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CHATEAU MARGAUX

2nd June 2010 News

“Rarely has a young Bordeaux vintage been so much fun to taste as 2009.” So says Ian D’Agata, Stephen Tanzer’s man in Bordeaux and the director of the International Wine Academy of Rome, in the latest International Wine Cellar.

“If anything, the best wines of 2009 have a vaguely Burgundian quality to them, as difficult as that may be for the Bordelais to stomach! In my experience, this Burgundy quality is only to be found in great vintages. While it’s not too difficult to get powerful, balanced wines from cabernet and merlot in good vintages, it is a much rarer thing to unite the brute force those varieties are capable of achieving with the dainty, almost ethereal aromatics and gentle tannic architecture of 2009. And the best Bordeaux of 2009 are indeed wines of uncommon power, charm and perfume.”

In D’Agata’s telling, Châteaux Pétrus and Margaux come in for particular praise, and he calls Pavillon Rouge “my candidate for the best second wine of the year.” Full reviews are below the jump.

Pomerol

You can’t say the Berrouet family wasn’t born under a lucky star. The first vintage for Jean-Claude Berrouet, the long-time winemaker at Moueix who is still very much in evidence as a consultant, was the great 1964, and now his son Olivier has kicked off his career as the new technical director at Pétrus with the even better 2009. I asked Olivier if it wasn’t a little daunting to be in charge of one of the world’s most famous wines, and he just smiled, saying modestly: “No, really, being the new kid in town here, I’m just trying not to upset anybody’s routine! And both Christian Moueix and my father always remind me that when it comes to Pétrus and the wines of Moueix, it’s all about teamwork.” The 2009 Pétrus is my early candidate for wine of the vintage. Of particular note: while the young merlot vines were harvested beginning on September 17, the old vines were not touched until October 1, and this may be part of the secret of this amazing wine. There had never been as long a wait between the two harvests. This wine provides a clear illustration of the importance of terroir: the famous clay buttonhole on which Pétrus rests allowed the vines to escape the effects of water stress, and this made all the difference in 2009.

Château Pétrus 2009, Pomerol
“Fully saturated ruby-red. Mindblowingly intense, utterly hedonistic nose redolent of sexy, superripe blueberry and blackcurrant complicated by sweet Oriental spices, cocoa and coffee. Then creamy-smooth and downright voluptuous, with superconcentrated blackberry, blueberry and plum flavors complemented by delicate smoke and flint nuances. The utterly palate-saturating finish features silky-smooth tannins and finishing fruits, spices and minerals that go on for minutes thanks to harmonious acidity. I should note that the strength of finishing minerality goes beyond what I usually associate with this wine. The final wine may contain 1% cabernet franc, but that decision had not been made at the time of this tasting. This wine merits 100 points on the strength of its nose alone. 97-100 IWC

Margaux

Asked what he thought of his wonderful ’09 Margaux, Paul Pontallier beamed and said, “This is the most concentrated Margaux we have ever made, but it is so smooth and balanced that I can tell from people’s faces when they hear me say so that they just don’t believe me.” There are many reasons behind the success of the 2009 grand vin, chief among them being the small volume produced. Almost as important are the investments that have been made here in new steel temperature-controlled fermentation tanks and a more specific approach to vineyard work in which the vines within specific sections of vineyard plots are harvested separately and at different times. “For example, we have always had a parcel of merlot vines we never thought was good enough for the grand vin,” Pontallier explained. “But by further dividing it up into four different sub-parcels, and by picking each one at ideal ripeness, we suddenly realized that one-quarter of the plot actually yields excellent grapes, the quality of which we weren’t aware of previously.” Readers should note that in an effort to further increase quality, Margaux declassified as much as 30% of its wine to third-level status. In fact, there’s so much of this juice now that they are thinking of creating a new entry-level wine altogether.

Château Margaux 2009, Margaux
“Good full ruby-red. Pure, ripe aromas of cassis, graphite and cedar, lifted by floral and mineral high notes. Dense and amazingly concentrated yet light on its feet, with compelling, extremely pure flavors of spicy blackcurrant, tobacco leaf and minerals. The extremely long, slow-building and wonderfully fine-grained finish offers an exhilarating combination of power and sweetness. This comes across as quite backward today yet is anything but austere. A real essence of Margaux’s great terroir, and one of my favorite wines of the vintage. As I walked to the parking lot with Pontallier after the tasting, he said to me, “If people don’t think this is one of the greatest wines I have ever made, then it means I haven’t really understood anything in the last 30 years spent making wine.” 97-100 IWC

Pavillon Rouge 2009, Margaux
“Bright ruby. Knockout nose melds violet, red cherry, milk chocolate and menthol. Wonderfully concentrated and primary, with a soft texture and captivating inner-mouth perfume to the red cherry and mineral flavors. An impeccably balanced wine with impressive vinosity and grip. Finishes with sweet tannins and excellent length. This very dense wine is probably the best Pavillon Rouge ever made and is my candidate for the best second wine of the year. Pontallier believes this is the first Pavillon ever that can rate with some less successful Château Margaux bottlings of the past.” 90-92 IWC