Without a doubt, 2013 has been the most difficult year the Bordeaux region has experienced in a long time. Climatic conditions were challenging both for the vines and the people growing them. Like everywhere else, diseases (mildew and oidium) thrived in the cool, damp spring and flowering was heterogeneous. Some hope was restored during a normal summer, but September and October were very difficult months with a combination of warmth and damp causing sudden attacks of rot. This put the vast majority of producers into "save what you can" mode. The most demanding were forced to meticulously sort through grapes of uncertain maturity to make sure they could produce wines that wouldn't be tainted by rot.
The best estates were wise enough not to expect the wine-making process to compensate for nature's shortcomings. And by avoiding over-extraction and limiting the élevage, some châteaux have come up with wines that are more delicate and fruity than is typical, but that are pleasant to drink. However, producers that carried on as usual are contending with bitter and horribly earthy wines. Buyers should therefore choose carefully. No one red Bordeaux appellation has come out unscathed. Rather, it is the quality of the vine-growing and the thought put into the wine-making process, estate by estate, that makes a difference.
As often happens in years where maturity is a challenge, dry white wines have fared quite well. Pessac-Léognan whites, for example, while nothing grandiose, combine a refined, delicate quality with acidity, creating a pleasant, fresh aroma, even if these wines should be drunk young.
The biggest successes of the year, indisputably, are sweet white wines. 2012 was a difficult year but in 2013 these wines regained their former glory thanks to perfect conditions for botrytis at the end of the season and a fine acidic quality, promising wines that will age well and are more fresh than sweet.