Bordeaux En Primeur 2009 Day 4: Saint-Julien, Saint-Estèphe, Pauillac
For success or failure, blame merlot.
Friday reviews: Pessac-Léognan, Bordeaux whites, the FIRSTS
Friday: Wine of the Vintage
There is no doubt, 2009 is a great Bordeaux vintage. In the northern Médoc’s appellations of Saint-Julien, Saint-Estèphe and Pauillac, where I tasted today, the Cabernet Sauvignon has produced magnificent wines; rich and luscious while preserving mouth-tingling fruit and freshness.
But 2009 is not a uniform vintage. There is a lot of talk at the tasting tables this week of a lack of homogeneity. So while the best wines are great, there are some which should be great and are not.
The reason is straightforward and has come right out of the nature of the 2009 vintage, as I noted yesterday. Nature shows itself even more clearly today. “You had to choose the right date to pick”, said Charles Chevalier of Château Lafite-Rothschild. Across the road at Château Mouton-Rothschild, Philippe Dhalluin advanced the picking because he “wanted to restrain the level of alcohol” (Mouton is 13.1 percent) and bring out the natural freshness of the vintage. Xavier Pallu at Château Pichon Longueville Comtesse de Lalande said “it was important to preserve the fruit and not look for extra maturation.”
The big risk of over-ripeness, of shrivelled grapes, was with the Merlot, a variety naturally more alcoholic than Cabernet Sauvignon.
“We had to watch the maturation of the Merlot like a hawk,” said Yves Delsol, technical director of Château Tronquoy-Lalande in Saint-Estèphe. “Everything depended on the Merlot. The higher the quantity of Merlot you had in your vineyard, the more you had to guard against high sugars and high alcohols.”
If you didn’t—and there are some famous names in the Médoc who didn’t—then the alcohol creeps up, and the wine becomes too big, too powerful for the essential balance. It lacks the vital quality of vivacity.
Put against the failures were the successes of those who knew how to handle the exceptional 2009 harvest. Anthony Barton, of Château Léoville Barton, has been working in Bordeaux since 1951, which gives him a long memory of past harvests. “If I was asked what are the ideal climate conditions we need, I would say it is what we had in 2009. Everything was perfect, so the wine should be and it is.”
Alfred Tesseron, at Château Pontet-Canet, says simply: “if I didn’t make a great wine in 2009, then I should choose another career.”
Bordeaux 2009 en primeur.
Château Pontet-Canet 2009 Pauillac
A superb wine with the purest fruit, great freshness and ripeness. It is certainly structured with dry tannins, while the blackcurrant freshness is also all there. The biodynamic wine has a great limpid, flowing feel, backed by power.–R.V.
Château Léoville las-Cases 2009 Saint-Julien
A powerful wine, packed with tannins from structured Cabernet fruits. It exudes muscularity, intensity and concentration. The wood element is present. Maybe the final freshness is missing.–R.V.
Château Léoville-Barton 2009 Saint-Julien
Ripe, sweet but also intensely juicy; a delicious wine, full of sweetness and rich complexity. The new wood element is there, neatly bringing out the beauty of the fruit.–R.V.
Château Ducru Beaucaillou 2009 Saint-Julien
Big and powerful; structured, with bitter chocolate and blackberry flavors. The wine is dense, the fruit enormous, keeping its essential freshness. R.V.
Château Lynch-Bages 2009 Pauillac
Concentrated and dense, the fruit here is powered by blackberry and cranberry tannins, as well as by the spicy wood. The wine is solid and firm, obviously powerful.–R.V.
Château Montrose 2009 Saint-Estèphe
A wine that feels big, not heavy. With a solid structure, the wine shows black density at the same time as the blackcurrant juice of Cabernet shines through.–R.V.
Château Pichon Longueville 2009 Pauillac
Big ripe fruit, packed with classic blackcurrant flavors, topped with wood and sweet, juicy fruit tannins. An impressive, solid wine yet very elegant at the same time.–R.V.
Château Saint-Pierre 2009 Saint-Julien
Darkly dense, with fruit that bears the weight of wood and tannins. This is opulent in its texture and beautifully structured; the Cabernet blackcurrant flavors shine through.–R.V.
