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Bordeaux 2009 Revisited: St Emilion

Written by JW. Posted in Bordeaux

IMG_5436St Emilion proves a difficult appellation to generalize about in 2009. Clearly some truly great wines have been made here. Angélus, Cheval Blanc, Figeac and Belair Monange are absolute beauties. Many other properties have made forward and delicious wine but quite a few remain as thick, ponderous and extracted as they did early on. Maybe this is as it always is in St Emilion.

There are obviously a great many different terroirs in this appellation. St Emilion is geologically and geographically very diverse. Winemaking approaches also span the spectrum from the marginally interventionist to the overtly so. Relatively warm, dry years can also prove a little tricky for Merlot, especially when grown on drier, sandy soils. This is partly why Pomerol normally eclipses St Emilion in such vintages with its [generally] more water retentive clay-based soils. Those properties in St Emilion that have more Cabernet Franc in the blends often out-perform those based exclusively on Merlot in such vintages, and 2009 was a year that produced exceptional Cabernet Franc in St Emilion, in just the same way as it favoured the Cabernets on the left bank.

So much for the generalisations. The MW Institute’s tasting last November lined up twenty or so of the appellations finest wines, with Ausone, Clos Fourtet, Beauséjour-Duffau and Pavie perhaps the most obvious exceptions. Certainly the wines displayed a lot of tannin and extract early on in April 2010 during primeurs. For me this cast something of a question mark over the vintage’s true greatness here. Great wines had been made obviously, but many seemed undrinkably extracted and dry early on. Four years down the track, which look the most promising in the glass at this point?

Château Cheval-Blanc was undoubtedly pick of the crop. This is fabulous Bordeaux, with forward, complex, come-hither aromatics and exceptional harmony on the palate. Close-neighbour Château Figeac continues to look extremely good too, though the sample was a more inky and reductive initially, suggesting the wine has gone into something of a slumber.

Château Angélus has produced a very intense and concentrated wine. There’s such a lot of material here but it feels pretty tight currently. I’d put Château Canon in this category too. This is a very concentrated and serious effort which needs time. Château Trottevielle, is in a similar in style to these two if smaller in scale. This is a structured and intense effort that also appears to have shutdown somewhat. All the elements are there, it just needs a good five years to open up. Angélus and Canon on the other hand look to me like they need a decade or so to reach their best and both will surely prove very long-lived.

Château Belair-Monange looks absolutely wonderful in 2009. There is terrific purity and freshness here and the wine stood out all the more for these virtues in a range of wines that frequently felt numbingly similar. While Belair-Monange is already a beauty it has the freshness and balance to develop further.

Château Canon-la-Gaffelière and Château Pavie-Macquin both look very good. These are both rich and ripe efforts, crowd-pleasingly so, but manage to retain a sense of balance. They are ready to drink now but will age further. Château Larcis Ducasse is in a similar vein – forward, unctuous and attractive.

I’m not quite sure what to say about Château Troplong Mondot. This seemed to be managing the impossible on previous showings – an extremely ripe and heady cocktail weighing in at over fifteen degrees that somehow seemed to work. Troplong seems to have fallen of its trapeze on this showing. All I got was something thick, chewy with feet made of lead.

I was not especially impressed with Château Balestard La Tonnelle, Château Beau-Séjour Bécot, Château Bellevue, Château Cap de Mourlin, Château Dassault and Château La Tour Figeac. This is not to say that these wines are faulty or incorrect, it’s just that they either lacked life, personality or freshness, and/or felt over-extracted and over-worked. Beau-Séjour-Bécot was a particularly surprising mis-fire as I recall it looking in good shape shortly after bottling.

Those that managed to have freshness, ripeness and joy include Château La Dominique – a typically vivacious, fruit-packed effort – Château La Couspaude, Château Grand Corbin [very exciting] and Château Petit Faurie de Soutard.

Like I said at the top, St Emilion in 2009 overall is something of a mixed bag. There’s plenty of fine wine here, but there plenty too that feel far too pushed. There’s also a lot of recipe winemaking in evidence. Nevertheless take a peek at the detailed notes below anyhow as, despite this, there’s still quite a range to the wines. All were tasted as part of the MW Institute’s Annual Claret tasting last November.

Château Angélus

Deep and very saturated; very intense and inky with lots of depth and material; resin and ink; this is a very dense wine with lots of material and extract, tightly wound; pretty tannic and chewy on the finish. Very dense and long-term. 2019-2040. 95+

Château Cheval Blanc

Mid depth, dark at core; very attractive nose – real fine Bordeaux here – enticing aromatics – blackcurrants, undergrowth, leaf and floral tones; perfect Cab Franc with its delicate, leafy and harmonious tones along with roses, floral tones and plummy spice from the Merlot; spicy and layered on the palate with blackcurrants and really fine Cabernet tones; lots of depth and nice grip to this wine which has wonderful tension which makes it more-ish Bordeaux. Extremely harmonious. Perfect surely? Drink now – 2040. 100

Château Balestard La Tonnelle

Deep and saturated; very figgy, and sweet; feels overdone and a bit tired; thick palate with plenty of weight but not much life. Tannin at the end. May appeal to some, not me. Drink now-2025. 86

Château Beau-Séjour-Bécot

Deep and saturated; some earth, prune notes; thick; thick and ripe again on the palate; lots of depth and extract; lots of fruit but feels a little chunky and extracted overall. Has shown better. Drink 2017-2030 88-90?

