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Bordeaux 2009 Primeurs: Rich wines in Margaux

Written by JW. Posted in Bordeaux

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. ’

Many estates had to wait for parcels to get fully ripe despite the heat but with the benefit of the warm dry conditions, they could wait. Some were even picking into the second week of October to achieve this. The hot days were also tempered by winds and by cool nights in September which helped retain freshness in the fruit [see earlier post on Chateau Margaux]. Obviously some Merlot was coming in at 16% plus in certain areas but once again the Cabernet Sauvignon, so pure and fresh in this vintage and lower in alcohol, tempered this and provided the backbone of the extraordinary quality here as elsewhere.

Identity Crisis?

The main influence on the taste of the wines to me felt more like the influence of the winemaker than the respective ‘terroirs’. Broadly the wine styles fell into three camps. Firstly those that seemed wonderfully fresh and fragrant with lots of ripe fruit but which weren’t hugely extracted in style. I’d include here Chateaux d’Angludet, Brane Cantenac, Durfort-Vivens, Monbrison, du Tertre and Siran. Then there were those that were meaty and noticeably more extracted such as Chateaux Cantenac Brown, Kirwan, Lascombes, Marquis des Terme and Rauzan Segla. Finally there were those that fell mid-way between the two such as Chateaux Malescot St Exupery, Desmirail and Giscours. All these wine styles can work – and indeed they do – though it does beg the question what is Margaux’s style as a commune? Is it the fragrant, perfumed and feminine one from the textbook or is it changing into something beefy, muscular and stronger? Clearly it is both at the moment. Given this I think that more homogenous wines have been made in St Julien, St Estephe and Pauillac in 2009 but a great many Chateaux here in Margaux have made truly excellent wines, though again in very different ways.

Chateaux Margaux itself has of course managed to pull off something which is really special in 2009, a concentrated and intense wine but one which also delivers freshness and elegance. That’s quite an achievement [see previous post]. One wine that to me was most definitely over-extracted was Chateau Dauzac, more reminiscent of certain wines over in St Emilion. One wine I didn’t get the chance to taste was Chateau Palmer, an omission that I hope will be corrected soon.

The following wines were tasted on 30th March and 1stApril 2010 at Chateau Desmirail in Cantenac. I hope it is not too confusing but I’ve included two sets of notes for each Chateau reflecting the two tastings. There are differences in these samples and judging such young wines is tricky, I hope it is helpful. I have also included notes on Chateau Margaux and Pavillon Rouge Du Chateau Margaux tasted on April 1st at the Chateau in the line-up below.

Chateau Brane Cantenac, Cru Classe, Margaux 2009

Dense supple attractive nose, violets, perfumed; very attractive nose, some coffee; little geranium here; seductive; palate medium weight; soft and supple but with intensity; very feminine; some coffee and mocha with the perfume. Palate round, supple; good length 90+/100. [Second] Fresh; blackcurrants and mocha here; very seductive and ripe palate; nice and flattering; elegant yet intense with perfume and violets coming through on the palate. Attractive & elegant with intensity – very good wine and good length here. 90-92+/100 30th March & 1st April 2009.

Chateau Cantenac Brown, Cru Classe, Margaux 2009

Deep inky; more rasiny and ripe fruit nose; less seductive than Brane; bigger and intense; less sophisticated nose; oak; intense though; palate intense; layered; good intense wine on palate; tannins supple but there is concentration and extraction. Very good intense style, maybe a bit rasiny and not feminine but intense and very ripe. Tannins fine. 90+/100 [Second] Deep, darker more extracted look; BLACK – bit of over-ripeness to the nose; slightly raisin-y note; very ripe palate, some hefty tannins at the back and signs of over-extraction. Lacks the freshness of the best wines.  Quite chewy and tannic. Big, but not sophisticated. 88-90/100 Tasted 30th March & 1st April 2010.

