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Bordeaux Vintage 2009: Update in bottle

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October 2011

Don’t panic, rest easy. For those who invested heavily en primeur in Bordeaux 2009, either for their drinking pleasure, or to make a bob or two, I think your money’s safe. In Octover 2011 130 of Bordeaux’s finest chateaux, members of the Union des Grands Crus de Bordeaux, turned up as they do each year at London’s Royal Opera House showing their most recently bottled vintage. I don’t know about you but with all the hype and price controversy that surrounded this vintage on release it seems 2009 has been around for ages, certainly a lot longer than 24 months. Widely praised by many [me included] as one of the finest ever Bordeaux vintages, now that it’s finally in bottle, this vintage is still a delight. Never has there been such joy drinking young red Bordeaux at this age, nor for that matter its fabulous sweet Sauternes and Barsac. The whites from Pessac-Léognan and Graves, whilst maybe not having the freshness and delicacy of say 2010 or especially 2007, have generally developed well into big, full, spicy whites.

Despite the fact that 2009 was one of the most expensive Bordeaux vintages on release, the quality is so good at the top level that the chateaux can almost be forgiven. Almost. What’s more, many of the less prestigious properties have produced their finest wines in a generation, and there’s still a lot of these about. Don’t moan if your Léovilles or even your Langoa are now out of reach. There’s many a Gloria, Cantemerle or La Pointe that have produced absolute stunners and can still be had for a fraction of the price. Then there’s Citran, Fonréaud, Fourcas Dupré and Beaumont and the like that have made hugely enjoyable, delicious wines, great to drink from the word go. Yes there are some misfires, mostly in the jammy overripe sense, where things feel too heady, alcoholic or extracted, but many that felt that way at the primeur tastings have settled down nicely in élevage, yes, even at 14.5%. Admittedly sometimes you wonder if you are in Bolgheri rather than Bordeaux but that’s mostly the richness of the vintage. A few that were glorious en primeur have gone all sullen and resentful now they’ve been captured in bottle, Beychevelle immediately springs to mind here, but these felt like the exceptions.  Bordeaux 2009 truly is an embarrassment of riches at every level and in every appellation.

ST ESTEPHE

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Now finally detailed notes on Bordeaux 2009 in bottle following October’s Union des Grands Crus de Bordeaux tasting. First St Estèphe and Paulliac, two strong appellations this vintage. There was no doubt about the quality of these winesen primeur and they’ve moved on magnificently during élevage. The depth of fruit shown in St Estèphe was astonishing, all the more so for the lack of the very top order chateaux here [Chateau Cos d’Estournel and Chateau Montrose aren’t members of the UGC and Chateau Calon Ségur doesn’t show their wine at these events for some reason]. Chateau Lafon-Rochet 2009 is just as stunning as it first was from barrel and is the most remarkable wine I’ve had from this property. Chateau Phélan Ségur, which was relatively subdued en primeur, has increased considerably in weight and sings with amazingly seductive fruit. Chateau Ormes de Pez has made wine of similar quality but with more extract and chew. Chateau Cos Labory has made a more traditionally styled St Estèphe but with lots of depth. Chateau de Pez, while less substantial than the rest, looks excellent for this estate and provides good value.

Chateau Lafon-Rochet

2009 Deep and dense; amazingly saturated look, tight to rim; deep and profound nose; lots of ripe fruit; almost inky blackcurrants; very deep; satin and silk fruit caresses the palate; excellent structure and chew but such terrific fruit. As dazzling as at primeur tastings if not better and the best Lafon-Rochet I’ve tasted. 94/100

Chateau Phélan Ségur

2009 Deep mid red; lovely seductive nose; ripe and wonderful; satin tones, blackcurrant and cassis; similarly satin quality to the palate; extremely fine wine; almost too easy but there is so much fruit here you miss the considerable structure. Quite amazing. Lovely wine. 92+/100

Chateau Ormes de Pez

2009 Deep and dense; close to the rim; blackcurrants; lots of fruit on the nose; summer pudding tones; very open and opulent; great palate; lots of extract and material here; chewy mineral tones; wet rocks; this needs time as there is a lot of [ripe] tannin. Great stuff. 92/100

Chateau Cos Labory

2009 Deep and dense; chewy black fruits on the nose; some jam; little more lifted; some leaf; cassis on the palate and strong Cabernet notes; less amazingly ripe than Lafon-Rochet and more traditionally styled; tannic and chewy. Very good effort though in a traditional tannic and chewy style. 91/100

Chateau de Pez

Mid red; meaty nose; attractive wine; minerals and earthy blackcurrants; very good; surprising finesse on the palate; really glossy satin quality to the fruit; very open and full; lots of flavour with grip at the end. This wine has loads of fruit. Best de Pez I’ve had. 89/100

PAUILLAC

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Similar superlatives match the wines that Pauillac has produced in 2009. In a line-up that missing the actual first growths [only Mouton is an honorary member of the UGCB] there are at least three wines of comparable quality. Chateau Pichon Baron, Chateau Pichon Lalande and Chateau Lynch Bages are simply dazzling efforts, wines with incredible opulence and power but with remarkable freshness given the near 14% degrees here. Chateau Pontet-Canet was sadly missing from the UGC line-up [it is usually represented]. Trading places with these ‘super seconds’ are the likes of Clerc Milon, Grand-Puy-Lacoste and d’Armailhac which have almost moved up to occupy these slots, showing just how the Pauillac estates have all traded up in this vintage. I’d also put the hugely popular and now increasingly sophisticated Chateau Batailley in this category, a property that makes strong Pauillac but with added finesse and delicacy over past vintages [I’ve said this before]. Chateau Grand Puy Ducasse, now revitalised by Credit Agricole, is not far behind. Chateau Haut-Bages Liberal has produced a spicy, vital effort. and even the under-achiever Chateau Croizet-Bages has turned in something worthwhile, the first time in the past five years I would hand-on-heart recommend it, alongside a supple and forward Chateau Lynch Moussas.

