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Bordeaux 2009: Primeurs Review

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April 2010

Following a week of primeur assessments there is no doubt 2009 is a truly extraordinary vintage in the Médoc, possibly the best ‘Cabernet’ year in living memory. It is a vintage in which some classed growths are nudging nearly fourteen degrees in alcohol and yet somehow manage to display wonderful balance. 2009 looks an extremely good vintage in Pessac-Léognan for both red and whites, and it is a beautiful year in Pomerol. Sauternes and Barsac have also produced their best sweet wines since 2001. It is relatively unusual to have such a fine red wine year allied to such an excellent year for sweet whites. The only question mark from my tastings was in St Emilion where some of the wines felt to me over-extracted and disjointed, though they may yet settle down.

To say that Bordeaux has produced some of its best ever wines in 2009 does not lessen the tremendous overall quality of the wines made in Bordeaux in 2005, a vintage that was more homogenous across the appellations. Rather it emphasizes just how extraordinary the wines are in 2009, a vintage which to my palate in the Médoc at least, has raised the bar even higher. Its claim to be greater than 2005 will prove controversial but certainly I’ve never tasted a more seductive range of young red Bordeaux.

Climate and vintage conditions  

Overall the year was extremely warm and dry from June onwards. The only difficulties were large hailstorms in May before flowering which were widespread and damaged certain vineyards in St Emilion, the Médoc and other districts. The weather then settled and the summer was warm and dry, conditions which prevailed right through into September and October. Generally the upshot was that by the end of September the red wine grapes had already achieved alcoholic ripeness, but in many cases because of the drought and water stress, physiological ripeness, in terms of tannins and extractable matter, was delayed. The decision therefore when to pick came down to waiting for this equation to be best balanced – not delaying the harvest so late as to lead acidity to evaporate and alcohols to balloon – but neither to harvest when the tannins were green and the pips and materiel not yet fully ripe. The vintage was not as hot as 2003, however, and the nights stayed cool in September and October, which was one of the key features of the vintage, which enabled the grapes, Cabernet Sauvignon in particular, to retain surprising freshness and reasonable acid. The hydric stress also delayed the ripening process and kept alcohol in check to some extent. That said at some Merlot was coming in at over 16 degrees. The red wines exhibit excellent colour, concentration and ripeness of tannin. It is difficult to generalize but I was especially impressed with the wines from St Estèphe, Pauillac, St Julien and Margaux. They were superb and highly memorable. Many estates here think they had produced their best ever wines. On the basis of the wines I tasted, I would be very tempted to agree with them.

ST ESTEPHE

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The hot and dry vintage conditions in 2009 were ideal for the clay soils of St Estephe. On the basis of the half-dozen wines that I tasted, St Estèphe looks to have had a great vintage. Chateau Lafon-Rochet in particular was outstanding, as were Chateau Ormes de Pez and Chateau Haut Marbuzet. Sadly three of the great St Estèphe Chateaux weren’t on show at the Union Des Grand Cru tasting – Chateau Calon Ségur, Chateau Cos d’Estournel and Chateau Montrose and I didn’t have the opportunity to taste their wines separately. I’ve heard that they are all outstanding, Cos has already divided the critics over its huge tannin and alcohol levels more consistent with the Napa Valley. I hope to taste these wines soon. The following wines, except for Haut Marbuzet, were tasted at the Union des Grand Cru tasting of the wines from St Estephe at Chateau Batailley on 30th March and 1st April.

Chateau Cos Labory

Dark black, purple; fresh nose; some raspberry and oak lift; little oak resin; good entry, ripe fruit; more chew here and sweetness; lacks complexity but big and ripe. 88-90/100 Tasted 30th March 2010.

Chateau de Pez

Mid black, vibrant at edge; fresh nose, mulberry, some plums; also minerals and graphite; this is good; well structured palate, mid weight with grip. Will settle down. 88+/100 Tasted 30th March 2010.

Chateau Haut-Marbuzet

Deep and dark; very ripe and pure; lots of chocolate; very concentrated; mulberry, tar, liquiorice; very full and with ripe round tannins. Already drinkable; great length. Lots of extract and material. 13.8% alcohol, Bruno Duboscq reckons this is the richest wine they have ever produced. Terrific. 93+/100.  50% Cabernet Sauvignon, 40% Merlot, 5% Cabernet Franc and 5% Petit Verdot. Tasted 1st April 2010 at the Chateau.

Chateau Lafon Rochet

Deep black; real depth; tight to rim; lovely nose, real ripeness here, layers, mulberry, plums, very ripe and attractive; palate very polished and supple with layers. This is VERY good. Attractive palate with real chew and texture. Tannins but real ripeness to them and lots of fat fruit. Coffee and mocha. The best ever Lafon Rochet. 94+/100 [Second tasting] Deep and arterial; very ripe and creamy; dense but round and attractive; cassis and blackcurrants here; cream – ripe and focused; terrific sweet, ripe palate; intense and extracted but in check overall. Tannic but there is so much fruit here. Potentially fantastic. 94+/100. Tasted 30th March & 1st April 2010.

Chateau Ormes de Pez

Deep black, purple at edge; creamy note here; real ripeness to the nose; quite fat; plums and mulberries; attractive; palate less fat than Lafon Rochet but well structured with tannic bite. Good density. Very ripe, lots of extract and concentration. Great Ormes de Pez on par with the 1982 but with riper tannins. 92+/100 [Second tasting] Ripe strawberry and lots of fruit here; attractive nose; minerals and roses; excellent wine here; tannins a bit present here but lots of ripe fruit to match. 90-92+/100. Tasted 30th March & 1st April 2010

Chateau Phélan-Ségur

Dark, purple at edge; creamy, some resin from oak; some roses. Stalky and fresh. Feels a bit raw at present. Disjointed but should meld. 88?/100. Tasted 30th March 2010.

PAUILLAC

Mouton 2009

Pauillac has had a fantastic year in 2009. The wines are characterized by remarkable freshness, fruit concentration and alcohol, disguised in most cases by the quality of the fruit. It is a vintage also in which the roundness and suppleness of the tannins is quite extraordinary. I had imagined that the tasting would be tough on the palate, but not a bit of it. These wines were a joy to taste and remarkably approachable given they are not much more than five months old, are high in extract and predominately Cabernet Sauvignon. I returned again two days later to re-taste the wines following trips to Pomerol, St Emilion and Pessac-Léognan. This second tasting reconfirmed what a fantastic vintage it really is in Pauillac. I had a chat with Chateau Batailley’s Philippe Castèja during this second visit and he was really excited and described 2009 as very harmonious and lovely vintage. ‘It is a great year for St Estèphe, St Julien and Pauillac, most definitely a Cabernet year.’ He added that he was looking himself ‘to make wines that also will be alive in fifty years time’.  Certainly he should be happy with his own wines from Chateau Batailley and Chateau Lynch Moussas in 2009. The Batailley, one of my favourite good value Pauillacs, in particular is excellent and the best I have tasted.

