Despite the perception that the country has in recent years lost out to South Africa and the combined forces of Chile and Argentina as the world’s cutting edge wine making powerhouse, Australia remains one of the most exciting places to make wine. Partly it’s because it is a unique place – the country is huge with some of the most diverse terrior in the world – but also importantly because of the open-mindedness and energy of the Aussie wine makers themselves – especially when you get amongst the privately owned wineries.
An isolated strip of red soil on the South Australian and Victorian border has for the past fifty years provided Australia with its finest Cabernet Sauvignon. Great Cabs do come of course from Western Australia’s Margaret River and also from Victoria but no region in Australia has consistently produced such fine Cabernet as Coonawarra. In that sense it is the ‘Medoc’ of Australia, if not necessarily in style, certainly in importance.
This year the London International Wine Fair celebrates its 30th birthday. For a number of years the event has been held at the ExCel centre in London’s docklands – a vast aircraft hanger of a place en route to Beckton deep in London’s once industrial East End. It’s a well organised event, and impressive in scale – the UK wine trade’s version of the Birmingham Motor show – but it’s also an alarmingly tricky place to taste wine. It must be something to do with the multitude distractions, the thousands of people or the weird lighting that makes it a tough job for even the finest wine to sing in this setting. That said there were a number that looked good on the first day here.
Here’s is a brief summary of the top Bordeaux 2009 wines I tasted in late March and early April. Big caveats here in the selection. Although I did taste 160 plus 2009s, I didn’t get to all the Chateaux I wanted to in the trip. The most notable omissions in the Médoc were, Cos d’Estournel, Montrose, Latour, Pontet Canet, Ducru, Las Cases and Palmer, in Pessac-Léognan Haut-Brion and La Mission, in St Emilion Cheval Blanc and Ausone and the JP Moueix properties in Pomerol, obviously Pétrus, Lafleur-Pétrus and Trotanoy. I tasted most of the Sauternes with the exception of d’Yqyem and Climens. These taken together are clearly an important bunch! I hope to visit these properties in the coming months so news on them will follow when I do. Anyway, here are the scores of my best so far. Hope it’s useful.
2009 is a wonderful vintage for Sauternes and Barsac. It is not that common that the conditions for a great red wine year provide the same conditions for a great sweet wine year but this does look to be the case in this vintage. Although it is early days the wines in general have a wonderful delicacy and balance and the warm year produced ripe fruit, high in flavour and with high potential alcohol.
For me St Emilion was the trickiest commune to judge in 2009. The year had some problems. Hail the size of golf balls did much damage to the vineyards in May [damage was also reported in the Médoc at the time] and a few days of rain in mid September may have cause problems for some vintners who harvested shortly afterwards. My tasting was limited to those wines on show at the Union des Grands Crus tasting at Chateau Beau-Séjour Bécot. So clearly there are a few caveats to the St Emilion review here.