I spent ten days in Bordeaux between the 7th and 16th of October 2009, visiting several chateaux and, following harvest 2009, at several properties. Here are my impressions.
Thursday the 8th of October 2009
Warm and fresh weather today with a few drops of rain. Harvest of Cabernet Sauvignon is ongoing.
The first stop was Chateau Margaux and I was lucky to have a few minutes to talk with Paul Pontalier and get some new information on 2009 harvest. Cabernet Sauvignon started on the 5th of October and will finish next week. Today an excellent Petit Verdot was picked up in a parcel close to the chateau. Merlot was brought in with app. 14 degrees alcohol, and C.S. is showing potentially 13 degrees.
Petit Verdot, seen at Chateau Margaux
Paul Pontalier is extremely excited about 2009 and said he's never experienced such an excellent weather conditions while living in Bordeaux and working at Margaux.
2008 Margaux has put on weight and intensity, but oak is quite marked for the moment. It needs to age more. There is a whole 87% CS in this wine. 2007 Margaux did show aromatic touch, roundness, light feet and elegance. 2006 Margaux is great classic wine for the property with its richness, intensity of flavours, excellent depth and length. Exceptional treat!
Next stop was Pichon Comtesse.
Director Gildas d'Ollone told me he has never seen such optimal conditions with cool nights, ripe seeds and 27 mm of rain received at the best possible time for CC on the 19th of September. Pichon Comtesse finished Merlot on the 22nd of September, Petit Verdot (some vines are 77 years old, but the average is 35 years) on the 28th of September, Cabernet Franc on the 30th of September and Cabernet Sauvignon between 1 and 7th of October. The fact that Petit Verdot was ripe before the Cabernet family is extraordinary, as this grape variety is usually the last one to be harvested. It makes 2009 vintage even more interesting when the blend is done.
2008 PC was fabulous and has improved dramatically since March this year.
2007 PC was gentle, aromatic, smooth and drinking nicely.
2006PC was strong, broad-shouldered and compact, but not typical for the estate, according to Gildas d'Ollone.
2005 PC is a tricky wine, a slow developer, it's gained more concentration and intensity since the last time I tasted it. Will be excellent in 4-6 years' time. Absolutely not as bad as Robert Parker rates it. Gildas d'Ollone has a message to Bob to come and retaste 2005 and 1990 as well.
1990 PC is a very elegant, balanced and tasty wine. Absolutely not as bad as Bob rates it. Gildas d'Ollone has a message to Bob to come and retaste 2005 and 1990 as well, which I tasted yesterday. very elegant, balanced and tasty wine.
Btw, Gildas d'Ollone said, That at PC, grapes seldomly reach high levels of alcohol compared to other properties. The explanation lies within the soil.
I also stopped by Cos d'Estournel and saw their impressive high-tech vats. They will finish CS tomorrow, and Palmer will finish with CS on Monday the 11th of October.
Friday the 9th of October 2009
Today, I went to a place I always visit in Bordeaux, Haut Brion and La Mission.
Turid Alcaras told me that Jean-Philippe Delmas is delighted with the quality of 2009 harvest and that he has never experienced such healthy and ripe grapes and unbelievable excellent summer. He and his technical staff hope to make something really, really special, unforgettable and magnificent out of exceptional 2009 ingredients.
I was treated by 2008, 2007 and 2006 vintages in both colours from both properties. In Bordeaux, one must always taste reds before whites, as acidity in white wine would influence the taste (edgy and dry) of tannin in red wine.
2008 HB red tasted even better than in March this year and is a strong candidate to be among the two best 1. Growths in 2008. Big shoulders, immense depth, backbone, plenty of excellently ripe black cherries and stunning length and aftertaste. I'm happy to have bought a few bottles of this treasure.