Chateau Pichon-Longueville [Baron]

2009 Dense and saturated; very big and thick; really bold blackcurrants; super lift here; really hedonistic and explosive nose; cassis and blackcurrants and wonderful depth; thick and strong on the palate; blackcurrants, earth and graphite; chewy and dense, truly great wine. 98+/100

Chateau Lynch-Bages

2009 Deep and dark; very ripe, big blackcurrant nose with cassis and oak; menthol too; almost New World; loads of black fruits on the palate; quite amazing Lynch Bages; not jammy in the slightest; fabulous concentration and really attractive; lots of grip and density on the finish. Great and remarkable stuff. 97+/100

Chateau Pichon Longueville Comtesse de Lalande

2009 Mid red; not the deepest here; lovely seductive cassis and blackcurrants on the nose; really deep and alluring; almost Burgundy Grand Cru aromatics; opulent and ripe palate; blackcurrants; cassis; simply wonderful Pauillac but more silk and satin to Pichon Baron’s obvious power. Terrific stuff. Great length and delicacy. 97/100

Chateau Clerc Milon

2009 Mid depth; red at edge; purer and less meaty than d’Armailhac; lovely cassis and blackcurrant purity; this is quite excellent; nice oak well integrated; junior Mouton; lots of cassis and depth. Big palate, lots of power but cool and fresh blackcurrants; layered and excellent; great length too and certainly up a few notches from its primeur showing. 95/100

Chateau Batailley

2009 Mid red; depth; more opulent and polished than stable-mate Lynch-Moussas; blackcurrants, some graphite; cassis too; nice mid weight feel but this is really well done; not that far behind Pichon Lalande in its way; great palate, so much finesse here now; lots of fresh cabernet; grip and good structure; a joy. Very fine indeed. 93+/100

Chateau d’Armailhac

2009 Mid red/purple; depth and legs; very attractive and pretty; earthy blackcurrant, meat and tobacco; quite sexy and open; cassis too; earthy blackcurrant tones on the palate too; sweet attack, some floral notes; roses and freshness too; grip on the end of the palate and structure, oodles of lovely fruit here. 93+/100

Chateau Grand-Puy-Lacoste

2009 Mid depth; purple edge’ kegs; leafy, fresher styled Cab nose; classic Pauillac; mid weight on the palate; lovely Cabernet here; ripe but cool and not at all overdone; very measured and polished with finesse. 93+/100

Chateau Grand-Puy Ducasse

2009 Mid depth; legs; lovely satiny opulent style from this vastly improved Pauillac estate; a junior Lalande? Freshness again on the palate and satin fruit; dips a fraction but this will fill out for sure. Another excellent effort here. 92/100

Chateau Haut-Bages Liberal

2009 Deep and dark; really saturated looking; iron, ink and iodine one the nose; some earth; strong blackcurrant notes on palate; earth and some herbal tones; quite spicy; autumn leaves and undergrowth too; chewy and grippy on the finish. Interesting. Vital. 90+/100

Chateau Lynch-Moussas

2009 Mid red; leaft blackcurrants; lighter toned and less crammed with fruit; good effort though in more medium weight less dense style; supple; spicy/leafy blackcurrant tones; lacks depth compared with the leaders here but has freshness. 89/100

Chateau Croizet-Bages

2009 Red; mid depth; some leaf and lift and as good as Lynch Moussas in my book; ripe palate; some leafy Cabernet tones with iron, menthol and cassis. A Croizet-Bages you can recommend. 88+/100

ST JULIEN

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As you’d probably expect from Bordeaux’s most consistent appellation, no one has put a foot wrong in St Julien in 2009. Outstanding wines have been made at Chateau Léoville-Barton and Léoville Poyferre and Chateau St Pierre has produced an absolute blinder. All three are junior first growths. The same could probably be said of Chateau Léoville-Las-Cases and Chateau Ducru Beaucaillou I imagine but they don’t show at the UGC. Chateau Langoa Barton has produced a phenomenal wine too and Branaire-Ducru, Gruaud Larose and Lagrange are all impeccable. Chateau Beychevelle looked a tad bottle shocked. It was such a wonderful wine from barrel, I’m sure this will settle. Chateau Talbot also looks good. Finally a word about Chateau Gloria which, as I mentioned a month back, has produced a wonderfully precocious and vibrant St Julien at a fraction of the cost of its peers.

Chateau Léoville-Barton

2009 Deep and very dark; colour to the edge; inky and deep; mineral blackcurrants, a nose seemingly of infinite depth; dense and inky on the palate this is terrific stuff; fresher than Leoville-Poyferre, it is not necessarily better just different in style; this is first growth stuff as I’ve said before. Brilliant wine. Long term. 97+/100

Chateau Léoville Poyferre

2009 Deep and saturated; tight to edge; thick and brooding this has crept a bit into its shell since it’s knockout primeur days; very deep on the nose with cassis and blackcurrants; very polished; palate more open and seductive than the [currently] brooding nose suggests; great minerality and density and fab purity. Great chew and length on the finish. Better than Barton? Just different, more polished maybe but certainly another first growth equivalent. 97+/100

Chateau Saint-Pierre

2009 Deep, dense; lovely purity here; lovely Cabernet; this is right behind the Leovilles for my money; beautiful, pure St Julien; real depth to the palate and class; blackcurrants; tannin and pretty long-term. Wonderful stuff and still a great buy for the quality [half the price of Poyferre]. 95-97/100

Chateau Langoa Barton

2009 Deep, dark and inky looking; lovely seductive nose of blackcurrant fruit, earth and freshness; these Barton wines are now coming into their own  – and Langoa is every bit as impressive as it was during the primeur tastings; real density, mineral tones; crushed rocks and pure blackcurrant fruit; chewy and structured it will need time but such wonderful blackcurrant fruit. Knockout St Julien and knocking on the door of sibling Leoville-Barton. 95+/100

Chateau Gloria

2009 Deep and dense; very, very pretty on the nose; seductive; blackcurrants, earth and some roasted coffee bean notes; blackcurrants, lead and tobacco on the palate; quite forward and delicious; vibrant wine that is precocious and an absolute delight already. Chew on the finish suggests this will last well but it’s already a beauty. Buy in spades if not done so. Great wine. 93+/100

Chateau Gruaud Larose

2009 Mid red; not as dense as some; sexy, some animal and game tones, classic Gruaud; sweet oak too with blackcurrants – flashy style; leaf and blackcurrant too; very open and some jam too; maybe a fraction less impressive than at primeur tastings but this is meaty, seductive stuff. 93+/100