Both Chateau Lafite-Rothschild and Chateau Mouton Rothschild have produced extraordinary wines in 2009. Lafite for me has the edge and appeared as good as the perfect 2005, but the Mouton is very strong and also close to perfection, the best young Mouton I have ever had. They are two totally different styles. I did not get the chance to taste Chateau Latour. Overall outside of the First Growths, the most impressive Pauillacs were Chateau Pichon-Longueville Baron, wonderful power and concentration, Chateau Pichon-Longueville Comtesse de Lalande, intensity and voluptuousness, and Chateau Lynch-Bages, seductive and powerful. No surprises here I suppose and all three are knockout and I would expect them to get even better as they put on more weight during elevage. Chateau Duhart Milon, tasted separately, is not far behind them in quality. I should point out that there are two important other omissions here amongst the Pauillac crus classes, notably Chateau Pontet-Canet and Chateau Grand-Puy-Lacoste. I hope to taste these also in the coming weeks.

The following wines were all tasted twice, and sometimes three times, at the UGC tasting held at Chateau Batailley. Chateau Mouton-Rothschild, was tasted at the Chateau and Chateau Lafite-Rothschild, Carruades de Lafite and Chateau Duhart Milon were tasted in Duhart Milon’s downtown chais in Pauillac.

Chateau Batailley

Deep purple red; fresh nose, very bright cassis nose, very flattering and perfumed; substantial and round; some pencils and minerals with graphite; this is really good. Palate very harmonious on the palate; cassis, fragrance and blackcurrant. Great stuff. This is very fine Batailley. Very harmonious. Excellent length. Should be terrific value. 13.4 degrees but you don’t notice it. 92+/100 Tasted 30th March & 1st April 2010.

Chateau Clerc-Milon

Bright and clear, deep, purple at edge; very fresh and clean nose; cassis and blackcurrants; very pure and polished nose; blackcurrants on palate; slightly more drying tannins on palate; not quite the sweetness of the tannins of the Super Seconds but good concentration. More polished than the Grand Puy Ducasse but harder than d’Armailhac. 90+/100 Tasted 30th March & 1st April 2010.

Chateau d’Armailhac

Deep, vibrant purple at edge, legs; fresh more perfumed than the Clerc Milon; some real strawberry and cassis here; red fruits; good mid palate richness; really well done here. Very ripe but nicely extracted. Round and supple tannins. Mid weight. Excellent. 90-92+ Tasted 30th March & 1st April 2010.

Chateau Croizet-Bages

Quite dark and extracted looking; more earth and mineral note; less fresh; palate less sophisticated and tannins tough. A little more rustic. OK. May settle down. 86?/100 Tasted 30th March & 1st April 2010.

Chateau Duhart-Milon

Deep saturated black; legs and tight to the rim; very fresh and ripe wine; wonderfully lush blackcurrants; very open – density too and deep; graphite and lead pencils; slightly lighter in weight than Carruades but only by degrees; very pure blackcurrant; wonderful purity of flavour; cassis, blackcurrants. Great wine, lovely length; very round. This is close to Super Second in quality and in its way nearly as good as Pichon Baron and Pichon Lalande 94+/100 Tasted 1st April 2010

Chateau Grand-Puy Ducasse

Dark black, tight to rim; pretty ripe fruit; very blackcurrant style; very fresh and very ripe cassis; sweet ripe fruit; little chunkier tannin here but very good effort. Good intensity and fruit on the palate. Little more tannin chunkiness but very good. Should be very good value. Bold. Best Ducasse of recent years. 90+/100 Tasted 30th March & 1st April 2010.

Chateau Haut-Bages-Libéral

Deep; intense at edge; slightly more leafy note here; more lifted nose; little coarser and less fine grained tannins than the others. Leaf here and slight green streak, palate more disjointed. Hope this settles?  Expected much more in this vintage. This is a good Chateau. 86-88?/100 Tasted 30th March & 1st April 2010.

Chateau Lafite-Rothschild

Deep, dense colour, tight to rim. Lovely nose; wonderful pent up blackcurrants; glossy; cassis and yet more sublime blackcurrants; also graphite, minerals, incredibly deep, this nose is perfection. Palate of purity, brimming with blackcurrants; essence of wine here; sweet ripe fruit; velvety tannins – elegance and intensity. Perfectly balanced. Not the merest hint of over-extraction. On par with 2005. 100/100 1st April 2010.

Carraudes de Lafite

Deep, intense, tight to rim, lovely depth, very fine and intense; blackcurrants, cassis, wonderful ripeness, excellent; very velvety palate, terrific lightness of touch; gentle extraction and great precision; soft ripe tannins, very round and quite profound. Good length. Excellent. 92-94/100 1st April 2010.

Chateau Lynch-Bages

Very seductive and ripe nose; blackcurrants with some lovely oak; very flattering on the nose; wonderful cassis and intensity; terrific; some mocha and chocolate at the back of the nose; very concentrated and a little more extracted than the two Pichons but still very well done and it works; clean; great roundness and ripeness to the wine; little chunkier on the finish here but this is very, very good and should settle down more. Certainly flashy and attention grabbing on the nose and entry, a fraction less polished on the finish than the Pichons. Still terrific though and the best Lynch-Bages I’ve had since the 1982. 94-96/100 Tasted 30th March & 1st April 2010.

Chateau Lynch-Moussas

Deep and inky; ripe creamy nose; cassis; lots of extract and blackcurrants; dense and concentrated though maybe looser on the finish than the best wines here. Very good effort though and should be good value. 88-90/100 Tasted 30th March & 1st April 2010.

Chateau Mouton-Rothschild

Saturated black at edge; lots of blackcurrants here and cassis; a little raw at this stage; very deep; minerals, stone, blackcurrants. Palate layered, quite hard but concentrated. Excellent length; nicely judged extraction and very fine tannins. More tannic than Lafite but this is Mouton. Very good structure. Intense. Very fresh palate with good acid and tannin. [Second tasting note]: Very deep and saturated with purple meniscus; precise blackcurrants; some stones, minerals and graphite; very good palate and entry; fruit and layers; quite good tension in the wine; tannin very well formed and round. Length 30-40 seconds.  Very fresh. Feel this is 98+/100

Le Petit Mouton de Mouton Rothschild

Deep concentrated colour; dense at centre; very ripe and pure nose; layers; cassis; minerals and lots of blackcurrants; some savoury elements at the edge; very layered and concentrated; ripe focused palate; round qualities to the tannin. Good flesh. Quite fresh. Excellent. 90-92+/100 Tasted 1st April 2010

Chateau Pichon-Longueville Baron

Darker and tight to the rim; bigger than Pichon Lalande yet also very focused; pure and very fresh; cassis and blackcurrant; creamy; intense and layered nose; powerful yet composed fruit and layers; very soft pure tannin. Wonderful balance. Not over extracted; very round tannins. Terrific. 96+/100 Tasted 30th March & 1st April 2010.

Chateau Pichon-Longueville Comtesse de Lalande

Less dense than the Pichon Baron; very fresh, very clean and precise; blackcurrants and cassis; quite well gone; focused; strawberry and red fruits; depth; a really voluptuous nose; very sweet, ripe attack; pure and focused; v tight; soft and supple tannin; very ripe tannins. Concentrated but very elegant. Polished and very good 94-95/100 Tasted 30th March & 1st April 2010.