Chateau d’Angludet, Margaux 2009

Inky purple at edge; raw nose; fruit, plums, violets, some vegetal notes; still early days here; palate ripe however withmid palate richness; some concentration – sappy and ripe; bit raw on the nose but very good mid palate; some coffee on the finish. Good. Should settle. 88-90?/100 [Second] Great depth; very ripe, fruit driven nose; some strong blackcurrants; freshness here to the nose;  palate some structure and freshness along with the ripe flavours;  not as polished or as round as the Brane Cantenac but more positive and fresher than Cantenac Brown. Excellent effort 90+/100 Tasted 30th March & 1st April 2010.

Chateau Desmirail, Cru Classe, Margaux 2009

Deep inky; intense and focused nose; tight; layered but good; some minerals and stone quality; palate intense; some real layers and concentration; little bitterness; mocha and chocolate; lots of tannin and good acid and fruit. Could be good. Good length here 90+/100 [Second] Deep black; ripe fruit and violets, good, coffee and mocha, very attractive nose; intense with real layers, some minerals and spice; very impressive; palate silky and fine – very nicely done. Layers and extraction but balanced. Violets, cassis and blackcurrants; tannins very round and soft. Not aggressive. Very well done. 70% Cabernet Sauvignon, 30% Merlot 93+/100 Tasted 30th March and 1st April 2010.

Chateau Dauzac, Cru Classe, Margaux, 2009

Very deep and inky; coffee and oak and extracted fruit nose; big and ripe nose; palate very big, some real ripeness but over extracted for me; reasonable concentration but feels over extracted. Stretched and overdone 86?/100 [second] Very intense coffee bean [toasty oak], palate very extracted and overdone. 86?/100 Tasted 30th March & 1st April 2010.

Chateau Durfort Vivens, Cru Classe, Margaux, 2009

Deep colour; up to edge; slightly dumb note initially later blackcurrant; bit brooding, some fragrance to the palate; violets and elegance; has balance and some tannin; chewy and good extract here; good to very good. Attractive Margaux; true to the commune. 90-92+/100 [Second] Slightly fresher and a little more lifted than the Desmirail; cassis and violets here too but less pronounced, palate intense; some extraction here; tannins a little dry but this is very well endowed with voluptuous fruit, more sturdy than the Des, good extraction. 90-92+/100 [74% Cabernet Sauvignon, 21% Merlot 5% Cabernet Franc] Tasted 30th March & 1st April 2010.

Chateau du Tertre, Cru Classe, Margaux, 2009

Less inky; still vibrant; fragrance here; some rose petal with violets; little reductive ‘gout du chais’ notes; palate quite fine and elegant with structure and grip; lacks a little flesh but should put on weight. 90+/100. [Second] Perfume and violets withlots of blackcurrants beneath; quite elegant in style but withobvious power under the bonnet; soft palate; silky, very good;  fine and harmonious not over extracted; much better sample than before; good length and  long finish. Excellent. The Dutch owners think this is the best wine made here since they took over in 1998. On the basis of this sample I’d agree. 92-94+/100 [55% Cabernet Sauvignon, 22% Merlot, 15% Cabernet Franc and 8% Petit Verdot].Tasted 30th March & 1st April 2010.

Chateau Ferrière, Cru Classe, Margaux, 2009

Fresh, good colour, dense; nice cassis, forward, lots of layers here; coffee and chocolate on the palate; fresh but also with a bit of bite and chew. Nicely done 90+/100 [Second] Deep, vibrant edge; some violets and savory notes with a rawness but opulence at the back; palate some fragrance withalso softer, attractive qualities; depth; extract and material. Quite fine. 88+/100 [58% Cabernet Sauvignon, 40% Merlot, 2% Cabernet Franc]. Tasted 30th March and 1st April 2010.

Chateau Giscours, Cru Classe, Margaux, 2009

Deep and dark, purple at edge; little reductive notes, ‘gout de chais’; some rose; palate quite rich with structure and acid; maybe lacks flesh at this stage; will settle but high toned in style. Not at all like 2005. 88-90?/100 [Second] Deep, arterial colour; ripe, sturdy blackcurrant note; almost feels traditional; fresh with blackcurrant and cassis beneath; layered and interesting; fresh clean palate nicely done; bit of extract and tannin on the finish but plenty of fruit served alongside– will meld in I’m sure. Very good length. Second sample much more settled. 90-92+/100 1st 30th March & 1st April 2010.

