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19 April 2010 News

On the left bank,  Cabernet was clearly king, reaching perfect ripeness, with some Merlot getting a bit too ripe for use (or if included, taste).  There were many, many great wines across two let’s call them two “categories”; we’ll call the first category “reserved” and the second “full-throttle”.  “Reserved” in this vintage means there is still more fruit and everything else than any vintage we’ve tasted, it’s simply a differentiation from the style of the larger wines.

For us, there were two wines that epitomized this “reserved” style, and had the special character of truly great wines;  like Pétrus on the right bank, you immediately knew you were tasting a wine where everything was already together and in harmony, and it was a special moment even in the midst of rushing from property to property.  For us, these wines were Margaux and Lafite.   Pitch-perfect balance, finishes that went on and on, nose and body changing every time you came back to the glass.  Incredible.
There were plenty of other spectacular wines, however, and these included in the “reserved” category:
  • Rounding out the first-growth wine pornography: Haut-Brion was more tannic than many Medoc wines, and had more structure.  It has everything right now and we’re reading that you can mark it down at the level of Lafite and Margaux and don’t doubt it [it’s important to realize that evaluating wine six months after the grapes were crushed is a bit crazyy], but everything just seemed to be coming together already for those two wines.  Mouton we only tasted once, and while the nose was exotic and expressive, the palate was not giving much; there was a lot there, but it wasn’t budging, and unfortunately we did not taste it a second time.
  • Montrose: being called one of the wines of the vintage, and we think that’s right.  Powerful but it falls in the “reserved” category because it has a lot of structure, feels effortless, has a sense of restraint, and the fruit profile is transparent – earthy, spicy notes, beautiful fruit, it all unfolds more note-by-note than with larger wines.
  • Grand Puy-Lacoste: one of our favorite wines; this one does not try and burn out or cover up the herbal character of Cabernet, and those notes work so well with the fruit and spice here, and very long.  Really showing how the properties that emphasized fresh Cabernet did better.  Lacoste-Borie was solid for those looking for value.
  • Pichon Baron: powerful but structured, fantastic fruit and concentration.  We think that this will open up beautifully over time and will be a great Pichon.
  • Pichon Lalande: wonderfully complex, long and graceful, really stunning.
  • Léoville-Poyferré: Another one of our favorites from the UGC St. Estpehe/Pauillac/St. Julien tasting (along with Pichon Baron, Pichon Lalande and Lynch Bages), this wine had tremendous complexity and structure, one of our very top St. Juliens.
  • Lynch Bages: rounding out our top five for the UGC tasting, an unexpected surprise – it wasn’t just good, it was really, really good.  Wonderful balance of red and black fruits, spices, earthiness and herbs, nothing sticking out, all working seamlessly, and a long finish.
  • Léoville Barton: pretty open considering the property, you could almost call it supple up front, then powerful and structured through the mid-palate and to the finish.
  • Palmer: so much poise, very balanced red fruits that are so fresh, vibrant and well-defined.  Fantastic, really precise despite being so powerful.  This wine was so impressive while being seductive as well.
  • Malescot: impeccable balance, beautiful, giving everything it has.  Many people argued that one commune or another on the left bank had the best 2009, but at the top level you could find in each commune four or five wines that were truly great.  Tasting Château Margaux, Palmer and Malescot back-to-back-to-back left us incredibly impressed.
  • Many, many more really good wines.  We realize that this very brief overview focuses on some of the larger names, and while we’re hoping that this is a full-on campaign with interest at every level, and we do feel there is great value to be had, as we stated at the start it’s our sense that the top wines will drive this campaign.
On the lusher, more powerful end of the spectrum were the following left-bank wines:
  • Cos d’Estournel: many have pinned it as a wine of controversy due to the incredible concentration and high alcohol level, but we spent a half hour with the wine and will disagree.  It is nearly black, and very concentrated and powerful, but unbelievably complex; if you sit with it  you can’t stop yourself from coming back again and again.  The fruit does not taste over-ripe, and there is no roasted character.  Ultimately it is so complex and there is plenty of structure and enough acidity to build on; as we view it, Cos is a monumental wine in 2009, and we feel that ten years down the road its detractors will come around.
  • Ducru-Beaucaillou: undeniably ripe, but it is so balanced it doesn’t feel weighty.  You could almost put this in the “reserved” category given some of the wines we’ve put there, but it has a lushness that places it in the “full-throttle” category.   Really silky and sensual, very seductive, clearly one of the top Saint-Juliens, and one of the top wines we tasted, impressive given it was literally the first wine we tasted in Bordeaux.  Whether you like tasting in what feels like a night-club is more up for debate!
  • Pontet Canet: supple, lots of red fruits on the nose, goes all over the palate, very concentrated red fruits.  Was more convinced tasting it a second time a few days later, when it showed more freshness.  It fills every crevice in your mouth and is tremendously long.
Some photos and commentary:
Not only was Château Margaux incredible, but both the Pavillon Rouge and Pavillon Blanc were the best we’ve ever tasted.  All the Margaux wines exhibited the same character; they were not about obvious power, you searched for their best qualities at first, got a hint, and then as you came back again and again it dawned on you how great the wines really are – they simply don’t stop changing or growing, and they are the epitome of a phrase we hate to use but will put out there, “iron fist in a velvet glove.”

