I came away from the primeurs tastings in St Emilion last year 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, such a lot of it, just how would these wines settle? Admittedly over-extraction and over-ripeness are not new concerns for this appellation, but it did concern me when I first tasted these 2009s. It wasn’t 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 seem so much better balanced now they are in bottle. There are a lot of great wines here in 2009, still some, nevertheless, do remain overly thick and jammy. Perhaps overall this vintage does lack some of the freshness of 2010 vintage. Maybe this St Emilion is the one appellation in Bordeaux where 2010 does genuinely succeed 2009? Undoubtedly 2010 was a more enjoyable primeur tasting experience. That said there is a huge amount of pleasure and joy to be found in the best wines here and they’ve come on in leaps and bounds since last year.
The best? Of the wines presented by the UGCB Chateau Figeac, undoubtedly because of the freshness the Cabernet Franc and Cabernet Sauvignon adds is tremendous. Likewise, for similar reasons so is Chateau Trottevielle. These two, along with Canon, would definitely appeal to those with a taste for the left bank as much as the right. In the utterly seductive, sexy, too-much-of-a-good-thing St Emilion-style then Chateau Beau-Séjour Bécot, Chateau Canon La Gaffelière, Clos Fourtet, Chateau La Dominique and undoubtedly Chateau Troplong-Mondot deliver in spades. Those looking for wines with maybe a little more restraint but with lots of style [and at considerably less expense] then Chateau Larmande, Chateau Couspaude and Chateau La Tour Figeac are worth serious attention. Chateau Grande Maybe 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 too for Larcis Ducasse and Pavie-Macquin which 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 major 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 Mouiex properties and certain other top estates [like Chateau Angelus and Chateau Pavie] alongside the likes of Chateau Cheval Blanc and Chateau Ausone didn’t form part of the line-up, either because they aren’t members or don’t show at these events for some reason. Nevertheless the seventeen tasted below obviously represent a reasonable cross-section.
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
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
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
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
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. 88/100
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
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
2009 Mid depth; lovely ripe Cabernet Franc nose; wonderfully attractive and extremely fresh; really ripe quality to the fruit; great palate and extremely fine to be. 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. 94+/100
Tags: 2009, Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Chateau Beau-Séjour Bécot, Chateau Berliquet, Chateau Canon, Chateau Canon La Gaffelière, Chateau Figeac, Chateau Franc Mayne, Chateau Grand Mayne, Chateau La Couspaude, Chateau La Dominique, Chateau La Gaffelière, Chateau La Tour Figeac, Chateau Larcis Ducasse, Chateau Larmande, Chateau Pavie Macquin, Chateau Troplong Mondot, Chateau Trottevielle, Clos Fourtet, extraction, Merlot, St Em, tannin, UGCB