Château Belair-Monange

Deep and saturated looking; purity here; some blackcurrant fruit, freshness here; stone fruit notes; blackcurrant fruits on the palate with real purity again; I really like this – has lots of freshness, elegance and length. Excellent effort. Attractive already but probably needs a few years first. Drink 2017-2035. 95+

Château Bellevue

Deep and saturated looking; some earth and chocolate; pretty deep and some thickness and sweetness but there is some freshness; ripe and rich palate; thick certainly – pretty saturated with big tannins and pretty extracted. Needs to settle and lets see. Drink 2017-2029 87

Château Canon

Deep colour and tight to the rim; inky and intense; stones and wet-rocks; ripe and rich with lots of saturation but remains clean and pure. Very long and classical. Lots of material tightly coiled and needs time. Drink 2019-2035 93+

Château Canon-La-Gaffelière

Deep and saturated look – glossy; ripe and lifted with developing notes, liqourice, spice and menthol; very ripe fruit; full palate, spicy and full – very packed with ripe flavours with some leaf and spicy tones and lots of chew at the end. Drink now-2030. 91+

Château Cap de Mourlin

Deep looking; sweet and ripe, figs, molasses and hint of marzipan; thick and chewy with lots of tannin. Feels extracted and stewed and rather one-dimensional with a rather extracted finish. Drink now – 2025. 86

Château Corbin

Deep and saturated looking; stony, some red fruits; not too unctuous and syrupy but still rich; ripe palate with some chew but fresher and more attractive to me than Cap de Mourlin. Drink now – 2025. 88

Château La Couspaude

Deep and saturated looking; very deep at the centre; attractive plumy fruit which is fresh [yippee!]; pretty layered, thick and ripe; lots of saturation and flavour; spicy tones, spicy plums with tannin at the end but nicely done. Drink now – 2025. 91+

Château Dassault

Deep and saturated; figgy, saturated style; thick and saturated; not too tannic but has chew and sap [might be a little oak resin]. Actually quite tannic on the finish. Drink now – 2025. 87

Château La Dominique

Very deep and saturated look; spicy plum tones with some earthy development; attractive to me; very saturated and full on the palate but not leaden and plodding. Nice sap and not cloying. Freshness alongside the depth and extract. Very good handling of the vintage. Drink now -2030. 93

Château Figeac

Deep and saturated, very deep at the centre; inky blackcurrant tones, little reductive initially; some mealy Cabernet Franc tones; intense and more pent up them a few years ago, has shut down somewhat; lots and lots of extract and fruit but really polished and harmonious; lovely palate. Very focused and tightnening up. Tannin at the end but ripe. Tighter and more shut down than previously. A great wine, but closed currently. Drink 2019-2035. 95+

Château Grand Corbin

Deep and saturated; red fruits, strawberry tones; lifted and very attractive and fruity; ripe entry, flesh, some spice and plum tones; pretty good effort this and feels fresh but also with ripe, lifted fruits – so you have your cake and eat it, so to speak. Nice substance on the finish. Extract and chew on the finish but in proportion. Very nicely done. Drink now – 2025. 92+

Château Larcis-Ducasse

Deep and saturated looking; think and inky, some liquorice, tar; pretty lifted effort; some mocha and coffee notes; fleshy and ripe on the palate; blackcurrants; thickness too but remains attractive overall. Drink now-2029. 91+

Château Pavie-Macquin

Deep and saturated; very deep indeed; fat, sweet and lifted with black fruits, plums with some prunes; thick and ripe and saturated with lots of material; unctuous but not too thick; tannic at the end. Rich and heady but with drive and purpose. Drink now [almost] – 2030. 92+

Château Petit Faurie de Soutard

Deep and intense; ripe Cabernet Franc tones; attractive; spicy, leafy notes; with good structure. Generally quite full and creamy and really nicely done. Drink now – 2025. 90+

Château La Tour Figeac

Deep and saturated look; some stalky notes, plum and spices; very full; ripe and thick palate with lots of saturation. Lots of material but also lots of tannin. Feels a little over-extracted in the end. Let’s see how this develops. Drink now – 2025. 87

Château Troplong-Mondot

Deep and saturated; very dark in the glass; thick and figgy; palate brighter than the nose suggests; ripe and thick with lots of structure; still feels very thick and very chewy. Now in no-man’s land a little. Was impressive at primeurs and after bottling but this sample feels overly thick and chewy. See how it goes, give it time. 2019-2035. 90-92?

Château Trottevielle

Pretty saturated look; spicy Cabernet Franc; blackcurrants, cereal notes and attractive delicacy; blackcurrants on the palate with real ripeness; lots of tannin now emerging but good-ish flesh. This has shut down and needs five to seven years to open up. Drink 2017-2030 92+

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