Well 2005 Lafite does have a contender. Judging wines at such a young age – five months since the last day of harvest on 8thOctober – is usually a tricky affair with a fair bit of filling in the gaps, but there is absolutely no doubt that Lafite has produced something truly extraordinary in 2009. Charles Chevallier was already describing the vintage as ‘truly great’ before Christmas, but tasting the wine is something else. It’s a blend of 82.5% Cabernet, 17% Merlot and 0.5% Petit Verdot and I imagine it’s around the 13.5 degree mark, if not more, yet the quality of the fruit and the ripeness of the tannins, alongside perfectly judged extraction and winemaking, mark this Lafite as magical.
There is something almost mythical about Chateau Mouton-Rothschild, the Pauillac that has produced some of the most profound, strongest and longest-lived wines of the commune. Its style is obviously very different from Chateau Lafite-Rothschild, though interestingly in 2009 the actual blend is not hugely different from it, with just marginally more Cabernet Sauvignon [88%] and correspondingly slightly less Merlot [12%]. Again the weather conditions in 2009 at Mouton, as at Lafite and in the rest of the Medoc, were virtually perfect. There were remarkable levels of sunshine and very little summer rainfall. This hydric stress, as Mouton described it, and fine weather meant that the grapes ripened slowly and to full maturity. September had hot days but cool nights, again perfect vintage conditions.
It is now certain that the Gods smiled on Bordeaux in 2009, perhaps nowhere more so than in Pauillac. Admittedly things look pretty exciting too in St Estèphe, St Julien and Margaux, but given the extraordinary success of Cabernet Sauvignon in this vintage it would be surprising if Pauillac wasn’t really up there, first among equals in this vintage. It is still early days of course and the wines are very young but the potential is tremendous.
This was an extremely satisfying and strong appellation in 2009. Along with Pauillac and St Estèphe, St Julien is a contender for commune of the vintage, and has produced wines of great richness, intensity and strength in 2009. 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.
Just returned from a week-long trip to Bordeaux to taste the principal wines from the 2009 vintage and I have to admit that these wines are amongst the finest young reds I have ever tasted. It is a truly extraordinary vintage in the Médoc, the best ‘Cabernet’ year in living memory. It is a vintage in which many of the classed growths are nudging nearly fourteen degrees in alcohol and yet somehow manage to display extraordinary levels of balance. It also looks extremely good in Pessac-Léognan, is beautiful year in Pomerol and has produced the best sweet wine vintage for Sauternes and Barsac since 2001.
Word on the steps of the major Chateaux is that 2009 is indeed an extraordinary year for red Bordeaux. What! I hear you say, another ‘legendary’ vintage maturing away in the vats of these great estates? First it was 2000, then 2003 the big heatwave year which was seen as a contender for a while, only to be trumped by 2005, described by virtually everyone at the outset as the best Bordeaux vintage ever – except Robert Parker – though he later revised his opinion upwards too. I got wrapped up in it all and bought as much as I 2005 could afford. I don’t regret it, but I’m not sure I can afford to do it all over again. But then again, do I want to miss out in such a potentially great vintage? So what is the story about 2009 then?