Chateau Lagrange

2009 Deep and dense; creamy ripe nose; layered and nicely mannered; pure and not turbocharged this may very well prove to be as good as the phenomenal 2005 and 2000; excellent palate, fresh and with grip; lots of blackcurrant fruit; tight; meaty and structured; this has put on weight and should turn out very well. 93+/100

Chateau Branaire-Ducru

2009 Deep and dense; cassis, blackcurrants and minerals; deep and thick; purity to the fruit; some undergrowth too; very ripe palate again with purity; this has put on weight and nicely polished; bite and chew on the finish and feels long term. Improved and more together now than during primeurs week. 92-93+/100

Chateau Talbot

2009 Mid red; blackcurrants, cassis and jam alongside undergrowth and tobacco; ripe style; not that complex; nice palate; quite sinewy at present; some tobacco and earth; good grip and length. 91+/100

Chateau Beychevelle

2009 Mid density; dark at centre; some cassis and lift; chewy palate but very closed; blackcurrants and some tobacco but far more subdued, more structured and far less exotic/flamboyant than at primeur tastings. Clearly this wine has tightened up during elevage and since bottling. I’d expect this to improve. 90-92+/100

MARGAUX

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There is more variation here than in the other appellations in 2009 reflecting, as usual, the different terroirs and winemaking approaches. It seemed that the wines were also suffering more from bottle shock than the other Médoc appellations. If you’re looking for quintessential Margaux perfume and the benchmark elegance and poise the appellation is famed for, look no further than Chateaux Brane-Cantenac and Chateau du Tertre which both look terrific. Chateau Lascombes is Margaux with the volume turned up. Sometimes Lascombes feels overworked, but the 2009 manages the balancing act. It’s bold and saturated in flavour but has perfume to boot.

Chateau Rauzan-Ségla doesn’t disappoint and still looks as profound and dense as it did en primeur. God knows what came over Karl Lagerfeld who designed the anniversary label for this vintage. http://www.rauzan-segla.com/video/ I’ll be posting advice later on how to soak them off. Chateau Cantenac Brown is one of the wines I’m still unsure of. It feels unduly extracted and tannic. I had the same issues with Chateau Dauzac early on but this has come round, though it’s still pretty big, extracted and oaky as a Margaux. Chateau Ferrière looks vibrant in its typically pure and fresh style. Chateau Rauzan-Gassies has finally produced something worth buying and looks pretty convincing now it’s in bottle.

There are also many good wine values to be had here in Margaux in 2009. The frontrunners are Chateau Angludet, Chateau Labégorce, Chateau Monbrison and Chateau Desmirail who have all made wonderful wines in different styles. Chateau Siran, which had shown a lot of promise early on, felt a bit awkward and tannic on the day. Chateau Malescot St-Exupéry for some reason was missing from the UGC tables. It was a beauty from barrel. Chateau Margaux itself, looking as perfect a glass of wine as you can get when tasted at 5 months and 12 months respectively, and the very impressive Chateau Palmer, don’t show with the UGC.

Chateau Rauzan-Ségla

2009 Inky and deep looking; perfume, lots of flavour on the nose; oak influence too; violets on the palate with black fruits; density and depth; overall a serious effort and looks to be very good though a trifle shut down from its showy primeur self. A great wine in the making though. Shame about the dreadful Karl Largerfelt designed label that’s all. 93-95+/100

Chateau Lascombes

2009 Deep and dense; cherry, violet scented wine with meaty flavours beneath; a big wine; chewy on palate, with violets and density but life and lift too; this is impressive stuff; not delicate but enough juice under the bonnet to support this big style. Big and sexy styled Margaux that works. 93-95+/100

Chateau du Tertre

2009 Mid red; legs; pure perfumed nose; like this; lifted blackcurrant and violets; lots of fruit and delicacy on the palate; perfume again; silk and satin feel; not too dense or extracted; fleet of foot and wonderful modern take on the Margaux perfume and purity we seek but rarely taste. 93+/100

Chateau Brane-Cantenac

2009 Deepish; less thick in the glass than some; vibrant cassis and blackcurrant; has some meat here too; perfume too; leafy notes; blackcurrant notes on palate; very attractive; real Margaux charm; good grip; some coffee and mocha on the finish. Will open further [and I may be underrating this] 91-93+/100

Chateau Kirwan

2009 Dense red; depth; fruit and density; ripe and deep; red fruits here; some jam; thick; palate good, nicely done; blackcurrants and violet tones but with structure, density and chew. Tannic and extracted but works. 91-93+/100

Chateau Ferrière

2009 Mid red, deep core; pure blackcurrants and very fresh; some violets; some oak resin; lots of blackcurrants on the palate; great purity here and real freshness. Like this. Grip and tension on the finish which adds punctuation. Good effort and has come together nicely since primeur tastings. 2010 was impressive here too. 91-92+/100

Chateau Desmirail

2009 Deep and thick looking; meaty substantial nose but attractive nonetheless; layered palate, quite forward style; blackcurrants, undergrowth, coffee and chew and grip. Not a perfumed Margaux, more meaty and substantial but this is good stuff. 91+/100

Chateau Prieure-Lichine

2009 Deep and dense; ripe; some violet but feels a bit chunky and dense; palate has more vibrancy but this is a dense and chewy wine with lots of blackcurrant extract, violet tones and density. Big style and not the most finesse but it works. 90-91/100

Chateau Monbrison

2009 Deep and dense; legs; ripe looking; thick, some liquorice but feels deep; this wine has certainly gained weight elevage maybe at the expense of finesse but nevertheless lots of blackcurrant fruit, liquorice and mocha tones; this is a very good buy in 2009. Chewy and grippy on the finish but lots of ripe fruit here. Overall impressive effort. 90-91/100

Chateau Angludet

2009 Vibrant at edge; mid depth; legs; quite stalky blackcurrant nose; fresh and vibrant in style; some undergrowth and forest floor; nice palate; mid weight; little subdued at present with tannin on the finish but will be good. 90+/100

Chateau Marquis de Terme

2009 Deep and dark, legs; immediately very jammy and opulent on the nose; strawberry and very ripe red fruits; maybe lacks a bit of depth on the palate and feels a bit hollow at present but remember there being a stack of fruit here en primeur so should come round. 90+/100