ST JULIEN

Leoville Poyferre cu

This was an extremely satisfying and strong appellation in 2009. Along with Pauillac, St Julien is a contender for commune of the vintage, and has produced wines of great richness, intensity and strength. I’d be delighted to have almost all of these wines in my cellar. Given the slightly greater emphasis of Merlot in the blend here, the wines are usually a bit more approachable at early stage tastings and have more mid palate richness than the Pauillacs. They were certainly very flattering to taste and showed that there was also terrific ripeness in St Julien in this vintage. Most of the best wines were in the 13.5% to 14% alcohol range which is unusual in normal vintages, even despite the continued rise of alcohol in Bordeaux’s top wines. Nevertheless none of the 2009 St Juliens tasted exhibited any heady quality or felt flabby to me. The freshness of the Cabernet seems to have put a stop to that. Some wines were more extracted than others but overall the terrific fruit quality meant that none felt overdone relative to their fruit. Many of the wines in St Julien have a wonderful intensity and many layers of flavour and will prove to be very long lived but I reckon they will also probably be enjoyable from the very beginning.

A number of wines were outstanding. Chateau Beychevelle has produced a beauty which rivals the fine wine made there in 2005 and Chateau Langoa-Barton has made a wonderful wine, without a shred of that Chateau’s benchmark austerity. It is certainly the best Langoa I have ever had. Chateau Gruaud Larose is wonderfully rich and exotic as you would expect in a big year, Chateau Lagrange intense and pent up, but I think this will put on more weight during elevage. Chateau Léoville Poyferre has produced an extremely concentrated wine that is probably on par with the extraordinary wines made there in 1990, 2000 and 2005. Nudging ahead even higher in quality is the fantastic wine from Chateau Léoville Barton. It is clearly a First Growth in all but name. I did not get the opportunity to taste two very important wines from St Julien, Chateau Ducru-Beaucaillou and Chateau Léoville-Las-Cases, but I hope to arrange tasting these soon.  All the wines below were tasted on 30th March and 1st April, twice and sometimes three times.

Chateau Branaire-Ducru

Fresh and clean; some rosehip, cassis and blackcurrants; slightly stalky note; not as round in style as the others; quite structured palate; more hard tannin evident here; one of the more awkward of the St Juliens at the tasting. Hopefully will come round and the score reflects the uncertainty.  88-90?/100. Tasted 30th March and 1st April 2010.

Chateau Beychevelle

Wonderful ripe red fruits on the nose; very seductive and full; very attractive and flattering at this stage; intense and lovely; wonderful fruit balance; again seductive palate; open and very full; excellent length. Tannin high but ripe and overall feel is very supple and round. 13.9 degrees in alcohol but doesn’t feel heavy. A blend of  46% Cabernet Sauvignon, 44% Merlot, 6% Cabernet Franc and 4% Petit Verdot. Terrific wine. 92-94/100. Tasted 30th March and 1st April 2009.

Chateau Gruaud Larose

Very ripe nose; some strawberries and red fruits; very seductive; almost element of jam and super ripeness here; palate intense and concentrated; a wine of fantastic fruit; some real exotic notes to the palate; almost super concentrated Grand Cru Burgundy. Decadent. Fantastic finish. [Second note] Deep black – red to purple at edge; very sexy and open; opulent; already quite nuanced; very flattering; great entry; real ripeness here; seductive fruit; wonderful. Real chew but well balanced. Lots of extract and material but nicely done. Very good length.  94-95/100. Tasted 30th March & 1st April 2010.

Chateau Lagrange

Deep purple black; intense and concentrated nose; tight and dense; very pure and very ripe fruit; cassis; a little pent up compared to the Leoville Barton and Gruaud Larose;  minerals and chalk too; focused again; lots of ripeness here on the palate; tight with some oak tannins at the back. Lots of extract and grip. Should be excellent. Not that showy. Good length. May merit higher score. 92+/100. Tasted 30th March & 1st April 2010.

Chateau Langoa Barton

Vibrant colour; ripe and very attractive nose; very perfumed with red fruits and concentrated – lovely layers here; quite pretty; roses and red fruits; very correct for St Julien; lovely layered palate with good fruit; tannic but ripe with intensity; extract and tannins here but excellent overall. A structured wine. Will age very well. The blend is 54% Cabernet Sauvignon, 34% Merlot, 12% Cabernet Franc. The best Langoa I’ve had. 92-93+/100. Tasted 30th March & 1st April 2010.

Chateau Léoville Barton

Very deep and inky; fresh and very intense nose; focused and very precise; loaded to the brim with fruit; but very intense and concentrated; very ripe flavours; red fruits and lift with minerals. Excellent. Fabulous density; lots of extract and concentration; layers; lots and lots of fruit. Blimey! A concentrated and fantastic Leoville Barton. Nudging First Growth quality here and this is a 30+ year wine. The blend is 77% Cabernet Sauvignon, 22.5% Merlot, 0.5% Cab Franc. Potentially 96-98+/100. Tasted 30th March & 1st April 2010.

Chateau Léoville Poyferré

Dense colour, tight to rim; great focus and ripeness on the nose; very precise flavours and dense; very, very good; very ripe here; some minerals, graphite and cassis; wonderful intensity and purity on the palate; simply loaded with fruit and layered with structure beneath; little tannic at the back but lots of layers of fruit here to support this. Excellent finish. Nearly 14 degrees. The blend is 60% Cabernet Sauvignon, 29% Merlot, 5% Cabernet Franc% and 6% Petit Verdot. Terrific effort. 94-96+/100. Tasted 30th March & 1st April 2010.

Chateau Saint-Pierre

Mid depth and purple at edge; freshness; little unsettled quality to the nose; sturdy; less concentrated than the two Leovilles tasted; palate pretty and floral; slightly higher toned; lacks the depth of the great wines here but should fill out and knit together. 88+/100 Tasted 30th March & 1st April 2010.

Chateau Talbot

Very ripe fruit; round; some leaf less super rich than stable mate Gruaud Larose but a very well balanced wine; feels round; some cassis and spice here on the nose – attractive. Palate very soft, mid weight and nicely done; some cassis and spice and briary notes to the palate; tannic edge on the finish but lots of fruit here and tannins feel very ripe and supple. Excellent 90-92+/100 Tasted 30th March & 1st April 2010.

MARGAUX

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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. Depending on the particular terrior, 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. Nevertheless 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.

Terrior v winemaking

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 Ségla. 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, is it something beefy, muscular and extracted or is it a combination of both? Clearly it is all three at the moment. Despite these variations in style a great many Chateaux in Margaux have made truly exceptional wines in 2009, though again in very different styles.

Chateaux Margaux itself has of course managed to pull off something which is really special, a concentrated and intense wine but one which also delivers freshness and elegance. That’s quite an achievement. 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 separately on April 1st 2010.

Chateau Brane Cantenac

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 tasting] 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

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 tasting] 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

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 tasting] Great depth to the nose; 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

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 tasting] 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

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 tasting] Very intense coffee bean [toasty oak], palate very extracted and overdone. 86?/100 Tasted 30th March & 1st April 2010.

