Bordeaux 2009 from bottle
March 8, 2012
After tasting a series of Pomerol 2009s from bottle and scores of Cru Bourgeois 2009s at Decanter Magazine tastings, I finally tried some 2009s from bottle at an official UGCB tasting in Germany in early March 2012.
The thing is that picking a bit earlier, not having too much extraction and maintaining freshness seemed to be important factors in 2009. Are they not always?
But in 2009, alcohol levels went berserk with many Merlots. Sometimes reaching 15.5. As I had written in my harvest report, many estates used record amounts of Cabernet in their blends to offset this. And some of the best Right Bank wines had lofty (loftier) amounts of Cabernet Franc.
If you look at an estate like Beauregard in Pomerol, these were well managed, as you can understand in my brief interview with with Vincent Priou, below.
On the Left Bank, among the wines from bottle I could taste in Germany, I was most impressed overall with Pichon Comtesse de Lalande. Mind you, many wines were missing and I simply did not get a chance to taste all the wines, so this excludes all the First Growths, Leoville Las Cases, Montrose and Pichon Longueville Baron… Nevertheless, Pichon Longueville Comtesse de Lalande is nothing short of a majestic wine. Its perfumed aromatics, freshness, complexity, subtle depth and elegance made it my preference among some stiff competition at the ProWein trade show in Düsseldorf on 5 March, which included other fine wines such as Leoville Barton, also very fine, and Lynch Bages, which was intense but a just a bit drying on the finish… I cannot understand Mr. Parker’s 98 points for Lynch Bages and “only” 95 for the Comtesse… To me, the latter was clearly better. But taste is taste.
I was impressed with one of Robert Parker’s many 100 point wines (does the number mean anything, anymore? See below). The Smith Haut Lafitte was superlative and fulfilled its promise from barrel, as I also liked it when tasting it en primeur. It conveyed both nuance and interest. Not as deep – or as layered – as Pichon Comtesse, but darn good. The Haut Bailly – which tends to be my favorite overall Pessac Leognan excluding of course the great Haut Brion and also the often wonderful Domaine de Chevalier – seems to carry more substance, more weight, on the palate , but it was not as aromatically charming at this stage. But Haut Bailly is tricky. I recall not completely loving the 2005 in a similar period – when tasted in New York in January 2008. It has turned out to be utterly magnificent. Can the same be said for the 2009? I remain unsure.
2010 vs 2009…
When I was lucky enough to be invited to a 10 vintage vertical of Haut Bailly during Vinexpo 2011, I felt that the 2010 showed more promise, more acidity and freshness. Indeed, such thoughts were reinforced when Henri Lurton of Château Brane Cantenac Margaux confided that he preferred his 2010 Brane Cantenac to his 2009. The 2010 is “more Medocain” he said.
I am not an ideologue. I just like to taste wine. A case can be made for 2009 being better than 2010 for certain wines. Chateau Montrose and Leoville Las Cases come to mind. As does Sociando Mallet. But it also depends on what you seek. I certainly found many wines in 2009 to be superior to their 2010 barrel sample counterparts, but then there is the example of Haut Bailly and others, where 2010 may prove better.
Does 100 points mean anything anymore?
As for Robert Parker’s inflated sense of 100, I am bemused. Does 100 points mean anything anymore? There is a distinct difference between Montrose and Cos d’Estournel. Can they both be 100 points? What about the thoroughly superlative Haut Brion and the far less fresh La Mission Haut Brion. Two very different wines. I would give the 100 to the former, but not to the latter. When Mr. Parker complained about the “hype machine” back during en primeur, did he realize that he has become a huge hyper himself? Prices soaring North. Whatever. To each his own. But I think 100 point Parker wines mean far less to most knowledgeable consumers today. And as for Montrose vs Cos? I would give Montrose more points, as it is more my style. But I have not yet had the Cos from bottle…
ANOTHER VIDEO: Château Léoville and Langoa Barton, and the magnificent Château Pichon Longueville Comtesse de Lalande
So, here a brief rundown on what I tasted in Düsseldorf on Monday 5 March. You will notice that my highest scores went to the wines of the Medoc, which is logical, as 2009 is more or less a Cabernet vintage. Of course there are exceptions, and many of these exceptions were not at this tasting in Germany… In fact, as already mentioned, many top wines I tasted from barrel in Bordeaux were missing.
In any case, wines in bold, I liked particularly. Red and bold, even more. When underlined, near perfection.