Chateau Rauzan-Gassies

2009 Mid depth, quite meaty looking; spice and perfume here and some meat; has Gassies finally triumphed? Again Margaux perfume on the palate, this is a very good effort to excellent by the standards of this property in the past; quite vibrant and vivacious with some furry tannin on the end. 90+/100

Chateau Giscours

2009 Mid depth; legs; fresh blackcurrant tones; some lift; some undergrowth/stalky notes; little subdued; some perfume too; nice delicacy on the palate here again though currently feeling a little awkward and a fraction angular; less flamboyant than I’d imagined. Tannin nicely handled. Should recover. 89-91/100

Chateau Durfort-Vivens

2009 Dense colour; ripe, jam and cassis; open palate, ripe red fruits, strawberry tones – almost Burgundian; some dryness to the tannin and the palate; a little medicinal note along with the red fruits. More settled and complete now than before despite tannin. 89-91/100

Chateau Labégorce

2009 Deep and dense; ripe, some nuts; muscular feel; little undergrowth streak but lots of depth and coffee and mocha tones too; this has improved substantially from my primeur recollections; strong and muscular. 89+/100

Chateau Dauzac

2009 Pretty saturated in colour; creamy notes; some cassis and fruit compote; oak and mocha tones; nice palate – this wine has settled down from what felt a raw monster primeur – quite meaty and still pretty tannic and chewy and extracted but more settled now. 88+/100

Chateau Cantenac Brown

2009 Deep red; some cream, fresh, little dumb on the palate and feels closed; nevertheless dense and chewy; tannic and a bit overdone possibly. Feels chewy and extracted at present. Hmmm. 88?/100

Chateau Siran

2009 Dense; quite saturated looking; pure, some mineral tones; menthol; palate feels pretty fat and deep; tannin too; maybe a little over-extracted in feel? Lots of fruit certainly and needs to settle. Good length but pretty tannic. 87-89?/100

HAUT-MEDOC & MEDOC

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These are the two appellations, alongside Moulis & Listrac [next post], have served up some of Bordeaux most affordable and exciting wines in 2009 – and many are still widely available. There is such joy, fragrance and fruit to be found here and considerable structure beneath. Amongst the crus classés Chateau Cantemerle is outstanding. I didn’t have the opportunity to taste their legendary 1983 at a similar age, but this wine must rank as one of the best efforts ever from this estate.  Chateau Belgrave is also a beauty, though a notch below Cantemerle at present. Chateau La Lagune should prove excellent although it did seem a fraction subdued. Chateau de Camensac had a slightly vegetal streak to me and was the least impressive at this stage. Chateau La Tour Carnet is opulent and sexy in the Bernard Magrez style. Wonderfully forward wines have been produced at Chateau Beaumont, Chateau Citran and Chateau Coufran. These all prove how good the 2009 vintage is at every level. These are already appealing and wonderful to drink. Chateau La Tour de By has also produced a delicious Médoc.

Chateau Cantemerle

2009 Saturated, deep colour; wow! Lovely plush sexy nose; seductive and deep and immediately appealing; fabulous nose with some coffee/mocha at the back; Margaux like, velvet palate with violets and blackcurrants and some mocha. This is excellent and tremendous value. Buy this in spades if you see it about. This is the best Cantemerle I’ve ever had. 94+/100

Chateau La Lagune

2009 Deepish; some oak resin, red/black fruits; feels a bit ‘super Tuscan’ on the nose; tobacco, red fruits on the palate; maybe a little subdued and bottle shocked. Expected a better showing. It will show better later I imagine. Score reflects this likelihood.  91-92/100

Chateau Belgrave

2009 Deep and dark; ripe and deep nose; less immediately sexy and overt than Cantemerle but that’s relative; lots of blackcurrant fruit; open and plush palate; velvet quality here but with extract and intensity too. Grippy and tannic on the finish suggests real lasting power with lots of puppy fat. As good if not better than the lovely 2005 here. 91+/100

Chateau La Tour Carnet

2009 Deep and saturated; dense; jam and lots of red fruits in a super-ripe style; feels quite late picked; ripe and thick on the palate; strawberry and molasses; chewy and dense. Good length and very extracted. Very Magrez. 90+/100

Chateau Citran

2009 Mid red; very sexy and open red fruits on the nose; ripe and almost Burgundian; sweet entry on the palate; ripe, strawberry fruit; soft and ripe tannin. Lovely wine. For drinking from the off. 90+/100

Chateau de Camensac

2009 Deep and dark at core; deep blackcurrant nose; obvious depth but not as come-hither as some; open palate; quite worked with slight vegetal streak – maybe let’s call it ‘earthy’ – very grippy and tannic on the end with real bite. Not as immediately appealing as Cantemerle or Belgrave, its immediate classed growth competitors. See how this develops. 87-89?/100

Chateau Beaumont

2009 Mid red; fresh, almost maceration carbonique tones; vibrant certainly; more Moulin a Vent or Morgon! Palate chewy and deep – like this; youthful, vigorous yet fruity style that will be drinking wonderfully from the off. Fresh and fruity. 88+/100

Chateau Coufran

2009 Purple hues; mid depth and legs; lifted leaf and tobacco with blackcurrants and strawberry tones; spot on Haut-Medoc in 2009; blackcurrants, undergrowth and leaf; some chew here suggests a little time required to settle; Will develeop. Needs 2-3 years. Excellent Coufran. 88+/100

Chateau de Lamarque

2009 Red; fresh and dense Cabernet with some mineral freshness; earthy tones too; red fruits on the palate; lift; cassis and some jam; some density and ripe tannin but chew suggest needs a few years to settle. 87+/100

MEDOC

Chateau Greysac

2009 Mid depth; more red fruits; lifted; open and quite sexy; ripe red fruits; some strawberry jam and cherry; tannic finish. 86-87+/100

Chateau La Tour de By

2009 Deepish; some earthy blackcurrant tones; freshness here; blackcurrant Cabernet and leaf; good Medoc – this doesn’t disappoint; some chew and ripe tannin on the finish. Good stuff 87+/100

MOULIS & LISTRAC

I’m a great fan of Moulis and Listrac. In these straightened economic times real value Bordeaux can be had here and in 2009 many properties have made some of their best ever wines. Moulis tends to be more polished than Listrac, the latter a bit more grippy and tannic. Yet with the extra ripeness provided in 2009 the vintage seems to have tamed the tannin here. These will all be long-lived for sure, but if you like a bit of vigour, the fruit and the tannin are perhaps best matched in their youth. Chateau Fonréaud, for example, is great to drink already.  The Fourcas duo look excellent too. In Moulis, Chateau Poujeaux by comparison, has produced something very long term indeed, not at all as showy as it first seemed during the heady primeur tastings days. It contrasts with a seemingly forward and delicious Chateau Chasse-Spleen. Chateau Maucaillou looks a very good buy if you see it about.

