1997 Bordeaux — Tough on Quality and Value
1997 was a tough year for Bordeaux, producing lighter wines for early to mid-term consumption in the best examples, and rather dilute, uninteresting wines in others. Mostly past its prime, the vintage provided some affordable Bordeaux wines to drink while waiting for the 1995s and 1996s, but even early on it was a vintage to buy with caution, and only when prices were low enough to reflect the overall character of the vintage. Unfortunately, it was initially released at very high prices that mitigated any sense of value given the quality.
The growing season began with a warm, early spring that sent vineyards into motion weeks ahead of the norm. May was cold and wet, and June saw scattered rain, which prolonged the fruiting period, making it uneven, and leading to inconsistent levels of ripeness in the grapes. Humid conditions in August caused rot, and selection and green harvesting was critical to reduce the yields and remove any rotten or unripe bunches. Significant rain in late August caused the grapes to become swollen and diluted. The weather in September improved, but the damage had already been done.
The harvest was difficult and spread out as a result of all the variable weather, and the inconsistency of ripeness continued to be a problem. The net result was wines that, at their best, are lighter and balanced, with sweet fruit and softness, and others that are thin and diluted.