Bordeaux 2005: A Special Report, 4/3/06
Roger Voss' assessments of Bordeaux red and white 2005.
Bordeaux 2005 - A special report from Bordeaux en Primeur by Roger Voss
At the tasting table
Bordeaux sweet white estates are often seen as the poor cousins of the wealthy red wine producers. With yields less than half those of reds, and always the risk of difficult weather conditions for botrytis, Sauternes and Barsac are used to being in a constant nail-biting scenario.
Yet, despite the thought of the red wine prices going through the roof, prices are still a terrific value for these wonderful sweet wines. Sauternes, with a lovely and bountiful vintage, is likely to see only a small increase in price, having come from a string of excellent vintages led by 2001 - "that was the textbook vintage for great Sauternes," said Michel Garat, general manager of Château Bastor Lamontagne.
Vintage 2005 is not the great vintage of 2001. While producers are praising what Olivier Castéja of Château Doisy Védrines calls "balance and purity without excess", the general impression is of wines with less complexity than 2001 and less weight than 2003. Delightful, yes. Impressively great, no.
But talking about prices is not talking about Château d'Yquem, which prices itself on the first growth market. "What is good for Bordeaux is good for Yquem," said general manager Pierre Lurton, as he describes the 2005 at Yquem as "exceptional, outstanding."
On the wine road
Garage wines are out, long live small production, said Jean-Luc Thunevin, winemaker, wine seller and the man who created the Saint-Emilion "garage wine" phenomenon. As he was talking, he was surrounded by wines in his stable and the wines of friends, including Peter Sisseck, creator of Pingus in Ribero del Duero in Spain. Thunevin's tasting, in the cellars of his ancient Saint-Emilion home, is the trade's hottest "off-the-grid" tasting during en primeur week. Besides Thunevin's Château Valandraud, buyers and journalists tasted Bernard Magrez's Château Pape Clément, Marojallia (the Margaux garage-turned-chateau wine), Brigitte Chevalier's small and increasingly interesting Languedoc vineyards and Le Vin de Bob (really) from the new estate in Bergerac by former New York banker Bob Adler, and so on.
Back in Sauternes, the tasting day ends at Château d'Yquem. When Alexandre de Lur Saluces was at Yquem, there'd be sunset tasting of the vintage just bottled and released, served with foie gras, on the vast veranda. Today, now that Bernard Arnault of LVMH owns it, things are more business-like. The current barrel sample is tasted. But sadly, no foie gras, no sunset sipping.
Bordeaux Red 2005
92-94. Château Canon la Gaffelière 2005 Saint-Emilion Grand Cru. Stefan von Neipperg is making impressive wine at this property, which will surely be reclassified as Premier Grand Cru Classé this year. This 2005 is intense, polished, but still packed with a fine, elegant structure with the added complexity of herbs and dried fruits. -R.V.
92-94.Château la Tour Figeac 2005 Saint-Emilion Grand Cru. This is a gorgeous, rounded wine, ripe tannins, very pure fruit and layers of almost sweet acidity. This biodynamic vineyard, rare in Bordeaux, is consistently producing top quality wines. -R.V.
92-94. Le Dôme 2005 Saint-Emilion Grand Cru. A fine, perfumed Cabernet Franc dominated wine that builds layers of rich, intense fruit. This is solid and powerful, but also shows potential charm. The dry aftertaste suggests good aging. -R.V.
91-93. Château Pavie Macquin 2005 Saint-Emilion Grand Cru. Juicy, fresh fruit, powerful blackcurrant flavors and layers of obvious acidity. But there's more here: underlying dark, brooding tannins and vibrant fruits on top. -R.V.
90-92. Château Berliquet 2005 Saint-Emilion Grand Cru. Large-scale renovations of the vinyard with the advice of Patrick Valette as consultant have paid great dividends at this ancient vineyard. The wine is ripely opulent but balanced, new wood that supports rather than dominates, and the structure which promises long aging. -R.V.
90-92. Château Franc-Mayne 2005 Saint-Emilion Grand Cru. Balance is the key to this wine, as it shows off its ripe fruit, and then brings in dry tannins, black plum flavors, herbs and then finishing acidity. -R.V.
90-92. Château Laroque 2005 Saint-Emilion Grand Cru. A finely balanced wine with ripe fruit, expressive acidity and blackberry fruit flavors. The aftertaste is dry from the firm, but not too dominant tannins. -R.V.
90-92. Château Valandraud 2005 Saint-Emilion Grand Cru. One of the likely candidates for promotion to Grand Cru Classé status this year, this is Jean-Luc Thunevin's original estate. This year, there is considerable restraint in what is normally an immensely opulent wine: it is elegance rather than the no-holds-barred that makes this almost a classic. -R.V.