LISTRAC

Chateau Fourcas Hosten

2009 Earthy edge; deep colour; leafy and lifted; some minty notes with blackcurrants beneath; attractive and open; mid weight palate, balanced and attractive wine this; depth and chew but this is really good. Will last of course but very forward and attractive now. 90+/100

Chateau Fourcas Dupré

2009 Dense and black; thick and deep; some tar and liquorice; thick and ripe blackcurrant; saturated plate in fruit and flavour; big and bold; chewy tannins have settled since primeur tastings. Very good chewy and thick Listrac. 89-90/100

Chateau Fonréaud

2009 Mid red; nice meaty savoury edge here; full chewy and dense palate – Listrac’s tannins tamed in this vintage; lots of ripe fruit and a great mouthful. 89/100

Chateau Clarke

2009 Mid red; glossy look; lifted blackcurrants and plums; quite ripe and thick; some tar and liquorice; very ripe, dense and chewy palate; good stuff if a little straightforward. 88/100

MOULIS

Chateau Poujeaux

2009 Deep and dense; blackcurrants; some leaf but a little closed from its extraordinary primeur self; clearly rich underneath; palate clean and vibrant; some sexy red fruits; this will settle but very closed and tannic now. Will come good and probably deserves a better score. Certainly a very long-term 2009. 90-91+/100

Chateau Chasse-Spleen

2009 Mid red; deep and dense; some strawberry and red fruits; quite open and sexy for Chasse-Spleen; some undergrowth; very full and pretty open. The first time this estate has reached 14% – but probably not the last. 90+/100

Chateau Maucaillou

2009 Mid red; thick, ripe and intense; minerals and wet rocks; blackcurrants and leather on palate with some minerals. This works well with lots of spicy, blackcurrant fruit. 89+/100

PESSAC-LEOGNAN & GRAVES

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Pessac-Léognan looked strong in 2009 at the primeurs tastings and the wines look extremely composed now they are in bottle. The white wines are big, not delicate or especially aromatic, but powerful. Chateau Pape Clément, Chateau de Fieuzal, Domaine de Chevalier, Chateau  Malartic-Lagravière and Chateau Smith Haut Lafitte are all terrific. Chateau Carbonnieux, Chateau Bouscaut, Chateau Olivier, Chateau La Louvière and Chateau Latour-Martillac are also very good.

Overall the reds have moved on very well indeed and Chateau Pape-Clément and Chateau Haut-Bailly are remarkable and comparable to the first growths in quality. Chateau Smith Haut Lafitte is very close behind these two. The truth, though, is that there are excellent wines all over the appellation and I was also impressed with Chateau Larrivet Haut-Brion, Chateau Olivier and Chateau La Louvière. Chateau Malartic-Lagravière is very big and should be excellent, though the fruit is verging towards the jammy. At the value end Chateau Pique Caillou also looks a good buy. It is very good buy in 2010 also. I only had enough time to taste the Graves whites and Chateau de Chantegrive and Chateau Rahoul were promising.

PESSAC-LEOGNAN

Chateau Bouscaut

2009 Blanc – Pale straw/some green; deep; barrique influence, some oyster shell, developing well and attractive; palate taut but will open up . Good full style but not at all flabby. Needs a couple of years more to round out. 90/100

Chateau Carbonnieux

2009 Blanc Pale straw/green; some wax and wet wool; bit closed; waxy palate; quite broad but currently a little dumb. Carbonnieux white often a bit backward and sullen but tends to age well. Should be good 88-90?/100

Domaine de Chevalier

2009 Blanc Pale straw; full nose, some wax but dumb and pretty taut feel; depth; some spice, wax and wet wool on palate; weighty; lots of depth here. Excellent weight , should be brill in 5+ years. 92-94/100

2009 Rouge Mid depth; nice lifted nose; good and deep; briary notes, blackcurrants; oak influenced palate; lifted; some leaf. Polished wine. 91+/100

Chateau de Fieuzal

2009 Blanc Pale straw; cashew, oyster shell and citrus fruit; pretty forward and big with minerals tones too; good tight palate; lots of grapefruit and spice here; oyster shell; deep and substantial palate. Very good length here. Showing extremely well. 92-94+/100

Chateau de France

2009 Blanc Pale straw/shade more golden; wax; warmer style; seems Sémillon dominant; simpler and vastly overshadowed by de Fieuzal [and in price to be fair]. Lacks complexity. 87/100

Chateau Haut-Bailly

2009 Deep and saturated looking; cream and blackcurrant, ripe and lifted; deep and concentrated palate; mocha and chocolate tones too; this is dense and deep winemaking; much more settled and complete than when stated en primeur [as you’d expect]. Very deep, ripe but not overdone. Powerful stuff. 96+/100

Chateau Haut-Bergey

2009 Blanc Pale straw/some gold; fresh, some apple; quite fine in feel; some wax and oyster shell; little straightforward at present; full palate but with some bite on the finish. Should develop well. 88+/100

Chateau La Louvière

2009 Blanc Pale straw; healthy; fresh some grass, some wax; full waxy palate; spicy and weighty; full and bold. Lees notes on the finish. Strong wine. 90+/100

2009 Rouge Mid depth; lifted red; ripe blackcurrants on the nose; cassis and blackcurrants on the palate; good chew and depth. Nicely done. 90/100

Chateau Larrivet Haut-Brion

2009 Blanc Pale straw; nice lift; some oak; cashew; grapefruit, cashew and melon notes; tight palate but lots of depth here; oaky palate but fruit here too. Strong and full white wine. Excellent. Should develop well 91+/100