Château Clerc Milon 2009 Pauillac
Firm tannins, a wine packed with rich fruits, along with bright acidity. It is fresh, but solid, bringing out intense freshness and acidity, finishing with new wood.–R.V.
Château Cos d'Estournel 2009 Saint-Estèphe
A hugely rich wine, where the tannins seem initially lost in the overwhelming fruit. It has power and concentration, showing its alcohol a little. There is great intensity, but a taste like super-ripe Zinfandel, from the very ripe fruit.–R.V.
Château Langoa-Barton 2009 Saint-Julien
Lots of new wood here, maybe too dominant. This is certainly a stage, because the fruit weight is also there to give a wine of considerable complexity, dry and solid.–R.V.
Château Lynch-Moussas 2009 Pauillac
Firm and solid; also full of charm and elegance – the fruit ripe and sweet, delicious. That gives already a wine with balance, tremendous juiciness as well as structure.–R.V.
Château Pichon Longueville Comtesse de Lalande 2009 Pauillac
There is great power here – solid, dark and firm –showing muscularity, sinewy tannins and smoky intensity. –R.V.
Château Batailley 2009 Pauillac
Big, spicy wood, packed with dense, wood and fruit tannins. The wood is over a base of broad fruit, sweet blackberries and ripeness. –R.V.
Château Beychevelle 2009 Saint-Julien
Great swathes of blackcurrant fruits here. The tannins ripe and complex; well integrated into the fresh fruits. Fine balance.–R.V.
Château d'Armailhac 2009 Pauillac
Very rich and dense, solid, chunky textured wine. The tannins are severe, very firm, suggesting a wine with considerable power.–R.V.
Château du Glana 2009 Saint-Julien
Ripe, sweet and opulent, with bright tannins and fruits, a velvet wine, the tannins well integrated. Beautiful.–R.V.
Château Gruaud Larose 2009 Saint-Julien
Vanilla new wood aromas, followed by sweet wood and sweet fruit. There is certainly enough weight here, with ripe, smooth texture and fresh blackcurrants.–R.V.
Château Haut-Marbuzet 2009 Saint-Estèphe
Richly smooth wine, with great polished fruits and solid tannins. Power and juicy extract.–R.V.
Château Lagrange 2009 Saint-Julien
Tight wine, the tannins firm, giving considerable dryness. With its dark texture, this is solid, but finishing with the freshest of blackcurrant juice.–R.V.
Château Léoville-Poyferré 2009 Saint-Julien
Firm, solid, densely packed with tannins, new wood and a fine concentrated texture. It is big, balanced, the only default being a high toast element.–R.V.
Château Talbot 2009 Saint-Julien
A firm, complex wine, solidly based on ripe tannins, dark flavors. There is some spice and juiciness to fit with the dense tannins.–R.V.
Château Branaire-Ducru 2009 Saint-Julien
Wood dominant, smooth tannins and an open, generous texture. This is ripe and full in the mouth. –R.V.
Château Camensac 2009 Haut-Médoc
Big, ripe, juicy wine, the tannins very solid and dark. It has layers of new wood, power and considerable density.–R.V.
Château Citran 2009 Haut-Médoc
Ripe, initially soft, the sweet fruits bubbling from the glass. There is, of course, a dry element as well, the core very firm and dark, but always juicy.–R.V.
Château Cos d'Estournel 2009 Les Pagodes de Cos Saint-Estèphe
Very rich, smooth tannins, super-ripe fruit dominate the wine. It has power, spice and sweetness, very ripe. Blackberry and dark chocolate–R.V.
Château Ducru Beaucaillou 2009 Croix de Beaucaillou Saint-Julien
This has fruit, with delicious black berry fruits. It charms with elegance and ripeness at the same time as giving a core of tannin. Definitely on the fruity side.–R.V.
Château Duhart-Milon 2009 Pauillac
A rounded wine, its tannins submerged into the ripe fruits. It feels soft, and there is just a bite of alcohol. The structure is soft, generous, opulent.–R.V.
Château Fonbadet 2009 Pauillac
A solidly tannic wine that brings great strength and structure to the fruit. There is power, richness, the ripeness held in check with this firm structure.–R.V.