Chateau Durfort Vivens

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 Desmirail, good extraction. 90-92+/100 [74% Cabernet Sauvignon, 21% Merlot 5% Cabernet Franc] Tasted 30th March & 1st April 2010.

Chateau du Tertre

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 with lots of blackcurrants beneath; quite elegant in style but with obvious power under the bonnet; soft palate; silky, very good; fine and harmonious not over extracted; much better sample than before; good length and a long finish. Excellent. The Dutch owners think this is the best wine made here since they took over in 1998. 92-94+/100 [55% Cabernet Sauvignon, 22% Merlot, 15% Cabernet Franc and 8% Petit Verdot].Tasted 30th March & 1st April 2010.

Chateau Ferrière

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 savoury notes with a rawness but opulence at the back; palate some fragrance with also 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

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

Deep; vibrant at edge; little closed; stone fruits but layers of extract beneath; palate intense, little hard 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 Labégorce

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

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 with lots 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 even more magical scores I’m sure. 92-93+/100 Tasted 30th March & 1st April 2010.

Chateau Malescot Saint Exupéry

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 94+/100 Tasted 30th March and 1st April 2010.

Chateau Margaux

Dense, concentrated look; legs; very clean and very fresh; very polished for such a young wine; pure and pretty; red fruits, cassis and 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

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

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 though. 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, very 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

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 Priéure Lichine

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

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

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

Deep with good edge, vibrant; some floral elements; more violets; slightly lighter 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.

HAUT-MEDOC

Cantemerle

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 but there’s nothing lesser about the wines. There is suppleness and a seductive quality that makes these wines so pleasurable already, but at the same time there is real intensity, concentration and tannin beneath which is disguised because of the exceptional ripeness of the fruit. I found nothing really loose here at all. As you would expect Chateau La Lagune, Chateau Cantemerle and Chateau Belgrave are all extremely impressive. Belgrave has made its best wine ever here I reckon. Chateau La Tour Carnet is also a hit too in my notes. But even the other Chateaux are very appealing. It is great to see such voluptuousness and concentration in wines that, hopefully, we should all be able to afford!  And they should drink wonderfully from the start – they are already at just five months of age.

Chateau Beaumont

Dark and deep, ripe Cebernet nose, slightly stalky; fresh; soft and sweet palate; attractive; perfume – ripe and attractive. Very good. 55% Cabernet Sauvignon, 40% Merlot and 5% Petit Verdot. 88+/100 Tasted 30th March 2010 

Chateau Belgrave

Deep inky purple; legs and concentrated colour, tight to rim; sweet and seductive nose; very tight and professional; some cedar, violets; lots of extract on the palate but wonderfully supple and polished. Some coffee and mocha from the Merlot and the oak. Very good wine. As good if not better than the super ’05 here. An estate that is going from strength to strength. Should be super value. 92+/100 Tasted 30th March 2010.

Chateau Camensac

Deep, inky; some beetrooty notes, spicy; solid; palate solid yet also supple; lacks sophistication and polish; Goodish. 88/100 Tasted 30th March 2010

Chateau Cantemerle

Very deep purple and inky up to edge; very attractive nose; deep and seductive; particularly supple but concentrated; very attractive and very easy but with lots of fruit. Ripe and very good. Some coffee and mocha tones at the back. 90-92+/100 Tasted 30th March 2010.

Chateau Citran

Earthy purple, up to rim; sweet, slightly jammy edge to nose; lots of fruit and raspberry and blackcurrants; palate quite precise; real suppleness again here with intensity; this is really remarkably ripe. Great wine here. The best wine since their sumptuous 1990. Nice finish. 90+/100 Tasted 30th March 2010.

Chateau Coufran

Deep, dark up to edge; sturdy nose; lots of ripeness too; attractive and ripe. Good chewy palate. Lots of guts and material. Good effort 88+/100 Tasted 30th March 2010.

Chateau de Lamarque

Dark; very sweet and ripe; nice lifted note; nice ripeness again here; lovely nose; ripe big palate; little lacking in complexity but big and satisfying. Extract and tannin but will last. Very good 88+/100 Tasted 30th March 2009

Chateau La Lagune

Deep and dark, tight to rim; ripe fruit notes; really ripe; maybe lacking a little complexity; lots and lots of ripe fruit with new oak tannins; supple palate with lots of ripeness but also concentration so the style doesn’t at all feel loose; tannin at end. Very good. 92+/100 Tasted 30th March 2009

Chateau La Tour Carnet

Deep colour, inky; sweet attractive nose; nice oak; seductive and some substance beneath. This could be a great buy. Quite precocious. Intense, serious palate with grip. Very good. Lots of tannin and extract but very good finish. Great winemaking revival here under Bernard Magrez. Could be a real hit. 92+/100 Tasted 30th March 2010.

Chateau Malescasse

Dark, inky, tight to edge; stalky, sturdy wine; slightly green streak; palate similarly stalky and sturdy. Some perfume but also geranium. Bit tannic and dry at the end. Also lacks a bit of interest. 84-86/100 Tasted 30th March 2010.

Chateau Greysac

Ripe notes; some stalky elements but ripe and more attractive than the Malescasse on the nose; some smoke and spice behind. Very ripe; palate very full and generous. Lots of flavour, material and tannin. 88+/100 tasted 30th March 2010.

Chateau La Tour de By

Dark, opaque at centre; very soft and sweet ripe nose; lovely and fresh, but also classic La Tour de By. Ripe soft palate, good material and extract. Attractive and supple. Will soften further. Should offer great value. Very good. 88+/100 Tasted March 30th 2010.

MOULIS & LISTRAC

The great 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 in 2009. 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.

Chateau Chasse-Spleen

Black, inky; very ripe red fruits, little unsettled reductive cellar note, but blackcurrants beneath. Concentrated, layered palate lots of fruit and lots of tannin. Tannic but real length and precision. Quite taut, will need time but potentially very fine. 90+/100 Tasted 30th March 2010 

Chateau Maucaillou

Deep colour, tight to rim; Ripe and pretty nose, really very good, wonderfully attractive nose with depth; palate concentreated and ripe with extract and tannin, blackcurrants and mocha. Very good, very fresh and with length. Terrific effort 88-90+/100 Tasted 30th March 2010.

Chateau Poujeaux

Deep black, right up to rim; very intense and attractive nose, pent up but classic; cassis and blackcurrants. Excellent. Intense and already layered. Sophisticated attractive palate. Nice and intense and with good mid palate richness. Excellent with grip and acid to balance. Tannic but plenty of flesh and concentration. This is astonishingly good! Potentially 92-93+/100 Tasted 30th March 2010.

Chateau Clarke, [Listrac]

Deep colour; quite pretty fruit nose; some blackcurrant; jammy note – very ripe here; raspberry even strawberry; palate full and fruity with the same red fruits on the palate. Softer palate than the Fourcas Dupre. 88/100 Tasted 30th March 2010.

