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Bordeaux 2005: A bird in the hand?

Written by JW. Posted in Bordeaux

At a time when the Bordeaux 2009 is grabbing all the attention – this week Chateau Mouton-Rothschild ‘09 was released at a cool £8000 a case – it almost feels like that previous superstar vintage 2005 is being overlooked, certainly if prices are anything to go by. In fact 2005 is almost looking a bit undervalued, amazing considering the records broken in 2006 when those wines were first released. With that in mind I had a look at some of the wines that I bought back then just to see how that vintage is faring and to fill in some gaps in my tastings of them. All the wines were from the left bank and there was remarkable harmony and finesse to them all.

Classed growths Chateau Lagrange and Chateau La Lagune were the most impressive but for very different reasons as stylistically they are poles apart. La Lagune 2005 is flashy, opulent and extremely forward, so deceptively soft and attractive you find yourself missing a bit of bite on the palate, as if it is simply too much of a good thing. Nevertheless it is a wonderfully flamboyant wine and a genuine pleasure to drink already. Chateau Lagrange, by contrast, is much more backward, enormously concentrated and very impressive, a multilayered and serious wine. In ten years it should be terrific St Julien.

Tasted alongside were two excellent wines from Pauillac, Chateau Haut Batailley, all finesse and precision, and Chateau d’Armailhac, more forward and opulent. Chateau Cantemerle was surprisingly backward with all the elements there – fruit, acid and tannin – but it feels a bit of a jumble today and was less impressive that I’d hoped. Amongst the crus bourgeois, Chateau Fourcas-Dupré from Moulis is now very attractive, and has I reckon just entered its drinking window for those who like their wines with bite and chew. Chateau Tour St Bonnet is certainly an enjoyable and flavoursome wine, without the finesse and complexity of the others obviously but this reliable Médoc cru bourgeois was less than £8 a bottle en primeur. The 2009 isn’t much more today.  Of course I don’t imagine that anyone is losing sight of the true qualities of the 2005 vintage. In the long run 2009’s high prices will doubtless pull up the 2005s further, in much the way that a best selling album puts the back catalogue back in the charts. Maybe we should be really adding 2005s to the cellar before prices catch up with the latest vintage of the century. At least you can get your hands on 2005 now rather than wait until 2012. A bird in the hand….

Chateau La Lagune, Cru Classé, Ludon, Haut-Médoc 2005

Deep black, red purple at edge, legs; plummy, luxuriant nose, as decadent as a top Pomerol; ripe cherries, blackcurrants here too; palate very soft and open; lots of extract and layers yet like a feather quilt ; extract at the back with length, feels quite low acid but this is decadent, voluptuous stuff. Actually you don’t tire so there is freshness here too; coffee and mocha on the finish. Really yummy, this is astonishingly drinkable stuff already. 94+/100 Tasted June 2010

Chateau Lagrange, Cru Classé, St Julien, 2005

Deep red, purple at rim, concentrated and dense but with life; initially quite pent up, some stones and minerals; blackcurrants and sweetness beneath but quite dumb to begin with; with aeration wonderful ripeness and density emerged; both on the nose and palate; intense palate; this is a fine structured wine with layers and lots of extract; very well handled and coiled tightly but which will unwind beautifully. Palate very substantial and concentrated – this is a 05 very much in its shell compared with the La Lagune which is already out to party. Lots of fruit to the palate and wonderfully judged extraction here – a wine with pretentions to greatness. This is certainly the best wine here since the fantastic 2000, although if the 2009 puts on more weight than I felt that it had at the en primeur tastings earlier this year it may yet give this wine a run for its money. Still this is a dead cert for lovers of serious, ambitious but still good value St Julien and you can go buy it now! 95/100  Tasted June 2010

Chateau d’Armailhac, Cru Classé, Pauillac, 2005

More purple red; legs; meaty notes to the nose; some rose petal and perfume; attractive and quite pretty; palate quite chewy but polished, fine grained tannins and nicely balanced; length to the palate with concentration and extract but harmonious and balanced. There is still a sturdy Pauillac quality here too. Very good. 92+/100 Tasted June 2010

Chateau Haut Batailley, Cru Classé, Pauillac, 2005

Earthy red at edge, dark at centre; legs; good depth, ripe, sweet and attractive nose; blackcurrants and cassis; fine; some darker savoury notes at the edge; palate well balanced; good entry to the palate with pure blackcurrant and cassis flavours; mid weight and pure Pauillac style; quite classic and pent up still; fine tannins and more harmonious than currently disjointed Cantemerle. Polished wine with good definition and length. Nicely balanced, just a bit more going on in the d’Armailhac at this stage but this is a very pure style of wine making here. 90+/100 Tasted June 2010.

Chateau Cantemerle, Cru  Classé, Macau, Haut-Médoc, 2005

Dense colour; some minerals, quite dumb and closed, slightly reductive streak and backward; later with aeration plummy blackcurrant fruit emerged;  concentrated palate, feels a little disjointed at present; certainly quite dense and structured and not that supple – quite vin de garde style infact. All fruit, acid and tannin at present. Will be very good I’m sure but ugly duckling now. Score reflects future potential. 88-90/100 Tasted June 2010.

Chateau Fourcas-Dupré, Cru Bourgeois, Moulis, 2005

Mid red; some purple; depth; blackcurrants and cassis with earthy edge with some development; this is getting interesting in that Moulis style, with a whiff of the hedgerow and undergrowth; palate very supple and tannins round despite the reputation of this appellation; tannins actually rather fine; real roundness already to the palate and come chocolate at the back; good grip too giving the wine a nice bite. Good length and nicely balanced wine. 89/100 Tasted June 2010.

Chateau Tour St Bonnet, Cru Bourgeois, Medoc 2005

Deep red; legs; tar and blackcurrants with earth and a slightly walnut note here too [is this from the ageing in foudres here rather than barrels I wonder?]; palate chewy with ripe fruit and ripe tannins; good honest Medoc that really delivers flavour at a great price. 2005 is up there with their really impressive 2003. 87/100  Tasted June 2010.

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