Tasting with Paul Pontallier and Aurélien Valance; they're looking pleased for good reason

Chateau Cos d’Estournel

Everything at Cos is epic: the cellars, the tasting room, the library of old vintages…and the 2009 wines.

The army of small, conical fermenters in Cos d'Estournel's new cellars is other-worldly

Haut-Brion and La Mission Haut-Brion

All four reds and three whites from these properties were tremendous.  It was one of the more impressive sittings we attended.

Unquestionably the best gift bag


The Sauternes (and whites for that matter) in 2009 are superb.  With the heat there was a lot of concentration, and in comparing 2007 many said that to have a truly great vintage in Sauternes you need the heat of a 2009.  2009 is also the vintage for sale, so you can take it with a grain of salt, but the wines had a lot of power and balance.
We spent a fascinating hour at Château Suduiraut on a rainy afternoon.  While Sauternes is the Rodney Dangerfield of Bordeaux, the more you understand the wines the more you pull for the wines, and hope that in a vintage where the reds will get a lot of attention there will be some looks at the sweet wines.

The courtyard at Suduiraut

The courtyard at Château Suduiraut

19 April 2010 News

We tasted a lot of the top 2009 Saint-Emilion area wines, most of them next to each other at an important negociant tasting.  Some of the Saint-Emilion wines – well a lot of them – are massive.  They have just so much ripe fruit and tannin, it’s unbelievable.  Many carry it off without a sense of heat, pretty astonishing.  They will be crowd pleasers, and in the refrain you’ll hear us repeat over and over, the ones that have the most freshness and a defined structure were our favorites.  These included:

  • Perennial favorites and shout-out to the Count: Château d’Aiguilhe (Cotes de Castillon), always a stupendous value, and Château Canon La Gaffelière (truly exceptional in 2009) from Count Stefan von Neipperg.
  • Pavie Macquin, Troplong Mondot, Larcis Ducasse all spectacular, tremendously complex, and with character despite being so concentrated.
  • Angelus, Peby Faugeres (big) and Clos Fourtet (one of the prettier Saint-Emilions tasted, focused and beautiful) also quite delightful.
  • There are a lot of big, complex Saint-Emilions, and we think there will be some high scores.  The Saint Emilions were in some senses the hardest wines to taste, given their size – after going through 30 of them your mouth was overwhelmed by the gushing fruit and tremendous tannin (even if it was so ripe).

Pomerols were a bit trickier, as an ultra-powerful style did not seem to suit the wines; balance was the big issue, but when the wines hit the mark they were spectacular.  We heartily recommend the entire stable of Moueix Pomerols, not just the ones we carry.  And among the other wines, we were particularly impressed by La Conseillante, which is ripe,  dark and powerful but really carries it off so well that the wine is elegant above all.

12 April 2010 News

Wine Entusiast‘s Roger Voss was on the ground in Bordeaux for Primeur Week, and has posted his initial reviews of the vintage. The wines are excellent across the board, he reports, with some châteaux producing their finest efforts ever, at least in the initial tastes. As others have reported, this is a ripe year that has found impeccable balance, with rich flavors and smooth tannins. Says Voss:

Across the region, there are great wines. Comparisons are being made to 2005, 1982 and, even, for those with long-enough memories, to 1947. There are also some references made to records from the 1893 vintage. Although the summer was long and hot, the daytime temperatures never reached the excessive levels of 2003. Nor were summer nights as warm as those in 2003. That means that 2009 wines are balanced, even with all their richness.