2008 LMHB red was lighter, sophisticated, velvety and very elegant. A distinguished and charming lady with open arms.
2007 HB red and 2007 LMHB red were significantly lighter, not as deep and intense as 2008 versions.
2006 HB red and 2006 LMHB red reminded me quite a lot of 2008, but for me, the grade of fruit ripeness and intensity was a bit lower in 2006 than in 2008. Nevertheless, both 2006 are excellent wines, and here imho La Mission is ahead of HB.
2008 Laville was simply a stunning wine with stunning acidity, immensely attractive, luscious, and tastes like lemon cream with small pieces of apple/pear. An incredible treat, I would say!
2008 Haut Brion white competed with Laville, maybe not so affectionate and shining, but still showing a lot of depth, excellent acidity and intense flavours.
2007 versions of both wines were less flamboyant as 2008 versions but full of immense quality. Excellent treat.
2006 versions showed a different style with more minerality and more marked acidity. Great, great wines.
Friday afternoon, the 9th of October, I met Emmanuel Boidron, son of Jean-Nöel Boidron of Cantelauze (Pomerol) and Corbin Michotte (St.Emilion) fame. He was very, very satisfied with 2009, which he believes will surpass 2005.
Tasted both 2008 and 2005 vintages of both properties - very fine wines. 2008 Cantelauze - creamy, luscious, violets and truffles, 2005 Cantelauze - rich, black cherries, chewy, long aftertaste. 2008 Corbin Michotte - strong backbone, long, potent, concentrated, while 2005 offered splendid ripeness, CF really shining through, splendidly balanced. Here we have tremendous quality for money.
Monday, the 12th of October 2009
In the early morning hours, I took a train from Libourne to St.Emilion, and my first stay was at the tasting room below the office of Jean-Luc Thunevin. During my walk from the station, a car stopped, and surprise, surprise, Alain Vauthier from Ausone got out. I met him the first time at Ausone in 1984!
He told me that he was extremely happy with 2009 vintage and that they would finish a small parcel of C.S. the next day. According to him, there weren't any problems with fermentation at his other estates, and that fermentation at Ausone will start very soon.
Since 2007 vintage is it Murielle who's responsible for the harvest at all estates managed by Jean-Luc Thunevin. You can say woman touch. In 2009 vintage potential alcohol in grapes was about one degree higher than in 2005 vintage. Concerning pH - it's 3.6 and lower than in 2005. Jean-Luc thinks that 2009 is a combination of 2005 richness and 1989 style. Harvest was, at the time of my visit, not yet finished for Cabernet.
I tasted Valandraud in vintages 2008, 2007, 2006 and 2005.
2008 was as impressive as during primeur - perfectly ripe fruit, strong backbone, splendid concentration, depth, balance and length. Formidable wine.
2007 looked like a great success for the vintage with pretty nice fruit maturity, fine length and balance, quite intense with fine aromas of red berries on the nose.
2006 followed closely after 2008 with a strong attitude, chewy, complex and pretty well concentrated. Seemed to get out very well from the grip of oak and tannin. Another great success of the vintage.
2005 was quickly on the way to closing totally down but let me just taste the fabulous richness and this outstanding maturity of wild black cherries. Exceptional stuff!
Then app. 1 km walk to Troplong Mondot. I was welcomed by Jean-Pierre Tayleson, cellar master of Troplong Mondot. He told me that since his first year at TM (1976), he never had seen such a combination of excellent quality grapes and excellent weather. After 2005 vintage, he thought that any future vintage wouldn't be better than 2005, but 2009 was a completely new experience for him. Merlot obtained between 14.8 and 15.8 degrees alcohol, while CS achieved sensational 14.4 degrees alcohol. He hoped to finish harvest of CS around 19-20th October.
Tasted 2008, 2007 and 2006 Troplong Mondot.
2008 was completely drowned in tannin and oak during primeur week in April 2009, but 5 months later it did shed off most of it. Very intense and powerful on the nose, full-bodied, strong backbone, long and firm aftertaste. Great maturity of fruit and sheer class. Precise winemaking.
