“Back to the terroir and our roots,” whispered some. “Back to the future,” boldly proclaimed others, their eyes fixed on the horizon. “It was an Odyssey,” declared the adventurous few.

And there, in the dimly lit cellar, the young wines of 2023 revealed their enigmatic essence. Tasted from cask, they embodied a captivating paradox—a symphony of contradictions. Their ruby depths held the sun-kissed richness of a vintage bathed in warmth, yet their vibrant notes danced like whispers carried by Atlantic winds.

The best 2023s are equally thrilling as the top 2022s, even though the vintage displays greater variation in quality and style. Interestingly, due to a cool global economy and two consecutive lukewarm En primeur campaigns, the 2023s may be released at prices as intriguing as any since 2019.

Now, let’s delve into the conditions that shaped these wines. An early budbreak—with the first shoots observed on April 5—set the stage for an early season. However, alternating cool and mild weather during spring somewhat slowed down growth. By May, consistently favorable conditions returned, leading to an early and uniformly successful flowering. In June, wet weather during fruit set resulted in larger-than-average berries. These conditions, combined with the vineyards’ inherent fertility (thanks to successful floral initiation in the 2022 growing season), paved the way for generous yields.

The 2023 Bordeaux harvest unfolded with a sense of anticipation. Early September saw the Merlots ripening swiftly, while the Cabernet Sauvignon took its time to reach maturity. Echoing the events of 2021, a mid-harvest forecast predicted heavy rain on September 20. Some vintners chose to hasten their Cabernet harvest, fearing the deluge. Yet, as if in defiance of meteorological odds, the rain was less than expected—just enough to quench the vines’ thirst and propel ripening for the remaining fruit.

For certain estates, the harvest became an unhurried ballet, stretching over weeks. Block by block, grapes were picked at optimal maturity, each destined for separate vinification. This meticulous approach reflects the precision that Bordeaux winemaking has embraced over the past decade—a symphony of investment, science, and artistry.

Sorting played a pivotal role. Not only did it remove mildew-tainted and desiccated berries (densimetric sorting proving invaluable), but it also spared fruit scorched by late-August sun. With abundant yields, some producers turned to tank bleeds and reverse osmosis to concentrate the essence that remained. Analytically, the fruit held its ground—anthocyanins and tannins standing tall, akin to the 2022 vintage.

2023, however, defies easy classification. It straddles the line between sunny and “classic,” Continental and Atlantic. The best 2023s boast fully ripe tannins, reminiscent of sun-drenched 2019, yet their vibrant aromas and flavors evoke a cooler year. Like a paradox in a bottle, they challenge tradition, preserving bright, expressive fruit in all its purity.

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