28 April 2010 News

“2009 may turn out to be the finest vintage I have tasted in 32 years of covering Bordeaux.” That’s quite a statement coming from Robert Parker, but it solidifies the general consensus that is brewing among the wine press and trade. The 2009 Bordeaux vintage was one of the greatest on record, and gave many properties their best wines ever (these wines are denoted with an asterisk, “*”). Among the standouts were, of course, Châteaux Pétrus, Margaux, and Cos d’Estournel, but also Château La Fleur-Pétrus, a VINTUS exclusive, “a mind-boggling effort.” Full reviews are below the jump.

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21 April 2010 News

Tim Atkin, MW, has posted his take on the 2009 vintage, with Château Margaux, Pétrus, and La Fleur-Pétrus coming in for particular praise. And, in “the year of the second wine,” Pavillon Rouge and Pavillon Blanc are standouts. Tim’s full report is here.


Château Pétrus 2009, Pomerol
“Rain in the middle of September was the key to the success of the 2009 Pétrus, according to Jean-Claude Berrouet, enabling the Château to avoid water stress in the vineyard. The resulting wine is delicious, showing great finesse, though not quite as good as 2005. The oak is quite prominent at the moment, but this will age well, thanks to its acidity and underlying structure.” 97 Tim Atkin, MW

Château La Fleur-Pétrus 2009, Pomerol
“One of a number of very good to outstanding wines chez JP Moueix in 2009, this is a very impressive La Fleur. Deeply coloured, aromatic and slightly spicy, with great texture, integrated tannins, fresh acidity and considerable length. A wine that gets better and better in the glass and doesn’t rely on over-extraction or alcohol for effect.” 96 Tim Atkin, MW


Château Margaux 2009. Margaux
“Paul Pontallier calls this one of the “densest wines, but also the sweetest” he has ever made. Very aromatic and alluring, this has cherry and redcurrant fruit, a touch of bramble, well-integrated oak, assertive tannins and lively, refreshing, palate- cleansing acidity.” 98 Tim Atkin, MW

Pavillion Rouge 2009, Margaux
“Paul Pontallier is considering the possibility of a third wine in 2009, such (in his view) is the quality of his second wine, Pavillon Rouge. This has a delightful elegance to it: silky and fresh, with red and black fruits intermingled on the palate and grainy tannins. The 60% new barrels are a little too prominent at the moment, but should fade into the background with time.” 93 Tim Atkin, MW

Pavillon Blanc 2009, Margaux
“This pure, barrel-fermented Sauvignon Blanc is one of the great dry whites of the vintage. It may be a varietal wine on paper, but it transcends its grape to produce something that is all its own: creamy, aniseedy and lightly toasty, with lovely “leesy” fatness and a grapefruity tang.” 93 Tim Atkin, MW

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’re back!  Many things happening, including an update of our website, but we digress…this email is about Bordeaux 2009.  The first wines are being released, and we thought it would be a good time to send out a few thoughts on the vintage.

Many of you have heard the hum building around the 2009 vintage, but a lot of variables are still to fall in place – namely, pricing for the classified growths and the thoughts of Robert Parker.  Plenty of press and trade have made their pronouncements; we’ll try and stick to some nice stories and pictures, with softly worded opinions.

Many people are saying something along the lines of, “while there are exceptional wines, they are not as consistent as 2005”; “some wines were too big”; etc.  Objectively, 2009 is a vintage marked by record or near-record levels of concentration, tannin and alcohol.  As stated previously, we’re not going to make overly authoritative statements, and have no desire to contribute in encouraging higher prices in a still very difficult environment.  After two weeks at home, however, and looking back at our notes, we think there are so many spectacular wines among the top hundred properties.  It will be hard not to view 2009 as a great vintage.   We’re happy at this point in time to lay out the same “ifs” and “buts” as everyone else, but the fruit in these wines is so pure, powerful, complex and long, it’s astounding.  And as everyone has been saying, the producers that made wines of freshness and balance made truly extraordinary wines.  That’s our generalization, take it as you will.