2007 showed aromatic and attractive aromas on the nose, Concentrated and quite intense for the vintage. Long aftertaste with a smooth and powerful touch. Great success for the vintage.
2006 was pretty close to 2008 in quality but a little less ripe in fruit. Very classy wine, indeed!
Tasted also fermented juice of Merlot 2009 - powerful aromas and silky tannins.
Next stop was Tertre Roteboeuf. Francois Mitjavile, finished harvest of Tertre Roteboeuf at the beginning of October. He wanted to harvest the berries while fresh and not tired. He finished CS at Roc de Cambes on the 15th of October. Francois Mitjavile has great hopes for 2009 and admits that it can surpass 2005, but with a different style.
I tasted 2008 and 2005 of both wines.
2008 TR - simply magnifique wine, sensual, full of dark fruit like blueberries, blackberries and black cherries. Fresh, dynamic, sophisticated, excellent depth and excellent balance. Smooth like honey on the aftertaste.
2008 RdC was very powerful, strong, and very intense on the nose with ripe flavours of blueberries and black cherries, with splendid balance and firm aftertaste. Terrific effort.
2005 TR - strong aroma of dark cherries and blueberries, stunningly luscious, silky tannins, refined and sophisticated up to fingernails. Agonisingly close to be legendary wine.
2005 RdC - it was a wine, which had amazingly aromatic fruit, fat but silky tannins, beautifully balanced, and which was incredibly tasty. Pure delicacy.
In the afternoon, I went to Domaine de Chevalier. They hadn't yet finished their Cabernet Sauvignon but expected to do it by the 15th of October. There was extreme happiness about the quality of grapes brought in, and regarding white harvest, it looked like the third excellent vintage in a row. 2009 white Bx may even exceed in quality trademark vintage 2002.
Tasted 2008 and 2007 in both colours.
2008 D.d.Ch red - intense and aromatic on the nose with black cherries and blackcurrants, splendid depth and length, smooth aftertaste. Terrific effort for the vintage.
2007 D.d.Ch red – leaner and less deep than 2008, but still very successful for the vintage.
2008 D.d.Ch white – extremely aromatic, inviting, excellent acidity and supporting fruit, stunning balance, intensity and length. Simply awesome wine.
2007 D.d.Ch white – not so open like 2008, tighter and more floral/mineral, but with excellent acidity as well. Formidable wine.
Tuesday the 13th of October 2009
Started with a visit to Certan de May. Its winemaker, Jean-Luc Barreau, was extremely satisfied with the quality of harvested grapes and said 2009 would probably be better than 2005.
Tasted 2008, 2007 and 2006 Certan de May.
2008 CdM – put significantly on weight since March 2009. Strong backbone, fine concentration depth and firm aftertaste. Fine balance.
2007 CdM – light, round and fruity, pleasant, won't make old bones.
2006 CdM – tasted stronger and more concentrated than 2008.
After Certan de May, my next stop was Le Gay, where I met an Argentinian winemaker at Catherine Pere-Verge properties, Marcello Pelleriti. He was pretty sure that 2009 vintage would be something really, really extraordinary.
I tasted 2008 Montviel, 2008 Le Gay and 2008 La Violette, and all three were as impressive as in March this year. Incredibly well-made wines.
Le Gay's winemaker, Marcello Pelleriti, demands 100% cleanness in the cellar/vinification room, so wooden vats are "dressed" in plastic foil!
The same day just before midday, I arrived at Château Corbin, GCC in Saint-Emilion. I've known its charming owner, Anabelle Cruse Bardinet, since 1996. She's a qualified oenologist from the University of Bordeaux in Talence. She bought Corbin in 1999 from her uncle after being unable to buy Château Certan Giraud (now Hosanna) in Pomerol. She finished vinification of 1998 vintage and 1999 vintage was her 100% maiden one.
