Generally the further up the Haut-Médoc you go, the increasingly exciting things get in 2009. This excitement perhaps reaches its apogee in St Julien, Pauillac and St Estèphe. The four Haut-Médoc properties shown at the MW Institute tasting last November come from very different ends of the left bank and perhaps contradict this pattern slightly. Château La Lagune and Château Cantemerle border the Margaux appellation in the south, while Château Belgrave and Château de Camensac are further north and neighbour St Julien inland. All look extremely good in 2009 but Cantermerle and La Lagune are utterly brilliant.
There’s so much to sink your teeth into in Pessac-Léognan in 2009. The wines have plenty of structure, weight and tannin, all disguised by the sheer gloss and abundance of sweet fruit in this vintage. There seems to be a bit more chew to the tannin here though than in the left bank appellations further north. Opulent wines have been made at Domaine de Chevalier, Château Malartic-Lagravière and Château Smith Haut Lafitte. Château Haut-Brion is a giant and will require considerable time. Château La Mission Haut-Brion has surprising freshness alongside the weight and alcohol while Chateau Bouscaut, Chateau de Fieuzal and Chateau Carbonnieux have made some of the best reds I’ve yet tasted from these properties.
It is tempting to put the boot into Bordeaux 2009. The expectations were so high at the outset, as were the prices, that after all the perfect Parker points there was really only one way for sentiment to go. For me it remains a case of sentiment. Only the most curmudgeonly of tasters would surely find fault with a generally thrilling set of wines shown at the MW Institute’s 2009 claret tasting last November.
St Estèphe is one of Bordeaux’s great value appellations. The wines are noted for their flavour, depth and chew. Vineyard work over the last decade allied to later picking has yielded greater tannin ripeness in the wines and, combined with modern winemaking techniques, this has made St Estèphe overall a much more attractive prospect than maybe it used to be. Nevertheless the wines still have the guts and material to maintain the district’s reputation for producing long-lived reds. A major tasting at Vinexpo back in the summer focused on the 2010 vintage. There is no doubt that this is a very strong year for St Estèphe.