Bordeaux 2005: A Special Report, 4/6/06
Day 4: Saint-Emilion, Pomerol
Buzz at the popular Cercle Rive Droite tasting in Saint-Emilion. Photos by Kathleen Buckley.
At the tasting table
"It was one of the rare years when a vintage has been saved by rain," said Alexandre Thienpont at Vieux Château Certan, as he contemplated a glass of his 94-96 point 2005 wine. "It came just at the right moment to stop the grapes from turning into raisins and the vines just shutting down."
It was a rare insight into the concern with the weather that in dry years, affects the vine grower. Iit was a concern also reflected by his close neighbor, Christian Moueix of Château Pétrus (95-97 points), as he discussed his harvest
|Christian Moueix of Château Petrus|
"I knew the grapes were ready to pick by early September," he said. "I began to taste grapes on August 6 - it was a Sunday - and even then there were some that were almost ripe. So by early September, there was no need to wait any longer. Which makes it astonishing to me that some people waited until October."
Not only did many growers and producers in Saint-Emilion and Pomerol wait a long time past maturity to pick, they then over-extracted color and tannins from grapes that were just bursting with both. That's obvious in the many wines from both appellations which are so full of tannins as to be forever undrinkable. It's also obvious in high alcohols - sometimes higher than 14 percent, unthinkable and unbearable in Bordeaux.
These blockbusters lose sight of one of Bordeaux's precious assets: its sense of place. Pascal Delbeck of Saint-Emilion Château Belair (94-96 points) complained that "the people want wines with power but if you have that, you lose any sense of place." And that loss has been evident in Bordeaux's Right Bank this year, particularly in Pomerol, where so many powered wines tasted exactly the same. A shame, when much of Bordeaux has been able to make delicious wines which have kept their sense of proportion.
On the wine road
An interesting question came up today during a tasting of Right Bank wines at the Cercle Rive Droite in Saint-Emilion.
When a buyer has $250,000 to spend on en primeur, how should it be apportioned when top clients want the top wines?
If the Bordeaux first growths and other important wines, in what is casually referred to as the "magic circle," bound onto the market at $300 a bottle, the figure takes a large chunk out of the budget. And if, as many American buyers are being warned, they can't get wines on the first go round and those "must-have" wines go to $600 a bottle, the $250,000 shrinks even more.
Still, the buyer has just $250,000 to push into the pot when Bordeaux prices come out in May and June.
From several discussions with negociants, buyers and producers, it seems that in a vintage that is as hot on the market as 2005, they bizarrely end up buying fewer wines en primeur from Bordeaux. It's the irony of a great vintage.
Hardest hit are the terrific cru bourgeois from the Médoc, the Côtes near Saint-Emilion and even some of the lesser cru classé wines from all areas of Bordeaux. It is not to say they will never be bought for the American market. But if you are getting excited about buying en primeur for $30 to $50 a bottle, even as low as $20 a bottle, just for the fun of buying into the futures market and of tasting through that case as the years wear on, the possibility could be slim.
If there ever was a time to get to know a good wine merchant, it's now. Buy some of that good 2004 he can get for a song. Ask what is in store for 2005 from his allotment. Take the advice seriously if you like what you drink from the merchant.
If price is no object, you'll get the wine but probably not as much as you want. If price is a factor, should you shake a merchant's cage and ask for the lesser names but still excellent wines? Probably.
And you thought all you needed to study was a tasting note.
Tomorrow: The Graves, Haut-Brion and Latour
Note: All wines were tasted blind, except for the following: Château Ausone, Château Cheval Blanc,Château Pétrus, Vieux Château Certan, Château Trotanoy, Château Certan de May de Certan, Château Hosanna, Château Magdelaine, Château Latour à Pomerol, Château Nenin, Château Beau Soleil, Château Beauregard.
97-99 Château Ausone 2005 Saint-Emilion Grand Cru A superb wine that brings together all the qualities of this vintage: its great fruit, layers of acidity, dark tannins and velvet texture, without losing the sense of place that sets great Bordeaux apart. -R.V.