2009 Rouge Mid depth; ripe earthy, quite deep; ripe blackcurrants and sappy notes; fruit and some rose perfume here too; good length and density too.  Very good effort. 91+/100

Chateau Latour-Martillac

2009 Blanc Pale straw; grapefruit, guava, candy and lees; attractive; full and waxy; big deep palate; lots of fruit and oak; big. Nice length; lots of fruit here on the palate; guava, spices etc; good length too. Excellent effort. 91+/100

Chateau Les Carmes Haut-Brion

2009 Mid red; ripe red fruits; stalky blackcurrant fruit and cassis; some structure here but with depth. 88-90/100

Chateau Malartic-Lagravière

2009 Blanc Pale silver/gold; appetizing nose; not overt but with wax, citrus notes and class; waxy palate; nice bold style; full again, spicy tones, this is very good and will age well over next 5 years. 91-92+/100

2009 Rouge Deep and dark; riper, redder more jammy fruits; [little on the jammy side?]; inky palate; some minerality here too but this is pretty thick and big. Grip and tannin too. On the hefty side but loads of fruit and extract.  91-93/100

Chateau Olivier

2009 Blanc Pale straw/some gold;  lush grapefruit nose with some grass and nettle; like this; fresh and lively note; also spice and freshness; oak and some oyster shell n the palate; grapefruit; some race here; like this. 91+/100

2009 Rouge Mid depth; fresh, mineral, density; some cassis and blackcurrants but more minerals; dense and tannic [ripe] old fashioned but this works. Traditional and grippy. 90+/100

Chateau Pape-Clément

2009 Blanc Pale straw/some gold; oak, grapefruit, gooseberry; big, bold style; fruit and spices; very, very classy nose; lots of oak here but lots of ripe fruit; toasty, strong styled palate; big and bold. Great length here. Big bold style. 94+/100

2009 Rouge Dense and deep looking; dense red fruits with meaty tones beneath; very big and thick; this has calmed down a bit since primeur tastings; fresh and rich palate; vibrant, bright and  seductive; lots of depth. Remarkable stuff. 96+/100

Chateau Pique Caillou

2009 Blanc Pale straw/gold; wax, rather simple and quite fat; broad palate with some race; quite fat and satisfying though 88+/100

2009 Rouge Dense and deep; glossy; blackcurrants, minerals, strong nose; feels quite fresh with some cream at the edge; ripe palate, mineral tones; depth and chew; tannin a bit coarse but should settle. Not bad effort. 88+/100

Chateau Smith Haut Lafitte

2009 Blanc Pale straw; gooseberry, cashew, citrus notes too, grapefruit tones; attractive palate; full and with real depth; wool and wax; lees notes; full, spicy has good length. Maybe lacks a bit of zip but big full style. 92/100

2009 Rouge Deep looking; minerally nose with primary fruits – blackcurrants, cassis – and obvious depth; palate similarly loaded with fruit and deep and saturated in flavour; tannic and dense. 93+/100

GRAVES

Chateau de Chantegrive

2009 Blanc Pate straw; melon and guava, fresh grapefruit and spices; nice full palate; grapefruit and spice; attractive and zippy with grapefruit and zest. 90/100

Chateau Ferrande

2009 Blanc Golden; more forward looking; grapefruit, some wax, fuller broader style less complexity; wet wool and soap on the palate; wax; broad palate but lacks a bit of zip and acid. 86/100.

Chateau Rahoul

2009 Blanc Pale straw/some green; integrated oak, some oyster shell; taut palate quite closed but nice zip here. This should broaden out nicely with a few years of bottle age. 88+/100

ST EMILION

vineyards outside beausejour

I came away from the primeurs tastings in St Emilion in 2010 a little bewildered. There were undoubtedly great wines produced in this vintage but at that stage for me it felt very difficult to assess St Emilion, at least in such glowing terms as in the Médoc, Pessac and even in neighbouring Pomerol. The problem was with the tannin. Thick, dense and chewy and, wow, with such a lot of it, just how would these wines settle? Admittedly over-extraction and over-ripeness are not new concerns for this appellation. It was not a problem across the board by any means but there were many that felt overdone.

The good news is that many have settled down during élevage and feel much better balanced now. There are a lot of great wines here in 2009.  Some, nevertheless, do remain overly thick and jammy. Perhaps overall this vintage does lack some of the freshness of 2010 and maybe it is here, in St Emilion, that 2010  does genuinely succeed 2009. Undoubtedly 2010 was a more enjoyable primeur tasting experience than in 2009. But that was then and, eighteen months on, this is now and undoubtedly there a huge amount of pleasure and joy to be found now the 2009s are in bottle.

The best? Of the wines presented by the UGCB Chateau Figeac is tremendous, probably because of the freshness of the Cabernet here [Franc and Sauvignon], afforded by its enviable terroir. Likewise, Chateau Trottevielle looks wonderful too.  These, taken along with Chateau Canon, would definitely appeal to those with a taste for extremely fine left bank claret as much as the right bank. In the utterly seductive, sexy, almost-too-much-of-a-good-thing category of St Emilion then Chateau Beau-Séjour Bécot, Chateau Canon-la-Gaffelière, Clos Fourtet, Chateau La Dominique and undoubtedly Chateau Troplong-Mondot deliver in spades. They are irresistible. Those looking for wines with maybe a little more restraint but still with lots of style [some at considerably less expense] then Chateau Larmande, Chateau Couspaude and Chateau La Tour Figeac are worth serious attention. Chateau Grande-Mayne and Franc Mayne are a little too heavy and fat for me and Chateau La Gaffelière felt very thick too, lacking the freshness of 2010 here. The same can be said for Chateau Larcis-Ducasse and Chateau Pavie-Macquin which both felt jammy and tiring. Again, for what it’s worth, I rated these much more highly in 2010.

In terms of the wines tasted there is a caveat here. Unlike the left bank representation, there are comparatively fewer St Emilion members of the Union des Grands Crus de Bordeaux [the organisers of the October 2009 tastings]. The Moueix properties and certain other top estates [like Chateau Angélus and Chateau Pavie] alongside the likes of Chateau Cheval Blanc and Chateau Ausone didn’t form part of the line-up, either because they are not members or don’t show at these events for some reason.  Nevertheless the seventeen tasted below obviously represent a reasonable cross-section from which to draw conclusions.