90-92. Clos de l'Oratoire 2005 Saint-Emilion Grand Cru. Very ripe, dry, brooding almost, this shows potential greatness, but is even more of a baby than most en primeur samples. There are dark fruits, but it's all shrouded in mystery. -R.V.
89-91. Château Fonroque 2005 Saint-Emilion Grand Cru. Under the control of Alain Moueix, this 44 acre vineyard has produced an impressive wine, powered with sweet black currants and huge, dark, solid tannins. -R.V.
89-91. Château la Dominique 2005 Saint-Emilion Grand Cru. This property has really improved and the modern, new wood flavors are great testimony to that. The fruit is ripe, almost new world, but just keeping the proper Bordeaux sense of proportion. -R.V.
89-91. Château Magrez Fombrauge 2005 Saint-Emilion Grand Cru. From a small parcel of Château Fombrauge, Bernard Magrez has created this small production cuvee. It's as modern as its creation, packed with spicy new wood and super-ripe fruit. The acidity, though, gives the balance. -R.V.
89-91. Clos Bandon 2005 Saint-Emilion Grand Cru. Produced by Jean-Luc Thunevin, this is unsurprisingly modern in style. Very dense, very rich and powerful, super-ripe, but just hinting at a possible restraint and acidity in the aftertaste. -R.V.
88-90. Château Fombrauge 2005 Saint-Emilion Grand Cru. A balanced, elegant wine, a great contrast to the super-richness of Magrez Fombrauge from the same estate. This will become a delicious, not too intense wine. -R.V.
88-90. Château Laforge 2005 Saint-Emilion Grand Cru. A smooth ripe dense wine, with well-integrated fruit, very present acidity, but also powering through with intense flavors of dark cocoa. -R.V.
88-90. Château Larmande 2005 Saint-Emilion Grand Cru. Larmande, now owned by an insurance company, has been heavily renovated and the style of the wine is now dominated by wood, with persistent dry tannins and smooth fruit. -R.V.
87-89. Château Laroze 2005 Saint-Emilion Grand Cru. The style is spicy, modern, dominated by the 50% new wood used in the aging. But there is certainly enough fruit to show through once the wood effect eases off. -R.V.
87-89. Château Teyssier 2005 Saint-Emilion Grand Cru. This is good value Saint-Emilion, with the same winemaking team as Le Dôme. It is ripe, dense with high acidity but also firm black fruit. -R.V.
86-88. Château Dassault 2005 Saint-Emilion Grand Cru. Rather too spicy, without compensating fruit, this property, owned by the French aircraft making family, is performing below par. -R.V.
86-88. Château Grand Destieu 2005 Saint-Emilion Grand Cru. A modern style of wine, black, polished with spice and herbs, already quite advanced with rich tobacco and chocolate flavors. -R.V.
85-87. Château la Tour de Pin Figeac Moueix 2005 Saint-Emilion Grand Cru. A very dry, rather hard wine, but redeemed by its solid structure which promises fruit to come. -R.V.
Bordeaux White 2005
94-96. Château d'Yquem 2005 Sauternes. So pure, it is almost a straight line of ripe, honeyed fruit and dense spices. There is marmalade, ripe pears and a steely, tight acidity. As always, the best. - R.V.
92-93. Château Guiraud 2005 Sauternes. Already, this wine is developing a golden color. Typical of Guiraud, to taste, it is big, powerful, missing the freshness, which will come later, but full of complexity and ripeness. - R.V.
91-93. Château la Tour Blanche 2005 Sauternes. A deeply golden colored wine, but to taste, it is more poised and fresh than the color suggests. There's an attractive liquorous feel to the wine, but that is balanced by good clean, fresh fruit tastes. This will be delicious. - R.V.
91-93. Château Rieussec 2005 Sauternes. Spice and light wood flavors dominate this delicious, poised wine, but it also has some dense fruit flavors, some light marmalade and sweetness, but more in the way of dry botrytis. - R.V.
90-93. Château d'Arche 2005 Sauternes. A well-balanced concentrated wine, full of botrytis flavors, of richness and of poised honey and lemon. This is going to be an impressive wine for a second growth - in about 10 years - but already shows signs of greatness. - R.V.
90-92. Château Clos Haut Peyraguey 2005 Sauternes. A ripe, creamy wine, which has great poise and freshness. There's just a touch of caramel, but the fruit - sweet apples and crisp pears - is dominant, a pure pleasure to taste. - R.V.
