Saturday, 17 November 2012

Bordeaux 2009: Three Years On

In 2009, I visited Bordeaux twice, once in September and again in October. There were already murmurings about the quality of the vintage then, with a lot of pleased grins and rubbing of hands. The constant hyping of Bordeaux made this writer cast a cynical eye over the comments, but undoubtedly winemakers were looking very relaxed as they perused the grapes coming into the winery. The weather was also very fine during my stays, misty mornings giving way to bright sunshine during the afternoon. I took advantage of this by jogging around the vineyards in the morning, keeping an eye out for the wild boars that I had been assured were a possibility. Unfortunately none materialised and I was deprived of the opportunity to drag back a carcass for lunch.

Thanks to the efforts of Ch'ng Poh Tiong, author of the well-researched book 108 Great Chinese Dishes Paired, I had the opportunity to revisit the vintage this month. The thirty wines on show covered the major Bordeaux appellations, the Left Bank being represented by wines from St-Estèphe, Pauillac, St-Julien, Margaux, Graves and Pessac-Léognan while wines from Pomerol and St-Émilion acted as proxies for the Merlot-dominated Right Bank. There were even a couple of sweet wines from Barsac and Sauternes. 

It became obvious fairly quickly that these were wines that you did not have to wait decades further to enjoy. The soft, rounded tannins and sweet fruit made them a joy to be consumed today. Another attractive factor was the lushness of texture, a plush, gentle caress that swathed the tongue while firm acidity lent structure to the wines. This was even more apparent in the dry white wines, brilliant examples of singing fruit and waxy smoothness. Alcohol levels, while being high due to the ripeness of the vintage, were for the most part well-integrated and barely noticeable. 

One of my friends wondered aloud if these were wines that could keep, considering how plush and ripe they are today. It is a valid question - the wines are certainly showing very well now, with only a few (mostly from Pauillac) displaying slower evolution. There is a risk that as they age, the baby fat will overwhelm the acids, leading to overweight, flabby wines. The wines that will age well are the ones with enough structure and freshness to go the distance. 

Tasting notes (all from 2009 vintage): 

Château Chantegrive Rouge (Graves) - Deep ruby, rich and concentrated nose with some menthol, grilled meat, baked clay and blackcurrant. High acidity, ripe medium tannins, medium+ alcohol, medium+ body with a velvety texture and long finish. 

Château Belgrave (Haut-Médoc) - Deep ruby-purple. Ripe and forward nose, medium+ intensity with dark fruit. Medium acidity with well defined black fruit if a bit simple, finishing with crunchy black cherry. Medium length. 

Château Sénéjac (Haut-Médoc) - Medium ruby. Medium+ intensity nose, slightly vegetal. Medium acidity, ripe tannins, black fruit with medium intensity, medium bodied, fruit is a little light. In a classic style.

Château Beaumont (Haut-Médoc) - Medium ruby. Ripe black fruits with some toasty oak influence on the nose. Well-defined blackcurrant on the palate, with medium acidity, ripe medium tannins, medium+ alcohol, and medium+ length. Supple texture and good fruit concentration.

Château Petit-Village (Pomerol) - Deep inky ruby. Restrained and brooding nose with a lot of underlying power. High acidity, medium+ resolved tannins with black plum, licorice and forest fruits. Complex and long lived.

Château Canon (St-Émilion) - Deep purple. Savoury fruit with notes of plum and sandalwood on the nose. Medium acidity, medium tannins with black plum and savoury notes, medium intensity. Shows good balance. 

Château Laroze (St-Émilion) - Medium ruby. Nose is rather closed. Medium+ acidity, medium- ripe tannins, medium body, medium- intensity, with raspberry and black plums. Medium length.

Château Monlot (St-Émilion) - Medium ruby. Black plums and slight hint of menthol on the nose, with medium+ mouthwatering acidity, generous fruit, gentle but persistent tannins and medium+ alcohol showing a slight warmth in the finish.

Domaine de Chevalier Rouge (Graves) - Deep ruby. Medium+ intensity, dense and toasty nose with black fruit and earth. Medium+ acidity, ripe black fruits, very polished. Deft use of oak adding texture and body. Medium+ length. Modern.