Chateau Beau-Séjour Bécot

2009 Deep looking; sexy, meaty nose; quite lifted; real concentration and flavour; palate chewy and satisfying here; great wine, no trace of jam here, just ripe fruits and a meaty edge; oak too nicely interwoven. Lots of depth here.  This wine is developing really well. Very exciting stuff. 94+/100

Chateau Berliquet

2009 Mid depth; ripe and pretty on the nose; some jam and lift; fat palate with layers of fruit and density; lots of saturation here but grip and intensity too. Big. 90/100

Chateau Canon

2009 Mid red; quite thick looking; creamy, mineral nose; fine; chew and density on the palate; minerality again; dense; crushed rocks; ripeness too, figs, but still sinewy and dense; held in cheque; muscular certainly but no trace of jam here. Serious and [deliberately] not flamboyant, nevertheless this is a very fine effort. 93-94/100

Chateau Canon-La-Gaffelière

2009 Dark and saturated look; ripe red fruits, lifted strawberry tones; lots of red fruits again on the palate; strawberry tones; opulent and flashy; very sexy, open palate; but this has depth and there is plenty of tannin too, albeit extremely ripe, which gives it chew and density at the back. Chalk and cheese versus the Canon but both styles do work extremely well. 94/100

Chateau Figeac

2009 Nice depth; ripe and dense looking, glossy too; wonderful Cabernet nose [Franc and Sauvignon]; some lift; blackcurrants, ripe and to me extremely attractive; very fine and classy palate and wonderfully polished; palate extremely long with grip and density. This is great wine that will appeal much to those with a penchant for the left bank as opposed to the right. Perfectly ripe wine but with that freshness which is essential. Easily one of the wines of the tasting. 97+/100

Clos Fourtet

2009 Vibrant mid red; ripe nose, some meaty notes too; supple palate but with density too if that makes sense; fruit in this vintage can be quite sublime; pretty saturated palate in fact. No trace of jam here. Excellent effort again. 93-94+/100

Chateau Franc-Mayne

2009 Dense, dark and arterial looking; some leaf and lift, red fruits and strawberry tones; ripe and very thick on the palate; dense, menthol; thick and dense; very Napa style; some marzipan tones and tar, almost verging on Chateauneuf. Bit too thick for me to be amongst the very best but will definitely appeal to some. 88-90/100

Chateau Grand-Mayne

2009 Deep and dense; ripe and rich with liquorice tones; deep; thick and rich palate with lots of fat and chew; lots of extract, fruit, ripe tannin and alcohol. Big saturated styled St Emilion 90+/100

Chateau La Couspaude

2009 Big colour; deep; cherry, some stalk and undergrowth; easy style; some spice and warmth; attractive and not overdone; chew here but life and warmth too. Spicy St Emilion and with good balance. 91/100

Chateau La Dominique

2009 Dense and arterial; earthy, initially some bottle stink that blew off; ripe notes but not jammy; lots of depth and chew with minerality; nice palate with earthy notes alongside the fruit; lots of tannin here but very ripe, but gives the wine density and chew on the finish. Very good effort. 93+/100

Chateau La Gaffelière

2009 Red, deep; too much jam here on the nose; very figgy molasses style; more Amarone than St Emilion. Think they’ve got this wrong to my palate; too rasiny in feel. Not one of my picks. 2010 a much better bet here with more freshness. 88?/100

Chateau La Tour Figeac

2009 Deepish colour; strong nose with ripe plums; easy plush wine on the palate; very attractive with plummy fruit, leafy tones and concentration. Maybe not the most complex, this is wonderfully enjoyable and delicious St Emilion. 90-91+/100

Chateau Larcis Ducasse

2009 Mid red; ripe, jammy nose; pretty fat palate, lots of fruit and saturation and density but tiring in the end I’d reckon. Prefer their 2010. 88/100

Chateau Larmande

2009 Deep red; ripe and sense; some clear red fruits but not at all overdone and not sublimated in feel; freshness; layered and intense on the palate; perfume here with a pretty quality; mocha and chocolate too. This is very good indeed and despite the obvious ripeness manages to remain vital. 93+/100

Chateau Pavie-Macquin

2009 Deep and dense; really saturated look; red fruits, very ripe and seductive style; open and lots of jam and sweet ripe fruit on the palate – almost makes it too much for me; this is really veering towards an end of the scale; chewy finish suggests a lot of [ripe] tannin too. Will be seen as brilliant by some, for me it’s close to overdone. Again much prefer the style of 2010. 88-90?/100

Chateau Troplong Mondot

2009 Deep and dense; lifted and very vibrant nose; really very good; blackcurrants and ripe fruits; ripe and layered palate; lots and lots of richness without the jammy qualities of some; palate is very, very big and alcoholic [plus 15%] but this actually works – and extremely well. 94+/100

Chateau Trottevielle

2009 Mid depth; lovely ripe Cabernet Franc nose; wonderfully attractive and extremely fresh; really ripe quality to the fruit; great palate and extremely fine. In the Figeac style of St Emilion and quite wonderful. Up there with Trottevielle’s equally fine 2010. Casteja is understandably very proud of this wine. Sadly not much is made, even less in this vintage cut by devastating hail. Nevertheless a great effort. 94+/100

POMEROL

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If the seven wines below are any guide to the way the 2009 vintage is progressing in Pomerol, the vintage looks very exciting indeed. Chateau La Conseillante, Chateau Clinet and Chateau Petit-Village are outstanding wines. La Conseillante was the least impressive of the trio when tasted last April, but it has moved on significantly in terms of weight, depth and complexity. Chateau Clinet is gorgeous, simply dazzling. Just beneath this stratosphere, but only just, Chateau Gazin has produced a terrific wine, certainly the best I’ve had from this estate, though it’s not quite the bargain it once was. Not that you really get bargain Pomerol these days, but Chateau Beauregard and Chateau La Pointe provide real bang for your buck and both amazed me, La Pointe especially which has produced a sumptuous wine. Chateau La Cabanne feels a bit pedestrian by comparison but it’s a pretty good effort in itself.