Château Latour 2009 Les Forts de Latour Pauillac
A powerful, but velvet-textured wine, the tannins dusty and sweet. There is great acidity here, the fruit soft, hiding its power. The aftertaste has lively acidity.–R.V.
Château Le Crock 2009 Saint-Estèphe
Severe tannins and a very mineral character. It is dark, brooding, solidly ripe and powerful, with a great waft of final juiciness.–R.V.
Château Léoville las-Cases 2009 Clos du Marquis Saint-Julien
Ripe and surprisingly soft, the fruit rich with a touch of milk chocolate, very ripe. It is packed with generous blackberry juice flavors.–R.V.
Château Lilian Ladouys 2009 Saint-Estèphe
A fine and spicy wine, the wood toast well integrated with the sweet fruit. Deliciously ripe Merlot vies with the Cabernet tannins to give a dark, complex wine.–R.V.
Château Montrose 2009 La Dame de Montrose Saint-Estèphe
The wine feels very soft, with sweet spice and light tannins. It is packed with blackberry fruits although there is a sold, firm structure under the ripe fruit.–R.V.
Château Bellegrave 2009 Pauillac
A big, dense wine, with wonderful blackcurrant juiciness. Powerful, balanced with the sweetness of fresh juice and spice.–R.V.
Château Clauzet 2009 Saint-Estèphe
A big and powerful wine, packed with ripe fruits, solid tannins. But those tannins are sweet, well integrated into the fruit. Fine, rich and juicily ripe.–R.V.
Château Croizet-Bages 2009 Pauillac
A wine that feels rather lean, severe almost. It has dark tannins, spice, plum skins, but also intense new wood. –R.V.
Château de Pez 2009 Saint-Estèphe
Power, dark tannins, black chocolate to go with the rich blackberry fruit flavors. The wine is solid, foursquare, very structured.–R.V.
Château Gloria 2009 Saint-Julien
Spicy wood, but with great juicy blackcurrant character. Very pure in styled.–R.V.
Château Haut-Bages Libéral 2009 Pauillac
Very juicy wine, with high acidity, the fruit very fresh, bright, all blackcurrant fruits. The structure is light and brilliant.–R.V.
Château Lafite Rothschild 2009 Les Carruades de Lafite Pauillac
Very soft wine, with ripe Merlot dominant. There is a rich character along with fresh tannins, very juicy, licorice and big, firm fruits.–R.V.
Château Lalande-Borie 2009 Saint-Julien
Rich and smooth, with tannins that are ripe, some spice and also intense acidity. The blackcurrant character is dominant.–R.V.
Château Pichon Longueville 2009 Les Tourelles de Longueville Pauillac
Firm in character, still there is plenty of juicy Merlot, pricked with toast and baked plums. The acidity is intense.–R.V.
Château Potensac 2009 Médoc
Smooth wine, the tannins firmly placed within the ripe fruit. It is not heavy, only lightly extracted, full of the ripest fruit.–R.V.
Château Tronquoy-Lalande 2009 Saint-Estèphe
Rich and beautifully elegant wine that guards great freshness on top of the Merlot richness. The tannins are structured but well integrated. There is a high spice character to finish.–R.V.
Château Beau-Site 2009 Saint-Estèphe
A soft wine, beautifully rounded, the fruit open, soft and generous. Great final acidity, with toast and spice.–R.V.
Château Cantemerle 2009 Haut-Médoc
Dense tannins over freshness, the wine is packed with tight, mineral tannins and layered fruit and wood. Maybe a little too extracted.–R.V.
Château Cos Labory 2009 Saint-Estèphe
Tough tannins over juicy fruit. The wine has great ripeness as well as freshness. The intensity of the blackcurrant is considerable.–R.V.
Château Coufran 2009 Haut-Médoc
Firm tannins, but also ripe, sweet fruits, with a fine balance. While the wine is on the light, fresh side, it does have a good, final structure.–R.V.
Goulée 2009 Médoc
Soft, fleshy and fruity, with tannins that are very ripe. The fruit has blackberry juice, sweet with an edge of licorice.–R.V.