Graves – Pessac Leognan
Chateau Bouscaut Blanc. Crisp with some creamy texture, good acidity and if the price is right, worth the ticket. 90
Chateau Bouscaut Red. Frank and fresh. Good expression of red fruit on both the nose and the palate. Lovely overall impression. One of the best Bouscaut reds I have tried. 91
Chateau Carbonnieux Red. Elegant spice on the nose, with a smooth palate. This wine is downright impressive for its pedigree, and has not been caught up in the astronomical pricing. Seek it out. 90
Chateau Carbonnieux White. A wine I tend to go to, but was 2009 a touch too warm for this estate? Need to re-taste because I did this in a rush… ??
Château de Fieuzal Red. Alcoholic nose. The palate displays ripe fruit but there is a touch of drying tannin on the finish… 87
Chateau de France Red. A bit metallic and iron like. This wine has body and substance on the palate but lacks charm. 86
Chateau Haut Bailly. Tasted twice. Weight and substance. Violet aromas. Richness on the palate, with a healthy tonicity, and a long finish. There is a lot going on, but not showing its full potential now. Still, as written in my intro, the 2010 may be more to my style at this marvelous property. 95
Château La Louvière Red. Beguiling nose! Hints of tobacco already with a perfumed musk. The palate does not quite follow through – a touch too much iron for my taste – but this is a solid Graves and well worth the money. 91
Château Smith Haut Lafitte Rouge. Now I can see partially why Robert Parker gave this 100 points. While I do not think this is better than Leoville Las Cases (98) or even Calon Segur (94+), it is a superlative Smith Haut Lafitte. Fresh and nuanced, not over extracted or glossy. This is not too “modern”. Would anyone for a taste for tradition take me to task? We shall see… But this is an excellent red, one that I had also enjoyed from barrel. 95
Balestard La Tonnelle. Jean-Philippe Fort who works with Michel Rolland consults here. And it tasted to me like a lesser Rolland wine… A bit over extracted and drying… Up front fruit-driven nose, sure, somewhat interesting, but the palate less so. 86
Chateau La Gaffeliere. At 14.5% I could detect some heat, but not too bad. Still the nose reminded me a bit too much of California and less of Bordeaux. 89
Chateau Trottevielle. Only 8,200 bottles in 2009 due to hail. Normally, they make between 30 and 35,000… And this affected the blend, which was a whopping 62% Cabernet Franc! While the nose was very fresh and intriguing, I found the palate lacking a bit of Merlot warmth… Almost the opposite of overly rich high alcohol found in other Right Bank wines in 2009, and also not really that appealing. 88
Château Beauregard. With 30% Cabernet Franc, there is freshness here. A somewhat surprising result, because the barrel sample I had tried was not so great. Must have been the sample. Here we have balance and depth of flavor, more red fruit freshness with finesse. Not as interesting as neighbour La Conseillante… which was not at this tasting, but, then again, you are not paying nearly as much for it, either. 92
Château La Lagune. At 14% I was a touch worried, but this turned out to be quite delectable. 60% Cabernet Sauvignon and 30% Merlot and … 10% Petit Verdot Rich blackberry and plum fruit, rich overall, but not marmalade or jam. A wine that also has fine structure. 92+
Château de Camensac. This seemed to have all elements but it was quite closed in its expression. Not sure what to think, as it was a bit stolid. 88?
Château Beaumont. I have tried this on several occasions and was reassured again… It is a robust wine, with plenty of up front fruit but also good structure. Not as expressive or contoured as La Lagune, but also far less money. Nice job! 90
Château Brane Cantenac. Fine elegance with sneaky depth and length. It is not yet giving its full potential, and that is a good thing, but it certainly fulfills its promise from barrel as a wine of elegance and refinement. Still, I cannot help but think that the 2005 may be better, with added structure and aromatic complexity. Will that prove to be the same for the 2010? 93+
Château Cantenac Brown. Deeper nose in some ways than Brane Cantenac, but less subtle, and displaying evident oak derivation. Not bad, as there is substance to this wine, but a touch monotonous? 89
Château Dauzac. More up front than the two preceding wines, with a sunny fruit driven aspect that perhaps lacks subtlety but makes up for that with sheer pleasure on the palate. The price is probably also interesting. 91
Château Desmirail. Here a similar profile if not as bright, although I like the sap on the mid palate, fairly substantial, but not really elegant, as a Margaux should be… 89+
Château Du Tertre. 40% Cabernet Sauvignon, 37% Merlot, 17% Cab Franc and 6% Petit Verdot, this wine is very successful in 2009. It is rather spicy, as expected, but there is an extra dimension to the body here on the palate, more substantial than usual, almost a chocolate feel, but at the same time manages to remain nimble and drinkable. Nice job. 93
Château Giscours. Less Cabernet than usual, at 53%, with 7% Cabernet Franc and the rest Merlot. A leafy freshness on the nose with a palate all on finesse. Medium bodied with just a slight metallic aspect on the finish. 92
Château Kirwan. Here we see a real improvement since Philippe Delfaut took over. Fine depth on the nose, some iodine aspects, with finesse on the palate, and a smooth and rich “2009- like” texture. Pleasing and lingering mineral finish. 93
Château Labegorce. Here at 14% one feels a bit of the richness, but there is freshness, even a touch of florality, that lifts the wine up enough to escape the monotony of high alcohol. A nice drink, and more bang for the buck, fulfilling its promise from the barrel. 91
Château Lascombes. Glossy magazine like feel here, seeming to lack nuance and even a touch drying on the finish. This seems also a touch closed down, because the aromatics were more impressive from barrel. Cross fingers? 89?
