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 [damage was also reported in the Médoc at the time] 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-Séjour Bécot. So clearly there are a few caveats to the St Emilion review here.
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 fruits and richness, some more layered on the palate than others, and the tannins, while pretty big, are not generally over extracted and are very ripe.
2009 is a beautiful vintage here in Pomerol. Lovely wines full of attractive fruit with concentration and intensity. Extraction very much in check compared with St Emilion. Seductive and packed with fruit, these are wines that should be approachable early and some are already showing well. The following were tasted at Chateau Gazin as part of the Union des Grands Crus de Bordeaux tastings.
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. ’
The hot and dry vintage conditions in 2009 were ideal for the clay soils of St Estèphe. On the basis of the half-dozen wines that I tasted, St Estèphe looks to have had a excellent vintage. Chateau Lafon-Rochet in particular was outstanding, as were Chateau Ormes de Pez and Chateau Haut Marbuzet. The following wines [except for Haut Marbuzet] were tasted at the Union des Grand Cru tasting of the wines from St Estèphe at Chateau Batailley on 30 March and 1 April.
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. There’s nothing lesser about the wines though. There is a suppleness and seductive quality that makes these wines so pleasurable already, but at the same time there is real intensity and concentration beneath which is disguised because of the exceptional ripeness of the fruit. I found nothing really loose here at all.