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Bordeaux 2009 Primeurs: Tannin tasting in St Emilion

Written by JW. Posted in Bordeaux

The vineyard at Chateau Beau-Séjour-Bécot

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.

At the tasting number of wines stood out for both excellent quality and structure, such as Chateau Canon and Chateau Figeac and in the big, bold extracted style Chateau Canon-la-Gaffelière worked well as did a monster weighing in at 15% from Chateau Troplong Mondot – somehow its balance seemed to defy gravity. Chateau Beau-Séjour Bécot will also be very good when it settles. Yet a number of the wines felt over extracted and their tannins often very dry and marked. This searing level of tannin made many of the wines very difficult to assess for me. On the basis of the wines tasted 2009 lacks the homogeneity found elsewhere in Bordeaux, even in close neighbour Pomerol. Maybe this is partly due to the wide variety of terroir here in St Emilion from clay, limestone to sandier soils. All the wines below were tasted on 31st March 2010.

Chateau Balestard La Tonnelle, St Emilion 2009

Dense; ripe fruit nose; some vanilla; intense and some chocolate; good fruit attack, chunky St Emilion; finshes a little short. 86-88/100

Chateau Beau-Séjour Bécot, St Emilion, 2009

Deeper, more intense than the Balestard; seductive ripe nose; plums and spices; very sexy and appealing; plenty of tannin and oak; but there is a lot of fruit here; chewy and extracted. Palate a little raw and disjointed. Lots of extraction here. If it settles – this should be very good. [Later] nice and intense; some coffee and mocha; richness; good chewy palate; will; be very good 92-93+/100.

Chateau Berliquet, St Emilion, 2009

Dense purple at edge; sweet fruit nose; good chunky palate. Quite big. 88+/100

Chateau Canon, St Emilion, 2009

Dense to rim; very intense and layered nose; pent up but with real intensity; concentrated, serious and not showy. Palate similar; intense, serious with good concentration and intensity; tannic and structure here. Will fill out. Serious and quite long haul here. [Later] Attractive creamy note; palate fine; structured and very well done. 92-94+/100

Chateau Canon-la-Gaffelière, St Emilion, 2009

Typically black and inky; very ripe nose; some jam here and red fruits, strawberry and raspberry; open. Luscious palate, big and bold; lots of extract and tannin, quite a hardness to the tannins [could be the oak]. Lots of extract here. Very different to Canon. [Later] Super ripe jammy note; feels alcoholic; attractive and sweet entry; lots of tannin and material. Good grip. Classically extracted la-Gaffeliere style. 92+/100

Chateau Cap de Mourlin, St Emilion, 2009

Dense colour; soft ripeness here; dense; some marzipan and fig; very ripe; less impressive than the last two; also some stalkiness to the palate; quite chunky and extracted. Tannins very dry. Will this meld? Difficult to assess. 86?/100

Chateau Dassault, St Emilion, 2009

Mid depth, not the deepest by far; soft, fruit drivern nose; some red fruits; fresher style; attractive; definite whiff of strawberry; soft entry, swet and lots of fruit and nice extraction here; Tannic edge but should settle. [Later] Ripe and figgy; supple palate, tannins there, less fruit than earlier]. 88-90?/100

Chateau Figeac, St Emilion, 2009

Mid depth; ripe, little reductive quality to nose; needs to settle; palate quite fine and structured and intense. Tannins softer here, less extracted style which is something of a relief. A strongly Cabernet based wine this. Needs time to meld but potentially very fine. 92+/100

Clos Fourtet, St Emilion, 2009

Dense, more black red; nice attractive nose, strawberry fruit; quite pretty; nice oak already integrating; intensity and concentration here; palate full and sweet with chew; tannins and acid but there is a ripeness here and lots of alcohol. [Later] strawberry nose; good fruit qualities; fine fruity and attractive; chewy. Alcohol. 90+/100

Chateau Franc Mayne, St Emilion, 2009

Dense, very ripe, plummy nose; some toast. Attractive and full. Feels enticing. Palate quite sturdy. Extraction. Falls away a bit. Early days. Lots of guts but lots of extraction. [Later] Very jammy nose; quite attractive if super ripe; but palate feels over extracted and alcoholic. Will it settle or remain disjointed? 88-90?/100

Chateau Grand-Mayne, St Emilion, 2009

Very deep and intense colour; black; ripeness – some figs, touch or marzipan; very ripe fruit; extracted style, big and tannic; Blimey! These are tricky to judge with all this tannin floating about. Warm alcohol on the finish. [Later] Jammy, quite ripe; bold extracted style. Struggling here to judge these wines as they are so tannic. 88-90?/100

Chateau La Couspaude, St Emilion, 2009

Deep black, arterial; attractive open fruit style; lots of sweet strawberry and red fruits; enticing; palate quite clean and fruit clean and delineated; lots of ripe fruit here and well judged; Little coffee and mocha at the back. Length. I prefer this style at present in 2009. Potentially very good. [Later] Lots of fruit here; ripe and full, good St Emilon. 90-92+/100

Chateau La Dominique, St Emilion, 2009

Dense and tight to the rim; bif briary nose; little reductive note; lots of fruit though; strawberry and red fruits beneath. Some wet stone and minerals; palate big and bold; tannic at this stage; beetroot note, should settle; lots of extract and tannin again. Long haul wine. [later] Very sturdy; massively extracted though. So difficult to judge. 90-92?/100 but only if tannins settle?

Chateau La Gaffelière, St Emilion, 2009

Dense purple at edge;  attractive and pretty fruit driven nose; red fruits; some oak beneath but nice; palate sweet ripe fruit, strawberry and red fruits plus a kiss of oak; later oak tannins come through and palate quite hard. [Later] Lighter toned and fresher; more attractive nose; palate still hard and tannins hard. Again difficult to judge I’m overwhelmed with tannin. The tannins are far finer in Pauillac! 86-88?/100

Chateau La Tour Figeac, St Emilion, 2009

Dense, solid and intense; some slcohol and whiff of VA; lift; clean palate, quite precise; some dry tannins again here; lacks roundness and generosity. Chewy and intense. 88?/100

Chateau Larmande, St Emilion, 2009

Dense colour; interesting looking; creamy and attractive nose; lots of ripe fruits and quite intense and layered. Palate thick and rich but at least tannins [lots] feel ripe and soft here. Lots of extract and material. Potentially very interesting if it settles down. 90-92+/100

Chateau Troplong Mondot, St Emilion, 2009

Inky black, very dense; quite viscous in the glass; wow, fabulous nose of sweet, ripe fruit; very seductive with lots and lots of new oak but packed with ripe fruit too; Big, dense, chewy palate, lots and lots of fruit but sweet ripeness. This is BIG and not at all for the fainthearted. Thick and tannic with alcohol on the finish. It is over 15% alcohol.  Defies gravity but actually works. If you like your wines huge, this is it! 92+/100

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