Château Haut-Bailly (Pessac-Léognan) - Deep ruby. Medium intensity nose, savoury with tobacco notes. Palate has medium acidity, medium tannins with black cherries and a hint of vanilla. Slightly hollow midway. 

Château Olivier (Pessac-Léognan) - Deep ruby. Rich warm nose, even a bit nutty. Heady. Medium acidity, warm bricks on the palate, shows richness, lush texture and warmth backed with masses of fruit. Medium+ length.

Château Smith Haut Lafitte Le Petit Haut Lafitte (Graves) -
Deep ruby. Rich cassis nose. Medium+ acidity with solid fruit and harmonious structure. Medium length. 

Château Ormes de Pez (St-Estèphe) - Deep cherry ruby. Earthy and funky nose with hints of capsicum and sulphur. Medium acidity and medium+ tannins on the palate with black fruits. 

Château Phélan Ségur (St-Estèphe) - Deep cherry ruby. Noticeable oak on the nose, charred toast and vanilla. Black fruit with deft oak handling on the palate, very modern, rich and concentrated with fully ripe tannins.

Château Brane-Cantenac (Margaux) - Deep ruby. Elegant and perfumed nose with a suggestion of violets. High acidity, generous fruit with dark chocolate. Well structured.

Château du Tertre (Margaux) - Deep ruby. Slight rubber notes on the nose with toasted oak and spice. Palate has medium+ acidity, medium+ body with a soft and velvety texture. Blackcurrant throughout finishing with exotic spices. Medium length.

Château Giscours (Margaux) - Deep ruby. Sous bois nose, medium+ intensity, dense. Medium acidity, medium resolved tannins, bell pepper and crushed black fruit on the palate with medium length. 

Château Kirwan (Margaux) - Deep ruby. Ethereal, complex nose with notes of lead pencil, violets and black fruit. Full bodied and quite grippy on the palate with medium tannins and a long finish. Brawny and powerful. 

Château Rauzan-Ségla (Margaux) - Deep ruby. Toasty nose with loamy earth. Medium acidity, concentrated fruit, juicy and almost jammy. Underscored by oak. Medium length. Beautifully balanced.

Amiral de Beychevelle (St-Julien) - Deep ruby. Typical Bordeaux nose with slight dustiness and ripe black fruit. Ripe and rounded on the palate with a hint of blackcurrant gummies. Medium+ length.

Château Beychevelle (St-Julien) - Deep ruby. Steely, iron like nose. Medium+ tannins, rich black fruit with spicy notes and hints of cinnamon. Long and warming finish.

Château Langoa-Barton (St-Julien) - Deep ruby. Oak on the nose with some floral undertones. Plum and black fruit with hints of game fill the palate. Supple texture. Medium length.

Château Léoville Barton (St-Julien) - Deep purple. Youthful nose with primary black fruit. Sweet and ripe tannins. Long finish.

Château Talbot (St-Julien) - Deep ruby. Medium- intensity nose, restrained. Inky black fruit on the palate with milk chocolate, ripe tannins, well structured and youthful. 

Château Lynch-Bages (Pauillac) - Deep ruby. Rich and perfumed nose with notes of forest floor and licorice. Medium acidity, ripe medium+ tannins, and medium alcohol. 

Château Pichon-Longueville (Pauillac) - Deep ruby. Rich cassis and black fruit aromas. Ripe and concentrated palate with steely mineral notes. Medium tannins and fresh acidity. Medium+ length.

Château Chantegrive Blanc "Cuvee Caroline" (Graves) - Pale lemon. Pronounced nose of toast and hazelnut. Crisp acidity and oak frame a lemon and waxy palate. Long and elegant finish.

Château Smith Haut Lafitte Blanc (Graves) - Pale lemon. Restrained nose with a hint of grass. Mango and tropical fruits lead the palate. Full bodied with a lush texture, backed by medium acidity.

Château Doisy-Védrines (Barsac) - Pale lemon. Pronounced pineapple and waxy aromas, intense richness and depth on the palate with concentrated notes of tropical fruit and citrus framed by lively acidity. Nice and fleshy with a long finish. 

Château Suduiraut (Sauternes) - Pale lemon gold, tropical and stone fruits on the nose. Medium intensity, full bodied with citrus and tropical fruits, refreshing acidity, medium- alcohol. Long finish.

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