After spending five days in Bordeaux and tasting over 200 wines from the 2009 vintage, it is clear that this is a great vintage for Bordeaux. Several Chateaux have wines in barrel that will become legendary, while others have made wines that are the greatest produced by their Chateau. There is no shortage of wonderful wines from every appellation and price range, and comparisons are being made to great vintages such as 1982 and 1990. Still, caution is necessary, as not all wines are great, and there are stylistic differences among wines, even within the same appellation.
A quick look at the weather will help explain the style of the vintage. April and May were wet and often stormy, with flowering taking place rapidly in early June. From mid June through August there was a remarkable amount of sunshine and little rain, which enabled the grapes to ripen slowly to full maturity. Ideal weather continued into September as warm days were followed by cool nights. This weather cycle produced concentrated wines without the over-ripeness of 2003 or the sometimes fierce tannins of 2005. Instead, most wines are bursting with bright red fruit flavors and fine tannins. The left bank wines, especially, were pure and fresh. Most estates picked their Merlot in late September and Cabernet in early October.
Despite the wonderful growing conditions, not everyone made great wine. In a few cases, if the Cabernet was picked too early, the wines were a bit green or had hollow mid-palates. Far more common, however, were wines in St Emilion that seem a bit over extracted. It will be interesting to see if they settle down in the bottle, because it was a great year for Merlot. It seems some right bank estates may have waited too long to pick their Merlot, and the wines seem to lack freshness and are a bit over blown. For this reason, I found the left bank to be far more consistent, although many right bank estates made outstanding wines.
The hype surrounding this vintage is growing, and many people at the Chateaux told us that there were more visitors tasting the wines than in any other year. When we went to Chateau Margaux we were told that there were going to be 700 visitors coming to taste their wine….that day alone! There is a great deal if interest in this vintage from around the world, and prices for the top wines could be very high. The Chateaux will probably begin to announce pricing near the end of the month.
In this report I will go through the styles of the wines from the various appellations, as well as list some of my favorite wines. Not all wines I mention here will be offered from Binny’s on futures, as availability and pricing will play a part in what we carry. In late Spring/early Summer we will begin to post our 2009 futures offerings on Binnys.com, and I will post my impressions on the Binny’s Blog for those wines that I tasted. If you like Bordeaux, this is a vintage that is worth the effort to do a bit of homework and consider buying some wines on futures. My ‘top wines’ and ‘best of the rest’ are listed in order of preference, although all are wines I would be thrilled to own.
This was a great vintage for this northern Medoc appellation. There was plenty of time for the Cabernet Sauvignon to ripen fully, and while St Estephe is known for often hard, tannic wines, especially young, these wines were surprisingly approachable. Very good to great wines were made across the board, with many estates putting in their finest effort in years. Unfortunately, I did not have a chance to taste Calon Segur, which would have been on this list somewhere.
Top Wines: Cos D’Estournel, Montrose- By far the best of the St Estephe’s we tried, the better wine is completely dependant on your stylistic preference. Cos was a big, modern style, in-your-face wine while Montrose was full bodied and brooding in a more old-world, traditional style. Both wines are fantastic, and both will last for decades. The Cos tasted expensive, and it will be.
Best of the rest: Pagodes de Cos, Meyney, Haut Marbuzet, Le Crock, Ormes De Pez, Phelan Segur, Lafon Rochet, Dame de Montrose.- Pagodes de Cos is the second wine of Cos D’Estournel, and is a huge mouthful of wine for a second label. Le Crock is now owned by the excellent St Julien estate Leoville Poyferre, and and General Manager Didier Cuvelier said it was the best wine this St Estephe estate has produced. The biggest surprise was Chateau Meyney, which made the best wine they have produced since the late 80′s.