Chateau Fonréaud, [Listrac]

Deep, intense colour; attractive nose; some new oak here, some vegetal notes but also blackcurrants; palate sweet entry, up front fruit and attractive [almost Chateau Charmail style here]. Quite grippy and toughness but lots of fruit here too. Good 86-88/100 Tasted 30th March 2010.

Chateau Fourcas Dupré, [Listrac]

Dark, healthy red at edge’ some chalkiness but with great intensity [less open than the Fourcas Hosten below]; ripe palate tannic but with lots of fruit to back it up. Fruit here – raspberry and blackcurrant, tannin too. 88/100

Chateau Fourcas Hosten, [Listrac]

Deep and inky, blackcurrants and minerals, almost Pauillac like; some leaf; would be very happy with this myself; palate sturdy, some pretty oak influence, but with depth; less obviously fleshy than the Haut-Medocs and the wines of Moulis; more tight-fisted but very good. 88-90/100 Tasted 30th March 2010.

PESSAC-LEOGNAN & GRAVES

189

In 2009 the red wines of Pessac-Léognan and Graves are characterised by a lot of colour, fruit and tannin. Generally they are very good to excellent in quality with lots of fresh fruit and richness, some more layered on the palate than others, and the tannins, while pretty big and dry in a few cases, are generally not over extracted and are ripe.  The whites were impressive; some lacked a bit of acid and zip but others such as Chateau Pape Clément, Chateau Domaine de Chevalier, and Chateau de Fieuzal are potentially great. The whites are not as aromatic as some years and therefore less fresh tasting than recent vintages.  I hope to taste the wines of Chateau Haut-Brion and Chateau La Mission Haut-Brion on a future trip. The following wines were tasted at Chateau Smith Haut Lafitte as part of the Union des Grands Crus de Bordeaux tasting on 31st March 2010.

Chateau de Chantegrive, [Graves]

Blanc: Pale straw, very attractive oak influenced nose; honey and toast; some waxy notes; palate sweet and ripe; some soap and wax on the palate; lacks a bit of zip and acid. 85-86/100 [50% Semillon/50% Sauvignon] Tasted 31st March 2010

Rouge: Nice healthy colour; purple; some pretty qualities to the nose, some fruit, more obviously fruity; Palate strong and with acid and tannin. Bit high toned and grippy. Needs to settle. 86?/100 Tasted 31st March 2010.

Chateau Ferrande, [Graves]

Blanc: Very pale straw; appley nose; sturdy; some grassy notes; some roundness; palate has weight and lacks a bit of zip and feels a fraction flabby. 86/100 [60% Semillon, 40% Sauvignon Blanc] Tasted 31st March 2010.

Rouge: Deep, good palate; earthy and healthy; interesting smoky note; flint with earth; interesting; tobacco at the back; soft palate, very sweet; nicely done. Well balanced wine. Already agreeable and complex. Good 88+/100 [Second] Slightly herby edge to nose; smoke and tobacco; plate earthy and good. 88/100 Tasted 31st March 2010.

Chateau Rahoul, [Graves]

Blanc: Pale straw; grassy sauvignon style; some spike, some leesy notes, waxy notes and lees on the palate. Quite fat and will round out further. Potentially good. 88+/100 [80% Semillon, 20 Sauvignon Blanc, 80% fermented in barrel] Tasted 31st March 2010.

Rouge: Purple at edge; deep; good density and fruit; some stalky qualities; nice concentration and quite good mid palate richness. Soft tannins and round. Very good. 88+/100 [70% Cabernet Sauvignon, 28% Merlot, 2% Petit Verdot] Tasted 31st March 2010.

Chateau Bouscaut, [Pessac-Léognan]

Blanc: Very pale straw; some wax here; some smoke; fresh and attractive; palate attractive and round with MLF and barrel notes. Very good 90+/100 [50% Semillon, 50% Sauvignon – 40% barrel fermented, one third new]. Tasted 31st March 2010.

Rouge: Healthy red-purple; earthy; pretty nose; lovely violets here; attractive; some coffee bean at the back; compact but intense; good; palate similarly clean and fresh with precise flavours here, some blackcurrants and mocha on the finish. Grippy too. Very good. Tannins ripe and round. 88-90+/100 Tasted 31st March 2010

Chateau Carbonnieux, [Pessac-Léognan]

Blanc: Very pale; apples; fresh; more weight on the palate; some waxy Semillon tones and again good freshness and some acid to balance. This could be good. 88+/100 Tasted 31st March 2010.

Rouge: Deeper than the Bouscaut, quite tight to the rim; nice ripe creamy nose; ripe fruit aromas; polished; palate intense, some wood tannin here, will soften up. Very complete and satisfying. Lots of fruit and well done in a structured style. 90/100 Tasted 31st March 2010.

Domaine de Chevalier, [Pessac-Léognan]

Blanc: Pale straw; attractive wine; some cashew and apple; grassy note from the Sauvignon Blanc and waxy tones from the Semillon. Palate very fresh and bold with good structure. Very good wine. Intense and with good acid. Good zip at the end. Potentially really excellent 92-94/100 [80% Sauvignon Blanc, 20% Semillon] Tasted 31st March 2010.

Rouge: Mid red, black; healthy; strong nose; blackcurrants and wet stone; some spices; but stone and mineral elements; ripe; palate open and nicely done; blackcurrants and some stones and minerals on the palate; dense and quite structured. Tannins but in balance. Will be good 90-92+/100 [45% Cabernet Sauvignon, 27% Merlot and 8% Petit Verdot]. Tasted 31st March 2010.

Chateau de Fieuzal, [Pessac-Léognan]

Blanc: Very attractive white nose; cashew, ripe fruits; fresh too; palate fresh, some soap and very attractive. Excellent structure. Will fill out. Very Good. 90-92+/100 [70 Semillon, 30% Sauvignon]. Tasted 31st March 2010.

Rouge: Dark, meaty colour; fresh and creamy; very ripe here; mulberrys; layered; palate modern and layered with oak and extraction; layers and well done; tannins a little dry. If it settles could be 90?/100. Tasted 31st March 2010.

Chateau de France, [Pessac-Léognan]

Blanc: Very pale straw; fresh, grassy notes; elderflowers and an early summers day; nicely balanced acid; some ripeness and roundness; little flat at the end but good. 86-88/100 [80% Sauvignon Blanc, 20% Semillon] Tasted 31st March 2010.

Rouge:  Deep red and black up to rim; very ripe, rather monolithic big nose; some stalk, blackcurrants but big; almost figgy Languedoc notes here; palate similarly styled; big and ripe but big tannins and lots of extraction. Chunky style. 86?/100. Tasted 31st March 2010.

Chateau Haut-Bailly, [Pessac-Léognan]

Deep and tight to rim; concentrated colour; quite deep fruit and intensity here; slightly dumb but sense of ripeness; opens up in the glass a little; quite polished palate but lots of extract here; tannins quite dry; chewy; lots of tannin. Long hall wine here. Tannic. Needs to settle, at present extracted and tannic. If settles 90-92?/100. Tasted 31st March 2010.

