Bordeaux 2006: Contradiction, Confusion and Challenge
The wine of the vintage shows why it has earned its name.
Bordeaux en Primeur, Day 5
April 6, 2007
What sort of year was 2006 in Bordeaux? As the Bordeaux futures week comes to a close, there are almost as many answers as there are people giving them.
Is it a taster's vintage, where each wine needs to be carefully tasted? Is it a vineyard manager's vintage, with 2006 demanding hard work to harvest grapes in good condition? Is it a Merlot vintage, a Cabernet vintage? A Right Bank vintage, a Left Bank vintage?
The answer to all of these is yes—and no. I tasted brilliance. But I also tasted bad decisions from great chateaus.
The best wines have come from the greatest terroirs. Great Cabernets have come from Pauillac and St-Julien, great Merlot from Pomerol. These are the best expressions of the signature red grape of that terroir and that chateau.
The wine of the vintage is an impressive example. Château Mouton Rothschild has, this year, shown what can be done with a great terroir, handled with infinite care in a difficult vintage.
While the reds have dominated the argument this week, over the dry whites there can be no dissension. This is one of the greatest years for dry whites for at least a decade. These are wines with enormous fruit, enormous flavor, and as much aging potential as any top red wine. These, without question, are the must haves from 2006.
It is a vintage where the opinions of top buyers changed day-by-day. "I originally thought it might be a Right Bank, Merlot vintage, but many of the very best wines were Cabernet-based. Yet, Pomerol had the most natural expression of the fruit," said Ian Ribowsky, senior buyer for Palm Bay Imports. "I love the vintage," he said.
It all depended on individual blocks of vineyard—the true terroir for the right grape—and, importantly, how they were managed. Where in many years, the producer can blend together wine from many different blocks throughout a vineyard or an appellation, in 2006, the blend—to be good—had to come from just the very best blocks of the old-vine vineyards.
Everywhere, in every appellation, there are good wines. To buy, you need to understand the taste of the wine retailer you are buying from. You need to buy from chateaus whose reputation is high. You need to read the critics. In 2005, everything was good, even great. With 2006, buying will be much harder work. It will take on the investment model of due diligence.
But that diligence will be rewarded. It is not possible to say that 2006 is a great vintage. But buy well, and with care, and the drinking pleasure will be there.
Initial Bordeaux en primeur wine prices are expected to become available in May and June. These 2006 wines will be ready for delivery beginning in late 2008.
Back to 2006 En Primeur: the Year of Merlot?
En Primeur 2006 Red St.-Emilion and Pomerol
96-98 Château Cheval Blanc. St-Emilion Grand Cru. Dark chocolate and mocha flavors, very dark and intense, this is a big, concentrated wine, flavored with bitter cherries and structured. Certainly a great Cheval Blanc, it still manages to preserve elegance. —R.V.
95-97 Vieux Château Certan. Pomerol. A ripe, perfumed wine with spice and sweet, delicious fruit, sustained by dense, opulent tannins and red fruits. A greater dominance of Merlot in the wine in 2006 has resulted in a richer, fatter, but equally impressive, wine than usual. —R.V.
95-97 Château Ausone. St-Emilion Grand Cru. A hugely dense wine, all power and dark tannins. Very concentrated this is dark, a firm, solid structure covering the huge black plum fruit flavors. It's all about power. —R.V.
94-96 Château Troplong Mondot. St-Emilion Grand Cru. Perfumed new wood aromas, with spicy, dark toast flavors. To taste, it is like peering into a dark tunnel, very heavy, firm and unyielding. The fruit's somewhere there in the darkness. —R.V.
93-95 Château Angélus. St-Emilion Grand Cru. Very dark in color, almost black, this wine has sweetly ripe fruit, very opulent, chocolaty and with seriously concentrated fruit. It is hugely powerful, very dark. —R.V.
93-95 Château Canon. St-Emilion Grand Cru. A hugely rich wine, full of sweet chocolate and immensely ripe blackberry flavors. Sweet fruits, balanced by sweet and sour acidity, a gorgeous, ripe wine. —R.V.
