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Tasting the 2009 Vintage in Bordeaux



I have just spent three amazing days in Bordeaux tasting over 300 wines from the 2009 vintage. Mike and Rich joined up with Patrick Baugier and myself to see for ourselves what this much heralded vintage is all about. In a word it is AWESOME.

Patrick is a Bordelais with an enormous spread of contacts throughout the region. He drove us around and made sure we didn’t miss a thing. This explains why we managed to taste close on 400 wines. We tasted through all qualities – from Petits Chateaux of the Cotes de Bourg to Ch Lafite and Ch Margaux. We also tasted some quite magnificent Sauternes and Barsac. One thing that stood out was how immediately accessible these wines are. We were spitting throughout but it was often very difficult to do so, and nearly impossible with the sweet wines!

We started off on Monday, where we tasted a selection of over 50 Petits Chateaux from earlier vintages for possible addition into the Club Claret range. We have found ten or so which you will be hearing about later in the year.

From then on, we drove up and down the Medoc, calling in on the numerous tastings of the local commune wines, the Cru Bourgeois and finally the Cru Classé. Many of these tastings were in the Chateaux themselves where the hospitality of our hosts was exceptional.

The consensus of opinion about this vintage is that we are looking at wines that compare to 2000 and 2005, perhaps a shade better than the former and tussling for pole position with the latter. What was also fascinating to witness was the powerful presence of merchants and traders from China, Japan, Korea, Taiwan and even India. This is a vintage that will sell out en primeur very quickly – be warned.

The daily visit to six or so tastings culminated in some very happy evening dinners, be they in Bordeaux restaurants, private homes or Chateau environments. Here we were able not only to talk wine but finally swallow a few glasses and remind ourselves, as if we needed reminding, how delicious mature Bordeaux wines are.

I had to return to England today, to collect my car, only to drive back to France tomorrow for a few days skiing with my grandchildren in the Haut Savoie. I am not complaining, except seeing Mike, Rich and Patrick heading off in the car to Ch d’Yquem, and then on to St Emilion and Pomerol, with Ch Petrus on the menu, left me with a frog in my throat!

Over the next few days, I will be more specific about the wines we tasted. In fact we will be putting together a shopping-list of the best of the bunch for you to think about. Till then, salut!

Anthony Foster MW


An update on recent Bordeaux Vintages – Part 4


The 2003 vintage followed that incredibly hot summer when temperatures were up in the 40 degrees Celsius (well into the 100’s Fahrenheit) day after day, At Vinexpo, that pivotal wine fair held in Bordeaux every two years, iced water was the star of the show. There was very little rain and in a land where irrigation is simply not allowed, there was a severe risk of the grapes shriveling. Mercifully the rain arrived in time and good quantities of very ripe sometimes shrivelled grapes with low acidity were harvested. Some of the fruit tasted stewed, some simply luscious.

Nobody felt that the wines would be anything more than massively fruity and fairly short-lived because of the over-ripe tannins and lack of acidity. Well Bordeaux is an amazing region for great wines and the 2003’s stubbornly wanted to be amongst them and now we are seeing a surprising number of very classy wines – in particular from the Medoc – showing great complexity.

Recently I enjoyed drinking three examples of this fascinating vintage

Château Pichon-Longueville Baron 2003 Pauillac
Nice sweet, cassis nose, also chocolatey, and rich. It was concentrated, sweet and full. The palate was firm, complex and had full rich spicy fruit and firm tannins. It had wonderful balance and great length. Very special

Château Cos d’Estournel 2003 Ste Estephe
A wonderful velvety, toasty nose that’s round and powerful. It was very rich wine with plenty of ripeness and luscious fruit with a coffee edge to it. It has balanced oak and enormous concentration. A wine with enormous power and potential longevity

Château Pavie2003, St Emilion
Surprisingly from the right bank where wines were not generally as successful as those from the Northern Medoc, this wine showed great class. At once it had rich and chocolately with roast coffee notes and some very sweet dark fruits. The palate was powerful, full and concentrated with plenty of oak influence, along with the sweet fruit. Really delicious and still a keeper.


An update on recent Bordeaux Vintages – Part 3


The 2000 vintage was much hyped. Everyone wanted a great wine for such a memorable year. Seemingly they were going to buy whatever. Thank heavens it turned out to be a fine vintage in Bordeaux. Indeed now as the wines are coming round it is being considered as an even better vintage than originally thought.

Bordeaux 2000 is the story of a vintage in two parts: after a warm winter and wet spring, the first half got off to a bad start. A sultry wet winter and the biggest mildew attack since the 1870 was only brought under control by a flash of heat in June. Then July, usually the powerhouse of any vintage, was overcast and cool. At the end of July, if this had been 30 years ago, the vintage would have been lost already.

The second half was a total turn-around, and, as the long, dry days of August and September progressed into harvest time, things got better.

Picking started around 20th September in ideal conditions but rain did arrive on the 24th and picking stopped. The rain only lasted twenty-four hours and was not the downpours of previous years. Many estates delayed picking immediately after rain and some held off until October and were rewarded by an Indian Summer which produced wines of gorgeous ripeness. Some growers picked in September and their wine just missed the boat, but were still of good quality. One of the keys to this vintage is recognising this in the wines.

Quoting Jancis Robinson who emailed me the other morning: “Last week I had the great pleasure of 'looking at' nearly 50 of the more significant red Bordeaux from the 2000 vintage now celebrating its tenth birthday. This is traditionally the time at which classical red bordeaux starts to come round and starts to provide good drinking.”

Quality abounds in all regions with many wines already very accessible but clearly with the potential to live on for another 20 years or more. Even though prices opened substantially higher than the 1999’s, most of the great wines have trebled in price since release.