Chateau Haut-Bergey, [Pessac-Léognan]

Blanc: Pale straw; lots of barrique influence here; toasty and smoky; some apple beneath, ; oak influenced palate; broad with nuttiness and has some zip and zing. May develop well. Good. 88+/100 [80% Semillon, 20% Sauvignon Blanc] Tasted 31st March 2010.

Rouge: Dark and deep; ripe, some strawberry tones; more fruit driven style; fresh; palate sweet entry; lots of extract but pushed to hard here. Feels over extracted. Tannic and drying finish. ?/100

Chateau La Louvière, [Pessac-Légonan]

Blanc: Very clean, very grassy style; hay and meadow in early summer, palate some barrique notes and wax. Not huge acid. Pretty good. 88+/100 [100% Sauvignon Blanc 30% barrel ferment]

Rouge: Deep; slight reductive note; some smoke at the back; slightly stalky; blackcurrants beneath; palate quite fresh with fruit tannins; extracted palate. Will knit together. Good grip. [Later] ripe red fruits, layers and fresh; sweet oak on palate and good grip. This will be 88-90/100. Tasted 31st March 2010.

Chateau Larrivet-Haut Brion, [Pessac-Léognan]

Blanc: Quite clear, nice toasty barrique note; some race; palate sweet and ripe; toasty and attractive will round out. Very good. 90+/100 [65% Sauvignon, 35% Semillon] Tasted 31st March 2010

Rouge: Black at centre, arterial; ripe fruit nose, some figs, molasses, quite ripe, but monolithic; palate quite fruity with violets and lots of extract and tannin. Big, briary, blackcurrant wine. Concentrated but tannins on the drying side. May prove better once settles down. [later] Very ripe nose, briary fruit, open; good palate, clean and perfumed, chewy.  88+/100  Tasted 31st March 2010.

Chateau Latour-Martillac, [Pessac-Léognan]

Blanc: Very pale; grassy note with barrique note; quite round and attractive; apples, attractive palate will fill out; fresh, apples and citrus notes, grapefruit. Lots of zip here too. Well done 90-92+/100 [35% Sauvignon, 65% Semillon]. Tasted 31st March 2010.

Rouge: Dark concentrated to edge; concentrated red fruits, plums and figs, very ripe flavours; some polish here; sweet entry on palate, then the tannin arrives; chewy and concentrated. Will need time to meld but lots of elements. [Later] Ripe and fruity, rich cake like palate with flesh and red fruits. Tannic but ripe tannins. Potentially 90+/100. Tasted 31st March 2010.

Chateau Les Carmes Haut-Brion, [Pessac-Léognan]

Mid red, black; some pretty qualities at the edge of nose; red fruits; palate sweet and ripe; quite fresh; tannins hardish and dry. Chewy. Needs to settle. [Later] Mid red,black; some roses on the nose; quite pretty; palate sweet but then tannins, strawberry fruit here but overwhelmed by tannins at present. Very tannic and dry. Needs to settle, very awkward at present. 86?/100. Tasted 31st March 2010.

Chateau Malartic-Lagravière, [Pessac-Léognan]

Blanc: Fresh apples and citrus flavours; clean and some roundness to palate and candy and fruit; attractive with some bite 88+/100 Tasted 31st March 2010.

Rouge: Very deep coloured to the rim; fresh and bright fruit; some red fruits and briary notes; very ripe; palate elegant but intense and concentrated with extract an d tannin. Very chewy. Earthy elements, good nose and fruit but tannic. [Later] fruit ripe here and cake like; ripe warm feel; good palate entry with roundness, tannic bite at end] 88-90+/100. Tasted 31st March 2010.

Chateau Olivier, [Pessac-Léognan]

Blanc: Very pale straw, grass, apples and some grapefruit and citrus notes; fresh and good; nice palate, refreshing with good zip. 88-90+/100 [Sauvignon Blanc 90%, Semillon 10%] Tasted 31st March 2010.

Rouge: Concentrated, fresh, healthy colour; little high toned, nicely perfumed; some violets and raspberries alongside some stalky components; palate sweet entry, concentrated and layered palate; this should work and come together. Big and tannic. 90+/100 [50% Cabernet Sauvignon, 50% Merlot]. Tasted 31st March 2010.

Chateau Pape Clément, [Pessac –Léognan]

Blanc: Pale straw; very attractive cashew with grass and wax tones; palate candy and cashew, very appealing; broad palate. Quite excellent with good depth and length. Amongst the strongest whites tasted. 92-94+/100 [50% Sauvignon Blanc, 48% Semillon] Tasted 31st March 2010.

Rouge: Dense and concentrated; attractive fragrance; floral and pretty with good underscore of oak; best nose here, the most flattering; palate sweet and ripe and pretty with lots of perfume; power behind; little hard at present but will round out. Excellent. Seductive. The classic iron fist in a velvet glove. 94-95+/100 Tasted 31st March 2010

Chateau Pique Caillou, [Pessac-Léognan]

Blanc: Pale straw, grass and attractive; well developed; not over done here or dominated by the oak; palate has zip; lacks a bit of depth but will probably fill out. 88/100 [80% Sauvignon Blanc, 20% Semillon ]

Rouge: Good density of colour; fresh; fresh fruit nose with earthy undertow; ripe and sturdy with layers; some prettiness here; palate spicy and briary notes; red fruits; concentration with tannin and acid; good mouthful with grip at the end. Grippy and very good. Should be good value.  88-90/100. Tasted 31st March 2010.

Chateau Smith Haut Lafitte, [Pessac-Léognan]

Blanc: Very pale; very sturdy nose, ripe, apples; good palate and fresh; more citrus and apple elements; some grapefruit; very fresh and zip. Will fill out. Ponetially very fine. 90+/100 [90% Sauvignon Blanc, 5% Semillon Gris, 5% Semillon]

Rouge: Healthy concentrated colour; pretty quality to the nose here; some violets etc; fresh and clean; precise and some sweetness; big palate with structure but also life here; very good palate. Some savoury notes. Excellent 90-92+/100. Tasted 31st March 2010.

ST EMILION

vineyards outside beausejour

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 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-Sejour-Becot and on a future trip I would like to try a number of other wines including obviously Chateau Cheval Blanc and Chateau Ausone. So clearly there are a few important caveats to the St Emilion review here.

At the tasting number of wines stood out for both excellent quality and structure, such as Chateau Canon and Chateau Figeac and in the big, bold extracted style Chateau Canon-la-Gaffelière worked well as did a monster weighing in at 15% at Chateau Troplong Mondot – somehow its balance seemed to defy gravity. Chateau Beau-Séjour Bécot will also be very good when it settles. Yet a number of the wines felt over extracted and their tannins often very dry and marked, making the palates seem unduly hard. This searing level of tannin made many of the wines very difficult to assess for me. On the basis of the wines tasted 2009 is a somewhat disjointed vintage and lacks the homogeneity found elsewhere in Bordeaux, even in close neighbour Pomerol. Maybe this is also partly due to the wide variety of terroir here in St Emilion from clay, limestone to sandier soils. I certainly hope that the disjointed wines do settle. All the wines below were tasted on 31st March 2009.

