are delightfull and delicious with an immediate appeal and the acid structure to age well. For many people, they will compare very well to 1999 which is one of the all-time pretty vintages that drank well on release and that is drinking beautifully now at 20 years. Except 2017 is better. Substantially better.

Q. Where can I taste these Pretty, Very Good to Excellent and even Outstanding wines?
A. 5:00 – 8:30pm  Thursday, January 16, 2020  at The Crystal Ballroom at the Rice. 
SPEC’s will host over 30 Bordeaux chateau owners, directors, and/or winemakers presenting 57 Cru Classé Bordeaux wines from the lovely, pure, fresh, enticing 2017 vintage in a standup-and-walk-around tasting format. This is our ninth year in a row to host such a delegation from Bordeaux in Houston. This is the best lineup of wines we’ve had to date. We’ll be tasting great wines from every major appellation in Bordeaux. The tasting will open at 5pm and run thru to 8:30pm, giving you ample time to taste the wines and visit with our guests from Bordeaux. The tasting will include a snack buffet chosen to help absorb the wines and refresh the palate. We will taste from Riedel Degustazione (tasting) glasses.


The 2017 Cru Classé Bordeaux Tasting will cost $100.00 per person (including a 5% discount for cash or check, regular price is $105.26). To purchase your ticket, please contact Susan Coburn at coburnsusan2@gmail.com or at 713-854-7855.

The Crystal Ballroom at the Rice is located in downtown Houston at 909 Texas Avenue between Travis and Main. Valet Parking will be available. Uber or Lyft are highly recommended.