Chateau Kirwan, Cru Classe, Margaux 2009

Deep; vibrant at edge; little closed; stone fruits but layers of extract beneath; palate intense, little hard and angular at present; tannic too; good grip and acid; bit awkward at this stage. Will settle. Little mocha on the finish. 90?/100 [Second ] Vibrant and deep in colour; stone fruits and violets on nose; palate quite sweet and attractive; tannic but deep. Freshness but also some sour cherry, savoury edge;  palate sweet and ripe; pretty big;  quite extracted but sweetness here from the fruit. Coffee and mocha. Some alcohol and tannin on finish. Big wine style.92+/100 [13.9 degrees, 56%  Cabernet Sauvignon, 17% Merlot, 13.5% Cabernet Franc 6% Petit Verdot] Tasted 30th March and 1st April 2010.

Chateau Labegorce, Margaux, 2009

Ripe fruit, quite settled nose; some lifted oak notes; palate a bit closed, some fruit here – rose etc – but feels raw at this stage. Tannin. Feels awkward . Tannic at this stage and disjointed. 84-86?/100 [Second] Very ripe note on nose; raisin quality to the fruit though; bit over ripe; palate tannic and over extracted. 84-86?/100 30th March & 1st April 2010.

Chateau Lascombes, Cru Classe, Margaux, 2009

Arterial in colour; very focused and intense colour; very up front on the nose; layered and concentrated; ripe and full with smoky oak edge; palate very intense and extracted withlots of oak and tannin, but perfume and depth here too. Good extract here; quite extracted style. Could be very good but unlike traditional Margaux? 92-94+ [Second] Big and bold, some lift on the nose from the oak; extracted and bold palate; sweet and ripe and upfront with lots and lots of fruit. Great big extracted red style. Showy. Big dense colour. Lots of coffee and toast from the new oak here; lots of extracted fruit; very deep and layers; again lots of sweet ripe fruit but lots of tannin. Others will give it magical scores I’m sure. 92-93+/100 Tasted 30th March & 1st April 2010.

Chateau Malescot Saint Exupéry, Cru Classe, Margaux, 2009

Very deep, inky; colour very tight to the rim; soft creamy and very attractive nose; mulberry, plums and some jam; palate sweet and ripe; lots of fruit here; some mocha and chocolate too; quite a lot of espresso on the finish. Tannins round and ripe – and lots of them lurking there. This is excellent and sexy. 92+/100 [Second] Deep and dark again; more spot on here;  violets, charm obvious concentration but balance; very fresh here, very fine;  coffee and mocha notes;  excellent nose;  just how Margaux should be. Very nice palate; yes extraction but more control. Lovely 92-94+/100 Tasted 30th March and 1st April 2010.

Chateau Margaux, Premier Grand Cru Classe, Margaux, 2009

Dense, concentrated look; legs; very clean and very fresh; very polished for such a young wine; pure and pretty; red fruits, cassisand blackcurrants here; very layered nose; real concentration and power on the palate but held in check by a surprising elegance. Soft, ripe tannins, very attractive and pure. Excellent length. Not an obvious powerhouse but then this is Margaux. Dense and pure with amazing focus and deceptive elegance. I didn’t have the benefit of tasting the ’05 Margaux at the same age, but this is a wine for me that is approaching perfection. 98-100/100 Tasted 1st April 2010.

Pavillon Rouge du Chateau Margaux, Premier Grand Cru Classe, Margaux, 2009

Deep and dense right up to the rim; legs; very attractive red fruits, raspberry notes; real ripeness; rich and dense with wonderful layers of flavour; very supple on the palate; soft ripe tannins; density here and power yet with elegance. Very good wine indeed. 92-94/100 Tasted 1st April 2010.  

