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Bordeaux 2006: MW Institute tasting

Written by JW. Posted in Bordeaux

Overall Bordeaux 2006 reds can be summed up as firm, quite strong, structured wines, but for me often a bit joyless. This was certainly my immediate impression having tasted ninety or so wines from the vintage at the Master of Wine Institute’s Annual Claret tasting that took place in the wonderfully oak panelled, if rather gloomy, Vintners Hall last week. The best wines had good structure, acid and enough flesh to make complex wine eventually but the best do need time in bottle. Even mature these will always be firm wines I reckon as in this vintage there is plenty of tannin, albeit it ripe and fine enough. There were also quite a few disappointments and the vintage is not consistent across all the appellations.

Pauillac and St Julien were, for me, the two that stood out and made the best wines in 2006, St Julien especially. St Estèphe, Chateau Cos d’Estournel  apart, produced good but unexciting wines, judging from the half dozen shown. The Margaux appellation was generally disappointing, which is a shame as it’s an appellation I enjoy. Chateau Palmer was very good along with others, including Chateau d’Issan but too many wines here felt a bit hollow and overdone relative to their fruit in 2006. Some good red wines were made in Pessac-Léognan and in Pomerol a number of wines looked good, though not necessarily knockout.  That old devil over-extraction remains alive and well in St Emilion in 2006. To be fair I reached these wines last and may have been a little jaded, but more than a few displayed frankly torturous levels of tannin.

Amongst the first growths tasted, the wines were extremely impressive. Chateau Mouton-Rothschild has made a wonderful wine and its exotic, flamboyant nature recalls the 1986 tasted at a similar age. It was certainly one of the wines of the tasting. Chateau Lafite Rothschild has made a powerful and intense wine in 2006 but Mouton has the edge for me. Chateau Margaux exhibited wonderful perfume and purity on the nose and it was up there with Mouton for sheer intensity and was pretty dense on the palate. Chateau Haut-Brion was really attractive and remains the bargain amongst the first growths for the quality as I can see this isn’t much off the pace of Mouton, Lafite or Margaux. Chateau La Mission Haut-Brion had a classy nose but felt very extracted, dry and tannic on the palate at the tasting. If I’m honest I found Chateau Cheval Blanc a little disappointing certainly in the context of the others, while it showed density and concentration, it didn’t seem to match the class of the others.  Chateau Latour wasn’t shown.

Chateau Lagrange precise and intense in 2006

In terms of value for money I thought that Pauillac and St Julien definitely offered the best options. Chateau Haut Batailley and Chateau Batailley have both produced excellent wines, as has Chateau Haut-Bages Libéral, after relatively disappointments here in 2008 and 2009.  In St Julien Chateau St Pierre has once again produced a lovely wine, Chateau Langoa Barton looks terrific, and hot on Chateau Léoville-Barton’s heels.  Chateau Lagrange is as precise and intense as ever and Chateau Beychevelle, which has been creeping up in price over the last year or so, seemed a considerable success too.  For fans of Chateau Léoville Poyferré the 2006 won’t disappoint either and is considerably cheaper than more recent vintages.

Overall 2006 seems a red wine vintage that is much better than 2007 but lies in the shadow of 2005 and 2009. The 2008 may also be a better bet eventually, tasted recently at the UGC tasting in London and I wonder whether this vintage has a bit more flesh than 2006. Certainly the comparison between two vintages is a potentially interesting one. More detailed notes and a vintage profile will follow in due course.

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