95-97 Château Cheval Blanc 2005 Saint-Emilion Grand Cru A hugely dark wine, packed with very dry tannins. Initially a little hot from alcohol, but with layers of sweet acidity and the power of the vintage, but without losing the grace. An impressive, powerful wine. -R.V.
95-97 Château Pétrus 2005 Pomerol As always, a class apart, Pétrus is dense, but oh so elegant. It has the great wine combination of power and elegance. It has super-ripe fruit, a complexity of flavors, but wears all this with such style. -R.V.
94-96 Château Belair 2005 Saint-Emilion Grand Cru Packed with tannins, this wine is big and spicy, a certain grandeur to it. It's also likely to be a very fine wine, the pure acidity and black fruits pushing through. -R.V.
94-96 Vieux Château Certan 2005 Pomerol A hugely spicy wine with powerful tannins. But it's also so elegant, the tannins tamed by the black fig, sweet fruits and charming, delicious acidity. This is a stunning wine. -R.V.
93-95 Château Angélus 2005 Saint-Emilion Grand Cru A spice, densely sweet wine, all ripe purple fruits bursting out of the straitjacket of the tannins, with the wood flavors quite dominant at this stage. The wine is firm, but the fruit is so big that the dryness is lost. -R.V.
93-95 Château Trotanoy 2005 PomerolA hugely black wine, immensely powerful, with hugely ripe tannins. This is enormous, but is there a sense of balance? Yes, just at the end with freshness and acidity. -R.V.
92-94 Château Beau-Séjour Bécot 2005 Saint-Emilion Grand Cru Very ripe, very soft at first taste, but there's a good punch with the tannins and the dense, intense palate. This has the huge ripeness of some new world wines, the fruit super-ripe. -R.V.
92-94 Château Canon 2005 Saint-Emilion Grand Cru An impressively minty wine, almost eucalyptus. The fruit is the thing here, a storm of flavors pierced through with high perfumes and powered by some fine dense tannins. Power. -R.V.
92-94 Château Certan de May de Certan 2005 Pomerol A hugely perfumed wine that glides over the tannins. It's impressively ripe, with black fruits, but these are so vibrant. -R.V.
92-94 Château Clos Fourtet 2005 Saint-Emilion Grand Cru New wood aromas are mingled with black fruits. The wine is solid, but with sweet wood and fruit tannins which are already integrating well. The fruit is deliciously ripe, with acidity only just showing. -R.V.
92-94 Château Grand Mayne 2005 Saint-Emilion Grand Cru An impressively dense wine, flowing with black fruits, with firm, dark tannins and with great ripe flavors. The layers of wood just hint at their supporting role, while the acidity gives the wine a final lift. -R.V.
92-94 Château Hosanna 2005 Pomerol Chocolate in its intensity, the fruit is ripe, firm with dark cocoa flavors. The acidity is delicious. -R.V.
92-94 Château la Fleur Pétrus 2005 Pomerol A powerfully ripe wine, but velvety smooth with layers of wood, acidity and dark, firm tannins. -R.V.
92-94 Château Petit Village 2005 Pomerol Smooth, soft, this wine has dry tannins that are well integrated into the solid, dark fruit. A powerful wine, but one that hides its power well. -R.V.
91-93 Château Clinet 2005 Pomerol A ripe, juicy wine, with rich, intense black fruits, layered with sweet and sour acidity. This is an immediately attractive wine, showing fine tannins but with fruit dominance. -R.V.
91-93 Château Figeac 2005 Saint-Emilion Grand Cru Very ripe, soft, a real pleasure of a wine. There is perfumed fruit, while the tannins themselves are gentle, sweet, with only a touch of dryness to give the wine power. The acidity to finish gives the wine an attractive lift. -R.V.
91-93 Château la Fleur de Gay 2005 Pomerol This should be a powerful wine, but the power is so tempered by light acidity, poise, even delicacy in the tannins, that at the end the freshness is the principal element. -R.V.
91-93 Château la Pointe 2005 Pomerol This is impressive; a ripe, open wine, but showing some lovely polished new wood flavors, a sense of vanilla and just a touch of spice. -R.V.
91-93 Château Magdelaine 2005 Saint-Emilion Grand Cru Initially, this wine seems very soft, the ripe fruit just floating. But it is all suppressed at this stage, and suddenly you taste the tannins and the power that is held back. -R.V.