Chateau Marquis de Terme, Cru Classe, Margaux, 2009

Very dark inky colour; really tight to the rim; very big and ripe nose; lashings of oak; Blimey! Big ripe palate, some spice, mulberry and blackcurrant. Coffee at edge. BIG tannins – chewy big wine.  Ripe tannins thoug. Will need lots of time 92-93+/100 [Second] Deep and black to the rim; very ripe, almost jammy element; intense cassis; stones; minerals too; violets later; very sweet attack; then followed by tannins – overdone?  Well very big sweet palate and lots of oak tannins. Blimey, quite big here! 92-93/100 [13.5% alcohol, 60% Cabernet Sauvignon, 34% Merlot, 6% Petit Verdot]. Tasted 30th March and 1st April 2010.

Chateau Monbrison, Margaux, 2009

Deep colour; tight to edge; stalky and floral nose; more typical of Margaux; not overdone; a little high toned; blackcurrants; palate sweet, nice entry, fine and elegant; quite perfumed. Good structure with good acid. Not showy but very fine Margaux. You can drink this, not a big point scorer but I’d buy it for its fragrance and lovely balance. 92+/100 [Second] Dense colour; rich; intense; floral violets, perfume and fragrance; very attractive nose; not big and extracted but very sumptuous and full; palate fresh with good structure; tannins not overdone. This is very fine Margaux and one of the best values I’d imagine in this commune. Not as big as the last three but extremely fine and in a different style. Well done. 92-93+/100 [13.7% alcohol, 59% Cabernet Sauvignon 36% Merlot, 5% Petit Verdot] Tasted 30th March and 1st April 2010.

Chateau Prieuré Lichine, Cru Classe, Margaux, 2009

Dark, deep; tight to the rim; some coffee and smoke on the nose; attractive; blackcurrant fruit and some plum; fresh; palate intense; good concentration; quite structured with lots of material and extract; tannic but round and lots of fruit and material here. Chewy. Very good. 90-92+/100 [Second] Perfume and freshness; some violets and cassis; definitely concentrated and big; palate sweet, ripe attack – lots of ripeness; succulent; but tannins too; lots of material and extract. Slightly chunky tannins but not overdone I think; ripe fruit envelops the tannins. Very good 90-92+/100 Tasted 30th March and 1st April 2010.

Chateau Rauzan Gassies, Cru Classe, Margaux, 2009

Sturdy, nutty nose; little bit of wet dog here; intense cassis; palate slightly overdone and extracted. Very dry tannins at the back 86-88?/100 [Second] Dark and impenetrable; inky; ripe fruit; some raspberry and jammy qualities; palate has perfume and some violets but wet wool element here – was a bit of wet dog on the palate – tannins quite chunky. Extracted here. Lacks finesse but has power. If the woolly wet dog element goes maybe 88?/100 Tasted 30th March and 1st April 2010.

Chateau Rauzan Ségla, Cru Classe, Margaux, 2009

Deep and intense; up to rim; sturdy creamy note; summer fruit compote; intense nose; some violets; good palate; structured oak but good flesh here. This is really good. 92-94+. Some coffee and intensity on the finish. [Second] Very deep and dark; perfumed and intense violets; cherry, some eau de vie; plums and very ripe fruits. Palate sweet entry and big and tannic but ripe tannins and not at all drying; Big wine and lashings of fruit with nice chew and bite at the end. Very powerful style of wine which works in this case. Terrific. 95+/100 [13.9% alcohol, 58% Cabernet Sauvignon, 42% Merlot] Tasted 30th March and 1st April 2010.

Chateau Siran, Margaux, 2009

Deep with good edge, vibrant; some floral elements; more violets; slightly higher toned [coming after the Rauzan Segla!] – not super concentrated here; palate slightly spicy, pepper note with stalks; not that bad; fresh; quite high toned but will settle. 88+/100 [Second] Deep, dense; fresh nose, some violets but also bit of beetroot; lower octane here than the previous few; red fruits; very fresh palate; good perfume; more higher toned, Nicely done – quite attractive; extract and material. Tannins but they don’t dominate. Nice gentler more harmonious style. Very good. Knows it’s from Margaux. More settled than earlier sample 90+/100 Tasted 30th March and 1st April 2010.

The Margaux appellation tasting at Chateau Desmirail

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