Chateau Clinet

2009 Black and saturated in the glass; more lift and delicacy; lots of complexity on the nose; black fruits but some lift; very overt and showy; mocha and espresso notes too; creamy, ripe and full palate; wonderful density; such ripeness and material; real saturation but not chewy; quite delicious; far too much of a good thing!  97+/100

Chateau La Conseillante

2009 Deepish – red at edge; warm and round; almost grand Bolgheri like in this vintage; plums, black fruits, mocha and coffee tones; palate very, very fine and satiny; layered and complex; ripe fruit, chew and nice grip. Showing better than at primeur tasting for me. 96+/100

Chateau Petit-Village

2009 Deep and saturated in colour; dense; lifted plum and blackcurrant nose; very layered and some exotic spicy notes; lovely caressing palate; plums and black fruits; really sexy and so easy; alcohol here but this fabulous stuff. 2010 has tad more freshness but that’s nitpicking. 95+/100

Chateau Gazin

2009 Deep and saturated; lots of toast on the nose; black fruits and liquorice; very deep and pretty extracted [in the nicest sense]; fat and deep palate; loads of gorgeous fruit; big and deep and lots of oak. Incredibly dense and chewy. Its richness is almost atypical even for Pomerol [though maybe no longer]. Brilliant stuff if a bit Napa/Shafer-esque. The best Gazin I’ve had. 94+/100

Chateau La Pointe

2009 Deep and dense; cream, fresh plums and vibrant fruit notes; wonderfully deep; palate deep too with lots and lots of plummy, blackcurrant notes and oak; this is a lovely wine and easily also the best La Pointe I’ve had. Terrific stuff on this showing. 93+/100

Chateau Beauregard

2009 Mid depth; very dense looking; warm spicy nose with lift; attractive methol, black fruits and plums; fat palate with very good depth; this is nice wine; maybe lacks a bit of complexity but is very full and a joy to drink. [70% Merlot, 30% Cabernet Franc]. Great value and best Beauregard I’ve had. 91+/100

Chateau La Cabanne

2009 Deep red; earthy edge; plums, spices, herbs and menthol tones; oak too; pretty good effort from La Cabanne. Plummy fruit with spicy oak influence; chew and density. Second tier Pomerol obviously but good effort. 89+/100

SAUTERNES & BARSAC

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Don’t let the rave reviews of Bordeaux’s red wines in 2009 distract from the superb quality of its sweet wines in this vintage. Producers were exclaiming from the off here how excited they were by the quality of the harvest here, seen as the most exciting since 2001. Of all young Bordeaux Sauternes is the most tricky to understand early on. Later harvests and slower fermentations mean that the nascent wines are real infants when they are first shown in the trade primeurtastings in April following the previous harvest. Many wines are still cloudy, then there’s the residual sugar and the acidity, sometimes the odd whiff of sulphur dioxide. Still, the 2009 Sauternes vintage did look delightful early on though I found it difficult to judge their future scale.

Now, nearly two years from the harvest and with the wines in bottle, just as much as the red wines in this vintage, if not more so, Bordeaux’s sweet whites have all advanced substantially. Doubtless they will fill out and blossom still further. Not all the great sweet whites were on display at the UGCB event in London back in October. Chateau d’Yquem and Chateau Rieussec are notable omissions in the group below. Nevertheless Chateau Coutet, Chateau Climens, Chateau Suduiraut, Chateau de Fargues were absolutely exceptional, with Chateau de Rayne-Vigneau, Chateau Doisy-Daene and Chateau Siglas-Rabaud not at all far behind. In fact the wines were generally wonderful across the board.

Chateau Climens, Barsac

2009 Pale gold; lovely delicacy; some grassy tones really nicely done; honey and butterscotch on the palate nice race and acid too. Lovely stuff. Wonderfully racy. 96+/100

Chateau Suduiraut, Barsac

2009 Golden; fresh nose; some honey, elderflower; lots of wonderful botrytis notes; this is exceptionally good; lovely palate; cream and botrytis tones; honeycomb and butter. This is such a great wine. 96+/100

Chateau Coutet, Barsac

2009 Pale gold; tightly wound and real density; intense palate with honeysuckle and butter tones on the palate; real life and zip alongside considerable strength and sweetness. 96/100

Chateau de Fargues, Sauternes

2009 Deep gold; lifted nose; honey; vanilla pod; unctuous and textured palate; ripe and wonderfully attractive; full style; lots of residual sugar here; big and sweet. 95+100

Chateau Doisy-Daene, Barsac

2009 Mid gold, fresh looking; fresh creamy nose; honey and butter; elegant and tightly wound; ripe tones on the palate; honey, attractive and nicely balanced between evident sweetness and acid. Should be brilliant. 94+/100

Chateau de Rayne-Vigneau, Sauternes

2009 Deep gold; ripe flavours; butterscotch; full style; full attractive palate; lots of honey and lift, this is big and bold; lots of honeycomb and butterscotch notes. Rayne-Vigneau back on top form here. 94+/100

Chateau Sigalas-Rabaud, Sauternes

2009 Gold; real wax and honey tones; lifted; fat and deep palate; some wax and laolin tones; very ripe flavours and nice acid balance. Looks great. 94+/100

Chateau Guiraud, Sauternes

2009 Pale gold; thick and rich on the nose; very attractive; ripe and rich tones; complex palate with honey, butter and acid balancing the sweetness again; nice palate and will develop well. 93+/100

Chateau La Tour Blanche, Sauternes

2009 Pale gold; fresh but with obvious weight; quite bold and big; lots of creamy notes. Manages freshness and weight. 93+/100

Chateau Bastor-Lamontagne, Sauternes

2009 Mid gold; fresh, some wax and lemon zest alongside gooseberry; ripe palate; fresh and nicely balanced with honey and sweetness; very good effort. 92+/100

Chateau Doisy-Vedrines, Barsac

2009 Pale gold/straw; fresh honey; good rich palate, nice acid; fuller style than the Dosiy-Daene but without quite the delicacy and race (by comparison). 92+/100

Chateau Nairac, Barsac

2009 Gold; some VA lift; fat; honey and butter tones; attractive and lifted notes. Not in the top drawer but should be very good. 89-90+/100

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