Chateau Balestard La Tonnelle

Dense; ripe fruit nose; some vanilla; intense and some chocolate; good fruit attack, chunky St Emilion; finshes a little short. 86-88/100

Chateau Beau-Séjour Bécot

Deeper, more intense than the Balestard; seductive ripe nose; plums and spices; very sexy and appealing; plenty of tannin and oak; but there is a lot of fruit here; chewy and extracted. Palate a little raw and disjointed. Lots of extraction here. If it settles – this should be very good. [Later] nice and intense; some coffee and mocha; richness; good chewy palate; will; be very good 92-93+/100 

Chateau Berliquet

Dense purple at edge; sweet fruit nose; good chunky palate. Quite big. 88+/100

Chateau Canon

Dense to rim; very intense and layered nose; pent up but with real intensity; concentrated, serious and not showy. Palate similar; intense, serious with good concentration and intensity; tannic and structure here. Will fill out. Serious and quite long haul here. [Later] Attractive creamy note; palate fine; structured and very well done. 92-94+/100

Chateau Canon-la-Gaffelière

Typically black and inky; very ripe nose; some jam here and red fruits, strawberry and raspberry; open. Luscious palate, big and bold; lots of extract and tannin, quite a hardness to the tannins [could be the oak]. Lots of extract here. Very different to Canon. [Later] Super ripe jammy note; feels alcoholic; attractive and sweet entry; lots of tannin and material. Good grip. Classically extracted la-Gaffeliere style. 92+/100

Chateau Cap de Mourlin

Dense colour; soft ripeness here; dense; some marzipan and fig; very ripe; less impressive than the last two; also some stalkiness to the palate; quite chunky and extracted. Tannins very dry. Will this meld? Difficult to assess. 86?/100

Chateau Dassault

Mid depth, not the deepest by far; soft, fruit driven nose; some red fruits; fresher style; attractive; definite whiff of strawberry; soft entry, sweet and lots of fruit and nice extraction here; Tannic edge but should settle. [Later] Ripe and figgy; supple palate, tannins there, less fruit than earlier. 88-90?/100

Chateau Figeac

Mid depth; ripe, little reductive quality to nose; needs to settle; palate quite fine and structured and intense. Tannins softer here, less extracted style which is something of a relief. A strongly Cabernet based wine this hence the quality in 2009. It needs time to meld but potentially very fine. 92+/100

Clos Fourtet

Dense, more black red; nice attractive nose, strawberry fruit; quite pretty; nice oak already integrating; intensity and concentration here; palate full and sweet with chew; tannins and acid but there is a ripeness here and lots of alcohol. [Later] Strawberry nose; good fruit qualities; fine fruity and attractive; chewy. Alcohol. 90+/100

Chateau Franc Mayne

Dense, very ripe, plummy nose; some toast. Attractive and full. Feels enticing. Palate quite sturdy. Extraction. Falls away a bit. Early days. Lots of guts but lots of extraction. [Later] Very jammy nose; quite attractive if super ripe; but palate feels over extracted and alcoholic. Will it settle or remain disjointed? 88-90?/100

Chateau Grand-Mayne

Very deep and intense colour; black; ripeness – some figs, touch or marzipan; very ripe fruit; extracted style, big and tannic; Blimey! These are tricky to judge with all this tannin floating about. Warm alcohol on the finish. [Later] Jammy, quite ripe; bold extracted style. Struggling here to judge these wines as they are so tannic. 88-90?/100

Chateau La Couspaude

Deep black, arterial; attractive open fruit style; lots of sweet strawberry and red fruits; enticing; palate quite clean and fruit clean and delineated; lots of ripe fruit here and well judged; Little coffee and mocha at the back. Length. I prefer this style at present in 2009. Potentially very good. [Later] Lots of fruit here; ripe and full, good St Emilon. 90-92+/100

Chateau La Dominique

Dense and tight to the rim; briary nose; little reductive note; lots of fruit though; strawberry and red fruits beneath. Some wet stone and minerals; palate big and bold; tannic at this stage; beetroot note, should settle; lots of extract and tannin again. Long haul wine. [later] Very sturdy; massively extracted though. So difficult to judge. 90-92?/100 but only if tannins settle?

Chateau La Gaffelière

Dense purple at edge; attractive and pretty fruit driven nose; red fruits; some oak beneath but nice; palate sweet ripe fruit, strawberry and red fruits plus a kiss of oak; later oak tannins come through and palate quite hard. [Later] Lighter toned and fresher; more attractive nose; palate still hard and tannins hard. Again difficult to judge I’m overwhelmed with tannin. The tannins are far finer in Pauillac! 86-88?/100

Chateau La Tour Figeac

Dense, solid and intense; some slcohol and whiff of VA; lift; clean palate, quite precise; some dry tannins again here; lacks roundness and generosity. Chewy and intense. 88?/100

Chateau Larmande

Dense colour; interesting looking; creamy and attractive nose; lots of ripe fruits and quite intense and layered. Palate thick and rich but at least tannins [lots] feel ripe and soft here. Lots of extract and material. Potentially very interesting if it settles down. 90-92+/100

Chateau Troplong Mondot

Inky black, very dense; quite viscous in the glass; wow, fabulous nose of sweet, ripe fruit; very seductive with lots and lots of new oak but packed with ripe fruit too; Big, dense, chewy palate, lots and lots of fruit but sweet ripeness. This is BIG and not at all for the fainthearted. Thick and tannic with alcohol on the finish. It is 15 degrees alcohol.  Defies gravity but actually works – if you like your wines huge, this is it! 92+/100

POMEROL

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2009 is a beautiful vintage here on the basis of the wines I tasted. Lovely reds full of attractive fruit with concentration and intensity. Extraction very much in check compared with St Emilion. The following were tasted at Chateau Gazin as part of the Union des Grands Crus de Bordeaux tastings.

Chateau Beauregard

Mid red/black; quite dense; solid fruit nose, some sweetness; attractive; some red fruits and also minerals and chalk; palate quite taut and dense; nicely done with chocolate. Well balanced compared to the wines of St Emilion. Very good [later] Appealing fruit driven nose; some red fruits; attractive and violets. Will give lots of pleasure. Palate sweet entry and attractive.92+/100. Tasted 31st March 2010.

Chateau Clinet

Mid depth; deep; very perfumed and attractive nose; plums, spice and lovely oak; red fruits too; seductive; Palate round and generous; big and bold but tannin extraction well done here. This is excellent. Some coffee on the finish. [Later] Very ripe nose; almost like the Petit Village; attractive; sweet, fragrant and seductive; excellent; red fruits, plums; very sublime palate, pretty spicy. Tannins nicely done. Wonderfully seductive wine. 95+/100 [85% Merlot, 5% Cabernet Franc and 10% Cabernet Sauvignon – 14% degrees]. Tasted 31st March 2010 

Chateau Gazin

Mid depth, dark, quite tight – a little dumb at first; attractive palate, quite extractive and tannic, not as silky as the Clinet. Alcohol here. Little disjointed. [Later]  Smokey note and intense, more forthcoming; palate rich and ripe. Much better. Lots of fruit and extract. Score reflects the second sample. 90+/100 [90% Merolot, 7% Cab Sauvignon, 3% Cab Franc]. Tasted 31st March 2010.

