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OTHER BORDEAUX

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

Sauternes

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