Any way you slice it, 2009 was a great year, with many stellar wines. Roger’s reviews are below the jump. Enjoy!

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30 March 2010 News

James Suckling of the Wine Spectator is on the ground tasting the 2009 vintage in Bordeaux, and he is deeply impressed with the quality coming out of the Right Bank. Says Suckling,

“That’s what is so impressive with the vintage. Apparently, many of the young wines are the most concentrated ever from their respective wineries, yet the young reds remain fresh and balanced. I keep hearing about the concentration levels of polyphenolic compounds, or tannins, being off the charts. Winemakers say they are 88, or 95, or whatever. It doesn’t mean that much to me. But it does mean that the 2009s, in many cases, are packed with ripe tannins, yet they are balanced and remain fresh.”

2009 is shaping up to be one of the best vintages of the decade, with powerful, concentrated wines that will likely be long-lived. James’ initial reviews below speak for themselves.

Château  Pétrus 2009
“What a nose this has. I close my eyes when I smell this, and I see perfectly ripe Merlot grapes crushed in the vats. Blackberry, mineral, black licorice, coffee bean and chocolate lead to a full body, with round yet firm tannins and beautiful fruit. The luxurious finish offers a cashmere texture and gorgeous fruit. Rich and subtle.97-100 Wine Sepctator

Château Providence 2009
“Offers fabulous aromas of crushed blackberry and blueberry, with lightly roasted coffee bean and black olive. Full-bodied, delivering polished, chewy tannins and a long, juicy finish. Rich and powerful. Blockbuster. Roasted fruit on this. Best ever from here?” 95-98 Wine Sepctator

Château La Serre 2009
“Blueberry, blackberry and mineral aromas follow through to a full body, with fine tannins and a juicy, chocolate finish, turning velvety and beautiful.” 90-93 Wine Sepctator

26 March 2010 News

We’re gearing up for the en primeur campaign for 2009 Bordeaux next month, and the initial reviews coming out are extremely promising. James Suckling of the Wine Spectator is on the ground in Bordeaux, and has the first look at some of the region’s top wines. On the Right Bank:

Some châteaus obviously got it completely right. Among them today were the 2009 wines of Cheval-Blanc, Pétrus, Ausone, and La Fleur-Pétrus, among others. And many others got it very, very close to right. I tasted a lot of excellent wines today.

And on the Left Bank:

The 2009 Cos-d’Estournel was mind-blowing, with masses of unctuous fruit, big and powerful fruit-coated tannins, and a fresh finish. I thought of Harlan or Colgin when I first put my nose in the glass, but then it was full-throttle Bordeaux on the palate, with powerful yet polished tannins and a long, long, balanced finish. This was obviously the fruit-forward school.

Château Margaux, on the other hand, featured more of the reserved, classic claret approach. It was quiet and held back on the nose and palate at first, with crystal-clear fruit and perfumes, but as I tasted the wine, it grew in my mouth, with layers of ultrafine tannins that lasted for minutes on the finish. “On paper, the 2009 is the most powerful wine that we have ever made, even more so than the 2005,” said Paul Pontailler, the technical director for the first-growth, who was emphasizing how the tannin extract in his 2009 was the highest ever. “At the same time, our 2009 has the mark of our terroir, with so much power, yet it maintains a wonderful softness and balance.”

James’ initial reviews are below the jump.

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23 March 2010 News, Videos

Decanter interviews Christian Moueix and covers a whole range of topics, including the entrancing Château La Fleur-Pétrus.  The 1998 vintage showed extremely well at the scene of this interview, the 2009 Decanter Fine Wine Enounter, and Christian Moueix also says the 2001 vintage is drinking very nicely.  Also covered are Christian Moueix’ early thoughts on the 2009 vintage, and some thoughts about how and when wines should be judged.

17 March 2010 News, Videos

This video just came to our attention, a great little interview of Christian Moueix by California retailer JJ Buckley, with his take on the 2007 vintage wines just as they are about to hit our shores. Christian Moueix discusses the difficulties of the vintage, what not to do in this type of vintage, and a little bit of his philosophy. The Moueix wines always display telltale elegance and balance, characteristics that in lesser vintages stand out just as much in great vintages, but for different reasons – namely, the wines are charming and provide pleasure, in contrast to some wines that perhaps strive to be more than their raw materials permit.