It may come as a surprise to some, but among the very first producers to commit to VINTUS back in 2004 were Christian Moueix, Chateau Margaux and Chateau Cos d’Estournel, and we have been heavily involved in Bordeaux with every vintage campaign since 2003.  Michael has spent a quarter century visiting Bordeaux, returning at least once a year for en-primeur and various other occasions.  We are the exclusive US importer for two of Christian Moueix’ jewels, Chateau La Fleur-Pétrus and Chateau Providence, and work with any number of classified growths as well as properties that offer great value.  In a great vintage, we’ll purchase on futures up to 100 of the properties we feel most confident about in terms of quality and trade and consumer interest.

In subsequent posts you’ll see some more specific commentary, as well as photos from our recent trip to Bordeaux.

16 April 2010 News

The Wine Advocate‘s Neal Martin is on the ground in Bordeaux for En Primeur 2009, and has some high praise for Château Margaux. He also has a lengthy interview with Paul Pontellier. According to Pontellier:

The 2009 is a special combination of power and softness, the most concentrated and densest Chateau Margaux that we have ever made…even more than 2005…much softer than 2005. There were no excesses in 2009, yes, a drought but not a severe one. The temperatures were average with just a couple of hot days and a couple of cool nights. The density of the 2009 reminds me of 2005, but the texture reminds me of something supple and sweeter. The best lots of Cabernet Sauvignon remind me of the 1990, but that wine does not have the same concentration. Perhaps one can think of the 2009 as having the density of 2005 with the softness of 1990?

And the wines? At the top of their game, and the best from the appellation.

Château Margaux 2009
“A blend of 87% Cabernet Sauvignon, 9% Merlot, 2% Petit Verdot and 2% Cabernet Franc, close to the average proportions of the last 10 years. The final alcohol comes in at 13.2-13.3%. An extremely alluring bouquet: blackberry, cassis and violets, your quintessential Margaux really, but cloaked in a sense of sensuality and sumptuousness that is rarely seen. Very fine definition with touches of cold limestone coming through. The palate is brilliantly poised with filigree tannins, breathtaking delineation and focus. There is immense intensity here, the energy of the channel with a crisp, taut finish. Wonderful length.” 96-98 Neal Martin, Wine Advocate

Pavillon Rouge de Château Margaux 2009
“This has a lucid purple colour. A plush, sensuous nose with black cherry, cassis and violets: very pure, in some ways reminding me of a combination of the 1996 and 2006 but with more panache and vigour. The palate is medium-bodied with very fine tannins, quite edgy on the entry, very good acidity here, a certain symmetry that perhaps has been missing in recent vintages. The finish is very natural, showing very fine minerality and poise. This is superb.” 92-94 Neal Martin, Wine Advocate

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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12 April 2010 News

Pavillon Blanc, the 100% Sauvignon Blanc white of Château Margaux, is frequently rated at the pinnacle of white Bordeaux, and the 2009 is no different, earning the top spot in the Wine Spectator‘s coverage.  James Suckling’s review says it all:

Pavillon Blanc du Château Margaux 2009
“Shows impressive aromas of lemon rind and papaya, with hints of cream. Full and very layered, with the density of a red wine. Long and flavorful, offering a pretty balance of ripe fruit and acidity like a grand cru Burgundy. The château says that they have pulled back the alcohol and given the wine a little more freshness and length. It worked.” 95-98 Wine Spectator

10 April 2010 News

Jancis Robinson, MW, has posted her reviews of the 2009 Bordeaux vintage. Château Margaux came in for the highest score of the vintage, 19+/20, followed closely by Château Pétrus (19), Château La Fleur-Pétrus (17+), and Pavillon Blanc and Rouge (17 each). Full reviews are below the jump.

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7 April 2010 News, Videos

Jancis Robinson has a great video up on her site featuring Château Margaux’s Managing Director Paul Pontallier and owner Corinne Mentzelopoulos discussing the 2009 Pavillon Blanc. Concerned that the wines might become too rich with higher potential alcohols, the Margaux team opted for a more restrained style, using canopy management to keep the ripeness of the Sauvignon Blanc in check. The resulting wine, says Jancis, “is much leaner, racier, more mineral – and probably longer-lived.”

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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