Château la Fleur Peyrabon 2009 Pauillac
Complex wine, very smooth and polished, the sweet tannins softened by wood. There is a great vanilla character over the wafts of ripe fruit.–R.V.
Château la Tour Carnet 2009 Haut-Médoc
Firmly dry wine, solid with many firm, wood-derived tannins. It gives bitter coffee and cranberry juice flavors, but also manages to retain freshness.–R.V.
Château Le Boscq 2009 Saint-Estèphe
A firmly tannic wine, in the best Saint-Estèphe style. Big, rich and firm, pierced with final acidity.–R.V.
Château Moulin de la Rose 2009 Saint-Julien
A finely structured wine, its tannins firm but generous. It has some dark characters, black plums and a solid texture but it is also fired with super-rich fruit.–R.V.
Château Ormes de Pez 2009 Saint-Estèphe
The juicy blackcurrant flavors of the year show through here, the wine a firm balance between juicy fruit and the driest of tannins.–R.V.
Château Pedesclaux 2009 Pauillac
Packed with Cabernet blackcurrant flavors, very ripe and laden with blackcurrants. Great final freshness.–R.V.
Château Pibran 2009 Pauillac
The greatest juicy fruit, some wood character, with freshness and lots of blackcurrant character. Delicious ripe fruits.–R.V.
Château Andron Blanquet 2009 Saint-Estèphe
Rich and sweet, with fresh tannins and solid fruit flavors. The wine is dark, but has vivid acidity.–R.V.
Château Grand-Puy-Ducasse 2009 Pauillac
Juicy, the fruit showing some awkward super-maturity. Power, but the structure is missing.–R.V.
Château Mouton Rothschild 2009 Le Petit Mouton Pauillac
Very spicy fruit, with lots of blackcurrant character, very fresh with light tannins. There is a streak of ginger right through the wine, finishing with lively acidity.–R.V.
Château Phélan-Ségur 2009 Saint-Estèphe
Caramel aromas, a wine that seems over-extracted, tough. The fruit has a juicy element, but misses out on elegance.–R.V.
Château Potensac 2009 La Chapelle de Potensac Médoc
Considerable freshness here, a wine that has ripe blackcurrant fruit, but very soft tannins. –R.V.
Château Tour de Pez 2009 Saint-Estèphe
Surprisingly lightweight wine, its freshness the dominant character. It shows bright black fruits and some toast, the tannins a sweet element.–R.V.
Château Tronquoy-Lalande 2009 Tronquoy Sainte-Anne Saint-Estèphe
All fresh blackberry juice with sweetness and power. The wine has richness, along with considerable charming freshness.–R.V.
Château Beaumont 2009 Haut-Médoc
Lots of spiced wood, with sweet blackberry fruits. The wine is initially soft, but the tannins do kick in. The fruit finally has vivid freshness–R.V.
Château Belgrave 2009 Haut-Médoc
A firm and austere wine, dominated by mineral tannins. The fruit is solid, chunky, rather too extracted with bitter coffee flavors.–R.V.
Château de Lamarque 2009 Haut-Médoc
There is a high level of new wood toast that dominates both the aroma and the flavors. It gives the wine a hard-edged feel at this stage.–R.V.
Château Lafon-Rochet 2009 Saint-Estèphe
Sweet vanilla aroma, fruit that is ripe, soft, fleshy. This seems to have suffered from super-mature fruit, although a final juiciness does help.–R.V.
Château Léoville las-Cases 2009 Le Petit Lion Saint-Julien
The first release of a wine from young vines. It is charming, juicy and fresh, the fruit bright and lively.–R.V.
Château Reysson 2009 Haut-Médoc
The smoothest of ripe fruit with an exuberance of wood spice. The wine has generous tannins, but the finish feels a little rustic.–R.V.
Château Malescasse 2009 Haut-Médoc
The fruit is too ripe here, leaving a wine that feels flabby, rather too soft, even with the bitter tannin edge.–R.V.
Château Pomys 2009 Saint-Estèphe
A wine that brings out the firmest of tannins, but without all the fruit. It is dry, chunky, somewhat hard edged.–R.V.