She came with some very interesting comments about 2009 vintage. She said that, unlike 2005 vintage where maturity inside and outside grapes happened at the same time and in this way directed the style of this vintage, it was completely different in 2009 vintage where there was a huge time gap between these two maturity phases due to water stress. At the weekend of the 19th of September, some 70-100 mm of rain fell during two downpours lasting 2 -3 hours. It did really kickstart phenolic ripeness.
Because of this huge gap, it's up to the winemaker which direction he/she will choose concerning the style of 2009 vintage.
Normally, the harvest at Corbin takes ten days, but in 2009 it will be three weeks, as she waited to harvest Cabernet Franc until the 14th of October to get the best possible maturity. She was pretty sure that 2009 would be the best vintage she's ever made at Corbin.
I tasted vintages from 2000 to 2008, and it was interesting to taste that from 2004 vintage, the wine became more focused and precise. 2004 is slightly behind the best vintage yet for Corbin, 2005, but even 2007 and 2006 offered excellent quality for money. 2008 tasted very promising, with attractive berry fruit, splendid concentration and a long aftertaste. 2000 and 2001 were pretty wines but lacked somewhat identity and intensity of recent vintages.
The next day, before going to Sauternes and Barsac, I made quick visits to La Conseillante and Lafleur. Same story here about excitement about the quality of 2009. 2008 wine from both properties continued their excellent development.
Thursday, the 15th of October 2009
It was all sweet that day - Nairac, Climens and Raymond Lafon.
At Nairac, Nicolas Tari Heeter, the winemaker, was really thrilled by the quality of botrytised grapes he's harvested. From the plot of Semillon close to the property, he obtained must containing app. 30 degrees potential alcohol, while the remaining plots of Semillon gave 23-24 degrees potential alcohol. He added that it was the purest botrytised flavour he's ever experienced (since 1992).
2008 Nairac – tasted from different barrels – looking as terrific as during primeur week this year. Very grapefruity, intense and deep with fine acidity.
2007 Nairac - very fine intensity of botrytised flavours (orange/orange peel), melon, fine acidity and fine balance, sophisticated, smooth and with a long finish. Close to the quality of 2005.
2006 Nairac – grapefruity as well, acacia flavour, botrytised flavours of peach and apricot, splendid balance, very elegant and with delightful finesse. Great effort for the vintage.
2005 Nairac – great, great intensity of botrytised flavours, rich and sublime, big concentration and long aftertaste, dense rich and with excellent balance and depth. Simply exceptional.
Exceptional botrytis in Nairac's vineyard - October 2009
The next stop was Climens, where harvest was finished, and the workers were cleaning the vineyard. Berenice Lurton was all in a smile and sheer happiness. Harvest started on the 20th of September and continued for 15 days. They've done 95% of the harvest from 1st tri, which has never happened in Climens before!
2008 Climens – from several barrels and blended lots. Very much like tasted in April 2009, and everything is more integrated. Fabulous showing of breathtaking elegance, purity and wonderful balance.
2007 Climens – very deep nose of botrytised aromas – acacia honey/flower, peach, beautiful acidity, stunningly elegant and sophisticated. Beautiful balance and style. This was an extraordinary treat.
2006 Climens – strong botytrised aromas of orange peel, and candied oranges, elegant and sophisticated. Not as complex as 2007, but the quality here is stupendous.
The last visit took place at Raymond Lafon, and Jean-Pierre Meslier told me this vintage would be something really, really special and extraordinary. The harvest was not yet finished.
These botrytised grapes look magnificent! Raymond Lafon in October 2009
2008 Raymond Lafon – pineapple, acacia flower, elegance and finesse, fine acidity and corresponding fruit, fine length and smooth, honeyed aftertaste. Splendid one.
2007 Raymond Lafon – very much lemon, more intense than 2008, grapefruit, beautiful acidity balancing beautiful fruit, fresh, sophisticated and really powerful on the aftertaste with zesty and hoyened flavours. Stunningly excellent wine.
2006 Raymond Lafon – petrol, very aromatic with almonds and walnuts, again very fine acidity, splendid balance and length. Great effort.