Wednesday, 14 April 2010

Lafite Rothschild, Lynch Bages, Mouton Rothschild, Pontet Canet,

The spectacular tasting area at Chateau Pontet Canet, with Melanie Tesseron explaining biodynamics
It has been a busy day visiting Chateaux and tasting some fantastic wines in the Pauillac appelation of Bordeaux.
This time I am running a wine tour with two very pleasant characters from Lancashire and Yorkshire. We tasted at Lafite Rothschild at 10am (not a bad start to the day). The wines were showing very well. The Carruades 2009 is so soft and open but with great intensity to back up. The Chateau Duhart Milon 2009 is still showing a slightly darker almost coarser edge to the fruit. But the Lafite 2009 is sensational. An absolute joy to try this wine twice in two weeks. Silky smooth, powerful, yet balanced between the intensity of deep spicey fruit and the rich enveloping tannins. A classic Lafite for the long haul.
We then dropped in to Chateau Lynch Bages, where we tasted the 09 which was also power packed and rich. A lovely elegant style, but not quite as showy as previous vintages. We tried the 2001 Lynch Bages, which had surprising evolution and secondary fruit characters. The fresh fruit had disappeared and the wine was very much old style claret...slightly disappointing.
The 'naked' Mouton! (The label will be selected later this year by Baroness Philippine from a selection of artists)
However our visit to Mouton Rothschild was uplifting. The 2009 Mouton was fabulous....and seemed to be better than when I tasted two weeks previously. The wine seemed to show more flair and balance between the dense cassis and dark bramble intensity and the steely edge of acidity with great tannins. There was a hush in the tasting room as we all thoroughly enjoyed the wine.

Our final visit was to the up and coming Chateau Pontet Canet, which is next door to Mouton and very close to Lynch Bages. The 80 hectare estate has converted to Biodynamic viticulture. Although they were forced to spray in the vines in 2007 they will be re instaed to full Biodynamics in the 2010 vintage. The delightful Melanie Tesseron explained the wines eloquently. The 2009 has a beautiful sweet ripe attack backed up by incredibly dense concentrated Cabernet Sauvignon. An elegant and powerful wine that should be highly rated by journalists this year.

Wednesday, 7 April 2010

Bordeaux Futures 2009

Last week was hectic. I tasted over 1000 wines throughout the Bordeaux region. I was there to assess the 2009 wines, which were picked last September and October. This is an annual event, which takes place in early April. The wines are real 'babies' as they are still in early development stages. The wines have fully fermented and are at the stage when they are being aged in barrels. Many wines will age for another 12 or 14 months, so they will change and develop again. But this tasting of Primeur (or as the Americans like to say 'Futures') is a good indication of the future quality of the vintage.

2009 Viticultural Year
The Spring was quite late in 2009, with cooler temperatures and threat of disease in the vines until early June. However the Summer from mid June was great. A long dry spell, interspersed with occasional, but necessary, rain during July, August and September. High day time temperatures were complemented by cool nights (which are just as important for flavor and tannin development).
There were problems with two hail storms that effected vineyards in parts of Saint Emilion (Chateau Trottevieille in particular), extensively in the Entre Deux Mers and also in the southern part of the Margaux appellation. Hail is a very precise and frustrating enemy of a vineyard owner.
Generally the growing season was near perfect. The day time heat and the cool nights were the key factors.
At harvest time the grapes were abundant and in extremely good health. The only issue as Bruno Borie (at Ch. Ducru Beaucaillou) said:
'The grapes were analytically ripe at the beginning of September. They were healthy and full. But the pips were not fully ripe. We were helped by a light shower of rain in mid September, which washed the grapes, but did not effect the alcohol level. This purely held us back from the vineyard for a few days. When we started picking, we could not believe the quality and freshness of the grapes.'
Some people may say that is when the hype began for this vintage!!
But paraphrasing a top can only make good wine from good grapes.

I picked some of these grapes at Chateau de la Riviere on 26th September 2009.

The Cabernet grapes generally remained quite small and concentrated with thick skins. Great pure juice, but small volumes. The Merlots were fully ripe and very concentrated. The only issues could be high alcohols resulting from very ripe juicy (high sugar) grapes. Also the mid September rain seemed to freshen the grapes and clean them, so most vignerons did not pick too late.

2009 The Wines

From the first day of tasting the quality was exceptional. There is one thing looking for deep spicey concentration, but another matter is working out the current balance of fruit and tannin versus the acidity. Tasting very young wines one is really not looking for immediate enjoyment. One is looking for potential charm in 5, 10, 15 or 30 years time. Will the fruit last? Are the fruits too stewed? Is the acidity balanced with the fruit intensity?
There were undoubtedly a few 'over the top' styles with high alcohol levels (sometimes up to 15 degrees). And there were a few stewed fruits styles. But these were very few and far between. I see no value in trying sweeping statements such as 'this is a right bank or left bank vintage', as the quality of the grapes was good throughout Bordeaux.
I will write more detailed tasting notes at a later stage. However here are a selection of 15 of my top wines:

Margaux.......sublime balance and concentration. Ripe and voluptuous, but only 13.1 degrees alc.
Lafite.........darker, more brooding but fantastic.
Vieux Chateau Certan.......elegant and layers of fruit.
Grand Puy Lacoste.......a forward purple fruit style, delicious.
Montrose.........a bit of a monster, but fun.
Ducru Beaucaillou..........BIG wine, but also balanced. A wine for the long haul.
Pontet Canet.........smaller yield due to biodynamics and also small grapes, but great charm.
Lynch Bages........deep excellent Cabernet.
Pavie Maquin......elegant.
Smith Haut Lafite........well balanced and delicate mineral structure.
Talbot.........loved the balance and layers of fruit.
Figeac......a surprise as this Chateaux does not always show well early, but classy wine.
La Gaffeliere.....light, elegant terroir style rather than overblown. Very classy.
Lascombes....this Chateaux is back on track. Great balance and deep spicey crimson dark cherry.
du Tertre.....Prefered this to its stable mate Giscours. Perhaps the 15% Cab Franc adds charm?

I also tasted a broad selection of over 50 Graves dry whites and sweeter Sauternes and Barsac wines. I visited Chateau Climens, Suduiraut and Chateau d'Yquem. The botrytis cinerea seemed to work very well in 2009 in order to get the deep sweeter flavours. The harvest was condensed into a frenetic 8 day period of picking in mid October. Again there is a fresh quality aspect to the wines. I adored the Chateau Yquem. I could easily enjoy the intense orange peel, toasty brioche characters early as well as leaving it to age for another 50-100 years!

These are initial notes/thoughts. I would be happy to provide more detailed notes. I will also write soon about the current market and the potential release prices.
I will be trading many of these wines (and more) as soon as the prices are released from the Chateaux. Drop me an email if you would like further information.


Thursday, 1 April 2010

2009 Bordeaux Primeurs

Just got back to my hotel room at 2am.
Tasted some absolutely fantastic wines from Chateau Cheval Blanc, Lafite, Mouton Rothschild, Lynch Bages, Pontet Canet, Ausone. La Gaffeliere, Pavie Macquin and many many more.
Lets hope that I can gather my notes and post a coherent and incisive commentary on the 2009 vintage in Bordeaux, by this weekend. Many international buyers are tasting in Bordeaux and there are many stories to tell.........