One of the most variable appellations in Bordeaux is Margaux. Great Margaux is supple and lush, but also has the structure to age well. The problem with Margaux is that the top wines are quite expensive, and all too often the other Chateaux make mediocre wines even in very good vintages. Happily in 2009, this is not the case, as many estates made beautiful wines.
Many people visiting Bordeaux wanted to compare the 2009 vintage to 2005, the last great vintage in Bordeaux. Emmanuel Cruse, Managing Director of Chateau D’Issan, did not really agree with the comparison. According to Cruse, the 2009’s have the most density since the wines of 2005, however, the 2009’s are more yielding and approachable at this stage than the 2005’s. This fact made tasting the 2009 Bordeaux barrel samples, and those of Margaux in particular, quite enjoyable.
Although there were a few duds, I loved most of the wines I tasted from Margaux. Most wines from Margaux are a fairly even blend between Cabernet and Merlot, and this seemed to fit the bill for 2009. The wines benefited from the structure of the Cabernet as well as the ripe, lush Merlot vintage, without the over ripe, over-the-top quality of some of the right bank wines.
Top wines: Palmer, Margaux. Often in top vintages, there is debate about the finest Margaux between first growth Chateau Margaux and third growth Chateau Palmer. This year, both wines are superb, but I will give a slight edge to Palmer, at least for now. The Palmer was already delicious, with berry, cherry and a hint of vanilla. Chateau Margaux was packed and structured, a wonderful wine in the making.
The best of the rest: Malescot Saint-Exupery, D’Issan, Giscours, Rausan Segla, Cantenac Brown, Prieure Lichine, Brane Cantenac, Kirwan, Du Tertre, Pavillon Rouge, Alter Ego Palmer, Ferriere, Blason D’Issan, Dauzac. A long list, and good news for consumers, because while none will be cheap, some should at least be affordable. Malescot is modern and exotic, and is getting huge reviews from critics. D’Issan is beautiful and polished, the essence of the Margaux appellation. Giscours and Rausan Segla are wines for the long haul, approachable but with so much potential. Du Tertre is easy going, and should be quite tasty at a fairly young age. My biggest surprise was Cantenac Brown, a hit and miss Chateau that made an outstanding wine in 2009.
I did not get to taste as many wines from this area as I would have liked, but what we missed in quantity we made up for in quality. I missed tasting two top wines in Pape Clement and Smith Haut Lafite, but I have little doubt Wine Spectator and Robert Parker will rate them highly.
Top wines: Haut Brion, Haut Bailly, La Mission Haut Brion, Carmes Haut Brion. First growth Haut Brion is as great as one would expect in a superb vintage, deep and brooding, with a hint of oak , mineral and dark fruit on the nose. Haut Bailly is pure and classy, an estate that has recently been making great wines. La Mission Haut Brion has caused a bit of a stir with its 14.7% alcohol, high for Bordeaux, but I did not think the wine was alcoholic or hot. Carmes Haut Brion is a beautiful little estate in the city of Bordeaux near Haut Brion. The wine was excellent, tasting of crushed red fruit and sweet, fine tannins.
The best of the rest: Le Clarence De Haut Brion, La Chapelle De La Mission Haut Brion, Picque Caillou. Both second wines of Haut Brion and La Mission were very good, especially Le Clarence, which was a bit like Haut Brion without the power. Picque is a very nice value wine that well represents the style of Pessac Leognan in 2009.