We are hearing that the 2009 vintage is going to be in the same league as the icon vintage of the noughties, the much vaunted 2005’s. In his preface to the Master of Wine Tasting of no less than 124 wines, which was held in the Vintners’ Hall, London last November, my fellow MW Charles Taylor described the 2005 vintage: “The climatic conditions in 2005 were as close to the ideal as I have ever seen.” A sunny Spring led to a successful flowering in June and rapid and even fruit set. A warm July and August gave over to scattered showers in September with warm days and cool nights, and the resultant slow ripening of the fruit. Picking conditions were perfect, with growers able to choose the precise timing of the vendage in each vineyard. “The result is wine not only of great density and concentration but also of finesse and freshness.”
All regions of Bordeaux enjoyed these conditions and all have made stellar wines.
I tend to score wines using Greek Alphabet scoring α, β etc. I am happy to say there were no γ wines. The beauty of this method is that you can add +’s or –‘s to each letter. So Ch Haut Brion for example scored α+++. To show what a great vintage 2005 is, only six of the wines were in the β’s.
I would like to provide a tasting note for every wine tasted but alas time and space make it impossible. Suffice it to say that I scored 38 wines at α+ or more and that, in other terms, means 95 points or more. All the first growths from both left and right bank justified their position at the top of the tree. What I would like to pick out are a handful of wines lower down in the hierarchy which really succeeded. So, as they say, in no particular order, and from a wide range of price categories..
Ch Leoville Lascases 2eme Cru Classé St Julien
Deep purple black in color, massive Cabernet Sauvignon fruit on the nose and palate, cassis balanced with powerful tannins. A mouthful of complexity and elegance. No where near ready for drinking. Needs another ten to fifteen years when it will be sensational. α++
Ch Siran Cru Bourgeois Exceptionnel Margaux
This wine may not be officially classified as a Grand Cru Classé, but it is playing magnificently out of its league. It has fine elegant fruit on the nose, and on the palate it is full juicy and already very attractive. Glorious balance and elegance with a lingering finish. α+
Ch Pichon-Longueville Baron 2eme Cru Classé Pauillac
Stunning deep opaque purple in color. Gloriously rich powerful nose of cassis, eucalyptus, massively concentrated. On the palate it is rich, juicy with great elegance and structure. It has enormous length and will last forever – 50 years certainly! This wine behaves like a first growth and maybe one day will be. Qui sait? α+++
Ch Palmer 2eme Cru Classé Margaux
Opaque, deep purple, with subdued but very refined mulberry fruit on the nose. On the palate the concentrated juicy fruit and tannins balance beautifully with the acid. Despite being already very appealing, it is a wine to keep as long as you can. α++
Ch Cos d’Estournel 2eme Cru Classé Saint-Estèphe
Deep, deep purple in color, concentrated and massively elegant dark berry fruit on the nose. On the palate, it is a blockbuster, as fine and as classy as any Bordeaux at any level. Long, lingering finish. Faultless. α+++
Ch Bastard-La-Tonnelle Grand Cru Classé Saint-Emilion
Deep in color, wonderful elegant fruit on the nose. Soft round and juicy on the palate, velvety ripe Merlot fruit. Juicy and classey on the finish. A jewel of a wine and not expensive. α++
Ch Bellevue Grand Cru Classé Saint-Emilion
Deep purple in color with elegant mulberry fruit on the nose, firm round and juicy on the palate with enormous concentration and elegance. Another example of a truly magnificent and affordable Saint-Emilion α++
Ch La Conseillante Pomerol
This wine is one of my weaknesses. Every time I drink or taste it, I am transfixed. The 2005 is no exception. Deep purple in color with a glorious cedar and cassis nose. On the palate it is beautifully balanced with soft fruits and tannin, and firm complexity. It will last for years and be increasingly seductive. α++
Of the other wines, currently listed on Wine.com, which are not mentioned above, here are my notes on those that I tasted.
Ch Cantenac-Brown 3eme Cru Classé Margaux
Deep purple in color, soft elegant berry fruit on the nose with spicey notes. Lovely structure and very elegant on the finish. Will age well. α+
Ch Branaire Ducru 2eme Cru Classé St Julien
Dark plum in color, Classic spicey St Julien fruit on the nose, medium weight but great concentration of elegant fruit and fine tannin, Elegant finish. Another keeper but not for too long! α-
Ch Leoville-Poyferré 2eme Cru Classé St Julien
Very deep red in color, velvety round plumy fruit on the palate, slightly auster. Needs a lot of time. α
Ch Clinet Pomerol
Deep deep purple in color, soft elegant berry fruit on the nose. Balanced elegant blackberry fruit and finesse. A classy wine for drinking from 5 years on. α
Ch Mouton-Rothschild Premier Cru Classé Pauillac
Deep purple in color, powerful cedary cassis on the nose. Very refined and elegant, also very closed. This wine lives up to its reputation and, dare I say it, price in every way. α+++
I will attempt to catch up on those missing over the next few months. Also if anyone wants my notes of any wine not mentioned above, please let me know. I will answer providing of course I have tasted it.
Hold your breath for the 2009’s. We will be hearing about opening prices in the next few months. Cross fingers they are sensible.
Anthony Foster M.W.