90-92. Château Coutet 2005 Barsac. Spice and dry botrytis are what this wine is about. There's a wood element, as well, which dominates the fruit and the flavors of baked apples and cinnamon. Like all the drier styles, this will be a good food wine. - R.V.
90-92. Château de Myrat 2005 Barsac. This poised wine has attractive layers of clean, fresh lemon honey flavors. There are some light wood flavors, lively acidity and some firm, botrytis dryness. A finely balanced wine. - R.V.
90-92. Château Doisy Daëne 2005 Barsac. This has all the flavors of an oriental kitchen, spices dominant, with some attractive lemon and honey botrytis underneath. This should be a great aperitif style of wine. -R.V.
90-92. Château Lamothe Guignard 2005 Sauternes. This is hugely rich, powerful, intense with attractive ripe, intense fruit. Delicious layers of fresh fruits combine with the concentrated botrytis and lemon flavors. This is the perfect foie gras wine.-R.V.
90-92. Château Nairac 2005 Barsac. A deliciously fresh, vibrant wine with good ripe fruits, flavors of orange marmalade and a light, citrus kick. A lovely wine, with just a touch of spice. - R.V.
90-92. Château Rabaud Promis 2005 Sauternes. The botrytis is amazingly perfumed, smelling like a smart Paris perfume shop. The fruit is lost in this crazy range of exotic flavors. Fun, but very different. - R.V.
90-92. Château Suduiraut 2005 Sauternes. This is a hugely ripe wine, dominated by concentrated, ripe fruits, flavors of pure sweet oranges and by power. It's surprising because of its weight in a year which seems more about freshness, but very good. - R.V.
89-91. Château Caillou 2005 Barsac. Attractive lemon marmalade aromas already make this wine appealing. The palate, too, shows charm, elegance, with just a touch of new wood giving no more than complexity. A very complete wine, which seems to be coming together already. - R.V.
89-91. Château de Rayne Vigneau 2005 Sauternes. A very pure, citrus-dominated wine, great intensity, with some spice, fresh fruits and crisp, almost apple-like flavors. Very clean and fresh. - R.V.
89-91. Château Suau 2005 Barsac. This is a finely balanced, poised wine, with fresh fruits, ripeness, a touch of lemon all coming together in potential harmony. There is wood, but this is laced with botrytis and fine, fresh flavors. - R.V.
88-90. Château de Malle 2005 Sauternes. Surprising amounts of lemon aromas allow this wine to stand out from the crowd. But they also give a wine which is dry, firm, with the acidity more dominant than the sweetness. - R.V.
88-90. Château Romer du Hayot 2005 Sauternes. With its levels of dryness, this is obviously going to be a dense, very powerful wine which will show both great breeding and great concentration. Those who want their sweet wines to go with food, will admire this wine. - R.V.
87-89. Château Broustet 2005 Barsac. Despite the light color, the wines has huge waves of sweetness on the nose. The palate is all sweetness, with power but the acidity is missing. Honey, but no lemon. - R.V.
87-89. Château de Fargues 2005 Sauternes. Almonds, some spice and dryness are the dominant impressions of this wine. It is concentrated, very rich and layers dense botrytis with flavors of wood and sweetness. A success for this lesser-know property. - R.V.
86-88. Château Bastor Lamontagne 2005 Sauternes. This is packed with dry botrytis, with spice and some new wood. It's somewhat simple and obvious at this stage. Needs more layers of flavors. - R.V.
86-88. Château Lamothe 2005 Sauternes. The wine is fresh, layered with some attractive lightweight botrytis, along with some delicate fruit. But it misses out on concentration. It should age quickly. - R.V.
86-88. Château Sigalas Rabaud 2005 Sauternes. Caramel aromas spoil this wine. It is a big, powerful wine with some spice, some wood and intense flavors. Maybe it has a little clumsy aftertaste. - R.V.
85-87. Château Doisy Védrines 2005 Barsac. A powerfully dry wine, lacking charm, but certainly compensating by a firm, hammer-like intensity. This could develop well, but isn't attractive at this stage. - R.V.
85-87. Château Filhot 2005 Sauternes. Fresh lemon aromas, but the wine is heavily dominated by new wood. It's powerful, the spice from the wood allowing only small amounts of flavors of peppermint and ripe, sweet fruit to show through. - R.V.
85-87. Château Romer 2005 Sauternes. A lightweight wine, with pleasant simple fresh fruits. It has attractive fruit bowl flavors and some fresh, apples and cream tastes. - R.V.
84-86. Château Lafaurie Peyraguey 2005 Sauternes. Firm, ripe, with dry botrytis dominating the spice, this is an uncomfortably hot wine, packed with flavors that are somewhat overblown. - R.V.