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.
Most of the best wines were in the 13.5% to 14% alcohol range which is unusual in normal vintages, even despite the continued rise of alcohol in Bordeaux’s top wines. Nevertheless none of the 2009 St Juliens tasted exhibited any heady quality or felt flabby in any way. The freshness of the Cabernet seems to have put a stop to that. Some wines were more extracted than others but overall the terrific fruit quality meant that it was unlikely, unless the winemaking was pushing extraction to the limit, that things would get overdone. [This is not entirely the case in Margaux, where there is some hefty extraction going on at several Chateaux, and is also very much the case in St Emilion, where some wines felt disjointed in alcohol and tannin – more on this later.] Many of the wines in St Julien have a wonderful intensity and layers of flavour and will prove to be very long lived but will also probably be enjoyable from the very beginning [some already are].
A number of wines were outstanding. Chateau Beychevelle has produced a beauty which rivals the fine wine made there in 2005 and Chateau Langoa-Barton has made a wonderful wine [see above], without a shred of that Chateau’s benchmark austerity. It is certainly the best Langoa I have ever had. Chateau Gruaud Larose is wonderfully rich and exotic as you would expect in a big year, Chateau Lagrange intense and pent up, but I think this will put on more weight during elevage. Chateau Leoville Poyferre has produced an extremely concentrated wine that is probably on par with the extraordinary wines made there in 1990, 2000 and 2005. Nudging ahead even higher in quality is the fantastic wine from Chateau Leoville Barton. It is clearly a First Growth in all but name. I did not get the opportunity to taste two very important wines from St Julien – Chateau Ducru-Beaucaillou and Chateau Leoville-Las-Cases – as these weren’t represented but I hope to arrange tasting these soon. All the wines below were tasted on 30th March and 1st April, twice and sometimes three times.
Chateau Branaire-Ducru, Cru Classé, St Julien 2009
Fresh and clean; some rosehip, cassis and blackcurrants; slightly stalky note; not as round in style as the others; quite structured palate; more hard tannin evident here; one of the more awkward of the St Juliens at the tasting. Hopefully will come round and the score reflects the uncertainty. 88-90?/100. Tasted 30th March and 1st April 2010.
Chateau Beychevelle, Cru Classé, St Julien, 2009
Wonderful ripe red fruits on the nose; very seductive and full; very attractive and flattering at this stage; intense and lovely; wonderful fruit balance; again seductive palate; open and very full; excellent length. Tannin high but ripe and overall feel is very supple and round. 13.9 degrees. A blend of 46% Cabernet Sauvignon, 44% Merlot, 6% Cabernet Franc and 4% Petit Verdot. A terrific wine. 92-94/100. Tasted 30th March and 1st April 2009.
Chateau Gruaud Larose, Cru Classé, St Julien, 2009
Very ripe nose; some strawberries and red fruits; very seductive; almost element of jam and super ripeness here; palate intense and concentrated; a wine of fantastic fruit; some real exotic notes to the palate; almost super concentrated Grand Cru Burgundy. Decadent. Fantastic finish. [Earlier note] Deep black – red to purple at edge; very sexy and open; opulent; already quite nuanced; very flattering; great entry; real ripeness here; seductive fruit; wonderful. Real chew but well balanced. Lots of extract and material but nicely done. Very good length. 94-95/100. Tasted 30th March & 1st April 2010.
Chateau Lagrange, Cru Classé, St Julien, 2009
Deep purple black; intense and concentrated nose; tight and dense; very pure and very ripe fruit; cassis; a little pent up compared to the Leoville Barton and Gruaud Larose; minerals and chalk too; focused again; lots of ripeness here on the palate; tight with some oak tannins at the back. Lots of extract and grip. Should be excellent. Not that showy. Good length. May merit higher score. 92+/100. Tasted 30th March & 1st April 2010.
Chateau Langoa Barton, Cru Classé, St Julien, 2009
Vibrant colour; ripe and very attractive nose; very perfumed with red fruits and concentrated – lovely layers here; quite pretty; roses and red fruits; very correct for St Julien; lovely layered palate with good fruit; tannic but ripe with intensity; extract and tannins here but excellent overall. A structured wine. Will age very well. The blend is 54% Cabernet Sauvignon, 34% Merlot, 12% Cabernet Franc. The best Langoa I’ve had. 92-93+/100. Tasted 30th March & 1st April 2010.
Chateau Léoville Barton, Cru Classé, St Julien, 2009
Very deep and inky; fresh and very intense nose; focused and very precise; loaded to the brim with fruit; but very intense and concentrated; very ripe flavours; red fruits and lift with minerals. Excellent. Fabulous density; lots of extract and concentration; layers; lots and lots of fruit. Blimey! A concentrated and fantastic Leoville Barton. Nudging First Growth quality here and this is a 30+ year wine. The blend is 77% Cabernet Sauvignon, 22.5% Merlot, 0.5% Cab Franc. Potentially 96-98+/100. Tasted 30th March & 1st April 2010.
Chateau Léoville Poyferré, Cru Classé, St Julien, 2009
Dense colour, tight to rim; great focus and ripeness on the nose; very precise flavours and dense; very, very good; very ripe here; some minerals, graphite and cassis; wonderful intensity and purity on the palate; simply loaded with fruit and layered with structure beneath; little tannic at the back but lots of layers of fruit here to support this. Excellent finish. Nearly 14 degrees. The blend is 60% Cabernet Sauvignon, 29% Merlot, 5% Cabernet Franc% and 6% Petit Verdot. Terrific effort. 94-96+/100. Tasted 30th March & 1st April 2010.
Chateau Saint-Pierre, Cru Classé, St Julien, 2009
Mid depth and purple at edge; freshness; little unsettled quality to the nose; sturdy; less concentrated than the two Leovilles tasted; palate pretty and floral; slightly higher toned; lacks the depth of the great wines here but should fill out and knit together. 88+/100 Tasted 30th March & 1st April 2010.
Chateau Talbot, Cru Classé, St Julien, 2009
Very ripe fruit; round; some leaf less super rich than former stable mate Gruaud Larose but a very well balanced wine; feels round; some cassis and spice here on the nose. Attractive. Palate very soft, mid weight and nicely done; some cassis and spice and briary notes to the palate; tannic edge on the finish but lots of fruit here and tannins feel very ripe and supple. Excellent 90-92+/100 Tasted 30th March & 1st April 2010.
Tags: 2009, Bordeaux, Cabernet Sauvignon, Chateau Beychevelle, Chateau Branaire-Ducru, Chateau Gruaud Larose, Chateau Lagrange, Chateau Langoa Barton, Chateau Léoville Barton, Chateau Léoville Poyferré, Chateau Saint-Pierre, Chateau Talbot, Merlot, St Julien, UGCB, Union des Grands Crus de Bordeaux