You might have imagined that a commune like Margaux, tending to have lighter, famously more gravelly soils, would struggle in a hot year like 2009. It is clear that heat stress on the vines did lead to some difficulties with grape ripening getting blocked, but this so-called ‘hydric stress’ did also act to slow down a harvest that otherwise may have completely runaway in alcohol, conditions that would have led to a corresponding evaporation of acidity. Denis Lurton of Chateau Desmirail believes that water stress was key in the vintage, ‘It kept the ripeness in check in the warm weather. The conditions gave us so much control to make different choices and it’s all about the choices. That helped us make a lovely wine. ’
The hot and dry vintage conditions in 2009 were ideal for the clay soils of St Estèphe. On the basis of the half-dozen wines that I tasted, St Estèphe looks to have had a excellent vintage. Chateau Lafon-Rochet in particular was outstanding, as were Chateau Ormes de Pez and Chateau Haut Marbuzet. The following wines [except for Haut Marbuzet] were tasted at the Union des Grand Cru tasting of the wines from St Estèphe at Chateau Batailley on 30 March and 1 April.
A brilliant set of wines from the Haut-Médoc appellation in 2009. These should prove great value as many are out-performing themselves and show what a wonderful vintage this is amongst the supposedly ‘lesser’ Chateaux. There’s nothing lesser about the wines though. There is a suppleness and seductive quality that makes these wines so pleasurable already, but at the same time there is real intensity and concentration beneath which is disguised because of the exceptional ripeness of the fruit. I found nothing really loose here at all.
The great 2009 vintage continues into Moulis and Listrac. Real consistency here with intensity and concentration. The style is as tight as usual but with additional levels of richness and layers and freshness too. Chateau Poujeaux is quite outstanding. Chateau Chasse-Spleen and Chateau Maucaillou not that far behind. Assuming prices stay reasonable these wines below should offer excellent value for money.
In 2009 can Chateau Margaux achieve the impossible and be rewarded with a score greater than 100 – or greater than 20 for those a bit snobby about the percentage scoring system? Why not? If you are prepared to award the perfect score, then once perfection is achieved are there not degrees of improvement to be had? Why stop at 100? If not how exactly is further excellence defined and quantified? So does Chateau Margaux 2009 merit a score of say, 105 points out of a hundred, instead of simply one hundred?
Well 2005 Lafite does have a contender. Judging wines at such a young age – five months since the last day of harvest on 8thOctober – is usually a tricky affair with a fair bit of filling in the gaps, but there is absolutely no doubt that Lafite has produced something truly extraordinary in 2009. Charles Chevallier was already describing the vintage as ‘truly great’ before Christmas, but tasting the wine is something else. It’s a blend of 82.5% Cabernet, 17% Merlot and 0.5% Petit Verdot and I imagine it’s around the 13.5 degree mark, if not more, yet the quality of the fruit and the ripeness of the tannins, alongside perfectly judged extraction and winemaking, mark this Lafite as magical.