Chateau La Cabanne

Mid depth; some intensity; soft, ripe and round; little complexity but fruit driven; Not unattractive. More old fashioned. Palate full, lacks interest. Tannins a little dusty and present. 86/100. Tasted 31st March 2010.

Chateau La Conseillante

Mid depth; quite stoney and mineral note; red fruits beneath; attractive though not as seductive as expected on the nose [cf Clinet]; palate very attractive with richness and balance between the oak and fruit; coffe and mocha at the back. [Later] Some fruit and prettiness; stones and minerals on nose; fresh; soft entry to palate. Tannin later. Not as flamboyant as I’d hoped but nevertheless very good. 90-92+/100 Tasted 31st March 2010.

Chateau La Croix de Gay

Deep black, intense; very succulent attractive nose, plums and red fruits and sweet toasty oak; luscious; spices at the back. Fat palate, lovely and lush – this is really showing well. Not over extracted and with soft tannins. Coffee and mocha on the finish. Lovely. [Later] Ripe and seductive, very open; sexy; wonderfully lush palate and well balanced. Not over extracted. A beauty. 92-94+/100. Tasted 31st March 2010.

Chateau La Pointe

Deep red purple; fresh nose; nice strawberry and fresh fruit nose; some oak; attractive and very polished. Palate thick and rich, not over tannic, some restraint here; lots of material but without that hard edge to the tannins so common in St Emilion. A very good effort. 90-92+/100 Tasted 31st March 2010.

Chateau Petit Village

Mid depth, dark at core; not the densest; super ripe nose; very attractive; some jam but not loose; some lifted Cab Franc elements; sweet and some spices with plums; palate very full and ripe; lots of extract but also softness. Really very good. Coffee and mocha at the back. Tannins ripe. Well done. 92-94+/100 [75% Merlot, 17% Cabernet Sauvignon, 8% Cabernet Franc]. Tasted 31st March 2010.

SAUTERNES & BARSAC

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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. Vintage conditions also proved excellent for the generation of botrytis which developed quickly in the vineyards. Many proprietors at the Union des Grands Crus tasting think that 2009 is the best vintage in the region since the glorious 2001 – and possibly better – and certainly superior to the elegant and attractive 2007.  Time of course will tell. What is clear is that a number of estates have produced excellent wines here.  Chateau Coutet, Chateau Rabaud-Promis, Chateau Rieussec and Chateau Suduiraut were marvellous at the tasting, but there are many others including Chateau Guiraud, Chateau Lafaurie-Peyraguey, Chateau La Tour Blanche, and Chateau de Rayne Vigneau that also look wonderful in 2009. All the wines were tasted on 30th March 2010 at Chateau Dauzac. The notable omissions were Chateau Climens and Chateau d’Yquem. These are listed highest scoring to lowest.

Chateau Rieussec, Fargues, Sauternes

Light gold; very attractive nose; noble; some real botrytis notes here; with wax; palate very fresh and appealing; medium weight and racy; even more so than the Rabaud-Promis. Excellent with wonderful length. 94-96+/100 

Chateau Rabaud-Promis, Bommes, Sauternes

Pale straw, clean waxy note; fresh and very attractive honeyed fruit; palate wonderfully attractive; sweet but with balancing acidity. Complexity here. This is very good. Nice length and zest on the finish. Fantastic, one of the best. 94-96+/100

Chateau Suduiraut, Preignac, Sauternes

Again fresh and attractive; some lemon hints; with butterscotch and cream; palate bold and big; this is potentially excellent. Nice zip and balance to the sweetness. Wonderful. 92-94+/100 

Chateau Coutet, Barsac, Sauternes

Lemon straw; elegant nose; honey and lemon, attractive wine good mouth feel and balance. Excellent. 92+/100

Chateau de Rayne Vigneau, Bommes, Sauternes

Ripeness on the nose; honey and butter; fresh butterscotch and honey; this is interesting; very good here. Very good and refreshing. 92+/100

Chateau Lafaurie-Peyraguey, Bommes, Sauternes

Light gold; lemon and fresh again; mid-weight, some butter, honey; quite high alcohol but good balancing acid. Quite sweet. Quite fat with very good length. 92+/100

Chateau La Tour Blanche, Bommes, Sauternes

Light gold, soft, some lemon and fresh; lots of fruit here; good palate; sweet but balanced. Refreshing. Nice race and zip on the finish. 92+/100

Chateau Guiraud, Sauternes

Fresh, slightly grassy note; full bodied palate; broad but very good. Lacks the zip of Rabaud-Promis and Rieussec but should be very good 90-92/100

Chateau Clos Haut-Peyraguey, Bommes, Sauternes

Fresh nose; attractive wine; some wax and lanolin, palate fresh and racy; will age well. Good palate well balanced. 90-92+/100

Chateau de Malle, Preignac, Sauternes

Light gold; some butterscotch; clean; fresh; very elegant but with depth here. Should be very good. 90-92+/100

Chateau Sigalas Rabaud, Bommes, Sauternes

Fresh quality to the nose; grassy quality, medium weight and very attractive. 90-92+/100

Chateau Doisy-Védrines, Barsac

Pale straw; lemon, clean, light honey; perfume on the palate, pretty; very good. 90+/100

Chateau Doisy-Daene, Barsac

Pale straw, delicate; some light honey, fresh, medium weight. Attractive and excellent too 90+/100

Chateau Nairac, Barsac

Pale gold, more intense, some butterscotch and waxy edge with grass; racy on the palate, medium sweet. Very good here. 90+/100

Chateau d’Arche, Sauternes

Lemon straw; fresh, some SB elements, lemon and grass, medium weight, racy style. Lovely. 90+/100

Chateau de Fargues, Sauternes

Mid gold; grassy, slightly waxy note; medium weight, nicely balanced; medium sweet and very attractive. Fresh here. 90+/100

Chateau Filhot, Sauternes

Fresh, some grass and honey; little wet dog on palate; medium sweet. Easy and attractive. 88-90/100

Chateau Bastor Lamontagne, Sauternes

Pale gold; ripe nose; some honey, some citrus; very nicely done; some apple; attractive palate, medium weight. 88-90/100

Chateau Lamothe, Sauternes

Light gold; slightly eggy note; palate clean and fresh; some honey. Not bad once nose clears up. 88/100

Chateau Caillou, Barsac

Attractive grassy note; fresh; quite lively on palate with elegance 86-88/100

Chateau Lamothe Guignard, Sauternes

Pale gold; some waxy notes; not as clean as de Fargues. 86-88/100

Chateau Romer du Hayot, Fargues, Sauternes

Waxy note; some grassy Sauvignon Blanc tones; medium weight and sweetness. Little simple. 86-88/100

Chateau Suau, Barsac, Sauternes

Light green gold; fresh, some SB characters; not that sweet but refreshing 86-88+/100

Chateau Broustet, Barsac, Sauternes

Pale straw, quite grassy, medium sweet OK. 86-88/100

Chateau de Myrat, Barsac

Pale straw; freshness here; some lemon and lime here; lacks a bit of zip. 86-88/100

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