92-94 Château Nenin. Pomerol. Initially bitter chocolate and cocoa flavors, followed by hugely ripe fruit. Further tastes come through, fresh acidity, full black fruit flavors and dark tannins. This is wine that shows both power and delicious fruits. —R.V.
92-94 Château Figeac. St-Emilion Grand Cru. A firmly closed wine, all dense tannins. Certainly there is fruit there, which weighs in behind the tannins, but it is seriously dense and concentrated. It's very packed and dark, opening out to some juicy fruit. —R.V.
92-94 Château Trottevieille. St-Emilion Grand Cru. A big, ripe sweet chocolate and caramel flavored wine, power but opulence at the same time. There are firm tannins along with some juicy black currant flavors. —R.V.
91-93 Château Beauséjour Duffau-Lagarosse. St-Emilion Grand Cru. A highly perfumed wine, dominated by Cabernet Franc flavors, this is elegant and charming, a wine that offers delicious fruit. Yes, the tannins are there, but they are part of the charm offensive. —R.V.
91-93 Château Beauséjour-Bécot. St-Emilion Grand Cru. High aromas of new wood, with a spicy, new wood dominated palate. It has weight, though, a firmly structured wine which needs to integrate with the fruit. The ripe fruits come through the structure towards the end. —R.V.
91-93 Château Fourtet. St-Emilion Grand Cru. Dense, ripely structured wine, all cocoa and dusty tannins just verging on dry. Solid and ripe, this shows excellent power and generous fruit. The tannins come out at the end, dry and concentrated. —R.V.
91-93 Château Pavie Macquin. St-Emilion Grand Cru. Minty aromas, perfumed wine, with its dry tannins and new wood perfumed flavors. It's touched by black currant fruits, juicy flavors and very tough tannins, along with juicy acidity to finish. —R.V.
91-93 Château Rol Valentin. St-Emilion Grand Cru. One of the original garage wines, Rol Valentin has become established. But it still has modern, smooth fruits, with sweet blackberry jam flavors, soft, opulent and fleshy. —R.V.
90-92 Châteay Vray Croix de Gay. Pomerol. A rich sweet wine, with fresh fruits, low tannins and delicious ripe flavors. Seductive and ripe, this should develop fast. —R.V.
90-92 Château La Gaffeliére. St-Emilion Grand Cru. With its dry tannins, this wine shows the concentrated, but traditional, long aging side of St-Emilion 2006. The structure is powerful, bringing together dry fruit and wood tannins. —R.V.
90-92 Château Magdelaine. St-Emilion Grand Cru. Structured, dryly tannic, but otherwise relatively light, this is a wine which shows more tannin than fruit. With its austerity and bitter chocolate, it will develop slowly. —R.V.
90-92 La Chapelle d'Ausone. St-Emilion Grand Cru. A dense, solid wine, with powerful tannins. It shows ripe fruit and black currant juice fruits. The aftertaste has bitter chocolate. —R.V.
89-91 Château Bélair. St-Emilion Grand Cru. Curiously lean wine, layering some old wood with acidity. Only after does some juicy character come out, but it's continues to show very firm, dry structure. —R.V.
89-91 Le Petit Cheval. St-Emilion Grand Cru. The second wine of Château Cheval Blanc, this layers acidity and some dense tannins, against juicy fruit flavors. The aftertaste is dry, and just bitter. —R.V.
88-90 Fugue de Nenin. Pomerol. Ripe chocolate flavored wine, with perfumed, delicious ripe fruit. Its aftertaste is fresh, juicy and full of light flavors. —R.V.
88-90 Château de Fonbel. St-Emilion Grand Cru. A high juice wine, with black currant juice flavors, soft tannins and full frontal acidity. Attractive. —R.V.
87-89 Château La Croix de Gay. Pomerol. Soft, ripe fruit, but missing out on structure. It's almost too ripe for its own good, with its round open flavor. —R.V.
86-88 Château Simard. St-Emilion. Simply structured fruit, with blackberry flavors. High in acidity, this is a relatively easy, fast developing wine. —R.V.