Château Branaire Ducru. Freshness and rich fruit. Excellent palate presence and smooth texture but nuanced, refined tannins. I think I prefer this to Lynch Bages… 65% Cabernet Sauvignon, 4% Petit Verdot, 3% Cabernet Franc and the rest Merlot. 13.55% alcohol. 94
Chateau Langoa Barton. Fine aromatics precede a palate that has a tannic edge to it, with much stuffing, too, but is it just a bit hard on the finish? Time is required to soften some of the edge. 91
Chateau Leoville Barton. Here we have fine cassis driven aromatics, pure and precise, echoed on the palate, which shows refinement and depth. And foreboding tannin. Not like 2003, co-owner Lilian Barton said, and not quite as structured as the 2000, either. For me, it falls into somewhere in between. And the 2005 a cut above. Still, an excellent wine. 94
Chateau Lynch Bages. Now this was just next to Pichon Comtesse, which kicked its ass. Let’s go to some positives however: fine depth on the nose. The palate is of medium plus to high intensity in flavor and it is certainly full bodied, displaying rich and dark fruit… But is there just a hint of monotony here? As if the richness speaks for itself (it does not). There is even a touch of oak derivation. Slight, but felt. That dries the finish a touch. I am not as impressed with the later picking here (compared to, say, GPL) and the use of new oak. But let us give it the benefit of the doubt. Lynch Bages can be an astounding wine. The 2000 for example. Let’s see how this ages in bottle. But for now… 91+
Chateau Pichon Comtesse. The superstar of this entire tasting. The aromas soar out of the glass, with a perfumed freshness echoed on the palate, which is not merely full bodied. It is deceptively full bodied, because the nuanced depth really impresses the taster. There is a majesty to this wine that overshadowed all the other wines I got to taste at the UGCB in Düsseldorf (take note that I missed a lot, including Léoville Poyferre, Gruaud Larose and whatever else is missing on this blog page). But it certainly overshadowed some heavy hitters, from the aforementioned Haut Bailly to the aforementioned Lynch Bages. I agree with Robert Parker that this is like the 1982, perhaps the 1982 combined with the 1996, because the blend is similar to the 1996, with a stronger Cabernet component than is typical. Just beautiful. 98
Château Cos Labory. In spite of the 14% alcohol, this is rather old school in approach. And that may just be a good thing. Still, a bit rough on the edges and unsettled. Give it time. Has lots of material … 90
Château De Pez. This is a smoother expression. Showing a touch of peppery spice, and ripe fruit, but also some earthiness and freshness. 92
Château Lafon Rochet. Very lovely expression has a certain St Estephe toughness but more refined than the Cos Labory, displaying ripe fruit, but never hot or thick. A fine success for this estate. 92+
Château Les Ormes de Pez. More polished expression perhaps, with ripe fruit, but a touch of dryness on the finish which detracts. 89
Château Phélan Segur. Very bright nose. Fresh and rich. And the palate is smart, not expressing itself completely but not compact either. A lot of potential, with smooth texture. 60% Cabernet Sauvignon and 40% Merlot. Perhaps my overall favorite of the St Estephes, but there is close competition from Lafon Rochet and De Pez. 93
Chateau Guiraud. Very polished peach and ripe grapefruit. A real brisk aspect to this Sauternes. I recall finding this among the very best Sauternes tasted blind from barrel, and it has fulfilled its promise. 35% Sauvignon Blanc. Bravo! 95
Château Doisy Daene Typically “agile” in a Barsac manner. It was the last wine I had tasted and a nice way to end my Bordeaux 2009 tour at ProWein. But of the three Sauternes/Barsac I tried, Guiraud was my preference. It combined the elegance of Barsac with the richness of Sauternes, if you like… 92+
Cru Bourgeois tasted in London and in Strasbourg
Pomerol tasted in London