91-93 Château Trottevieille 2005 Saint-Emilion Grand Cru Eucalyptus perfumes, a sign of the ripe fruit this year. Big and powerfully polished, this wine glows with good health, with its dry tannins just supporting the rich purple fruit. It's very attractive now, so the tannins and the acidity will have to work to give the wine ageability. -R.V.
90-92 Château la Gaffelière 2005 Saint-Emilion Grand Cru This is packed with huge tannins, very sweet, very super-ripe fruit. It's tough at first because it is so powerful and alcoholic, but there is also a certain rough grace to it. -R.V.
90-92 Château Latour à Pomerol 2005 Pomerol Another huge Pomerol. But like other wines vinified by Christian Moueix, this has a fine sense of balance, its softly extracted tannic, dry fruits, paired with deliciously fresh blueberry flavors. -R.V.
90-92 Château le Bon Pasteur 2005 Pomerol Consultant Michel Rolland's family property has produced a wine with great elegance, despite the intensity of fruit. Just a touch medicinal at this stage, the ripeness will power through. -R.V.
90-92 Château Nenin 2005 Pomerol Very smooth, very rich wine with a slight touch of pepper from the alcohol. The tannins are huge but submerged by ripe fruit. There's almost Napa-like ripeness, but the acidity is delicious. -R.V.
90-92 Château Vray Croix de Gay 2005 Pomerol Hugely ripe wine with dark tannins, this wine broods with intense, tough fruit. It's in balance, with a fine touch of freshness to give a lift. -R.V.
89-91 Château Feytit-Clinet 2005 Pomerol An impressive wine with lovely, sweet, ripe fruit, a touch of new wood spice and delicious acidity. -R.V.
88-90 Château Beauséjour-Duffau-Lagarrosse 2005 Saint-Emilion Grand Cru A very dry wine, but with good depths of flavor, layers of sweet tannins and black figs. The wine has great structure, good solid tannins, with a perfumed, light, almost delicate after-taste. -R.V.
88-90 Château Gazin 2005 Pomerol A wine that is initially all tannin, hard, firm, very concentrated and hard to get into at this stage. This toughness will probably come good, but there is also a question of the hot pepper character which suggests high alcohol. -R.V.
88-90 Château la Croix de Gay 2005 Pomerol A ripe, smooth, almost velvety wine that has big depths of flavor, solid tannins, but seems one-dimensional. -R.V.
88-90 Château Monbousquet 2005 Saint-Emilion Grand Cru A hugely extracted wine, with super-ripe fruit, dense tannins and black fruits. It's a super blockbuster. -R.V.
88-90 Château Pavie 2005 Saint-Emilion Grand Cru A spicy, very fruity wine, which is spoiled by some hot tannins, suggesting high alcohol. The wine, at this stage, seems somewhat clumsy. Tasted twice. -R.V.
87-89 Château Balestard la Tonnelle 2005 Saint-Emilion Grand Cru Minty aromas and smooth wood show a new world character. The fruit is ripe, almost too ripe, very warm. There are tannins there, but the fruit structure is not quite together. -R.V.
87-89 Château Beau Soleil 2005 Pomerol An earthy, somewhat rustic wine, which has ripe, slightly over-extracted fruit. The fruit gives the character, the tannins overpower. -R.V.
87-89 Château la Cabanne 2005 Pomerol An immense, dry wine that has extracted fruit - all juice, purple flavors, ripeness, but ultimately, somewhat simple. -R.V.
86-88 Château la Conseillante 2005 Pomerol Very juicy, this wine is easy to taste now, lacking huge depths of flavor. -R.V.
86-88 Château Pavie Decesse 2005 Saint-Emilion Grand Cru A huge, plumy, super-ripe fruit, jam and medicinal flavors. This is so dryly extracted, that it has almost stopped being wine. -R.V.
85-87 Château Beauregard 2005 PomerolHugely rich, very spicy, this wine is powered by huge Merlot flavors. There is some fine acidity as well, which gives the wine a lift, but essentially it's all about unsubtle power. -R.V.