At the Tasting Table
Every en primeur week has its surprises. So far, we have had great sweet whites and dry whites. And now, Pomerol has come up with delicious 2007s.
A good year is as far as any producer is honestly going when describing his 2007 wine. What he or she means is that they are breathing a sigh of relief that there were three weeks of sun in September—in fact the month was the sunniest for 60 years. And they are equally thankful that they did everything they could in the vineyard—bunch removal, leaf thinning, removal of a rotten berry the moment it appeared—to give the sun a chance to do its work when it finally re-appeared at the beginning of September.
In Pomerol, the sun did more than work on the grapes. “It bronzed the grapes, almost as if they had been sun bathing,” said Christian Moueix, director of Château Pétrus, and of négociant Jean-Pierre Moueix. By that he means that the grapes, after a long, slow maturation, put on a spurt of ripening. When he decided to pick on September 15—”I always pick early, but we all picked early in Pomerol in 2007 because maturation arrived and the grapes were starting to go down”—he was able to gather in grapes that gave wines of richness and power.
If Pomerol was a success, its neighbor Saint-Emilion is much more mixed. Of course, the top estates made good wines. Of course Château Ausone and Château Cheval Blanc have wines with aging potential. But Alain Vauthier, owner of Château Ausone, said that “what I like about this year is the fruit, the roundness of the wine.” This is a good wine, not great.”
On the wine road
Retail buyers and importers all arrive at en primeur week with a mission: to tell Bordeaux that prices have to go down seriously. This is no different from any other year. They are saying 2007 red vintage is all right, not great certainly, but with many good wines and no horrific defects. Not as good as 2006 and not as good as 2005. Buyers are the first to say 2007 is technically better than 1997, the scare story of the last decade.
Negociant Hamilton Narby, of Vinta, knows 1997 was very difficult experience for a lot of people. After a success with the 1995 and 1996 vintages, the chateaus put prices up higher than the vintage deserved, he said. “People bought them and got stuck with them. Yet, by 2002, the 1997 was drinking very nicely. But buyers are wary of this happening with 2007.”
Narby, who has clients in Hong Kong and the United States, is also working against the dollar in both countries. “Even if prices go down 20 percent, in real terms, that’s the same price as 2006 for dollar-based currencies.”
Négociants and the chateaus know the top 30 to 40 wines will sell, regardless of the price. But the wines on the borderline of great will have a difficult time. Negociant Jean-Luc Thunevin, owner of Château Valandraud in Saint-Emilion, agrees: “In 2005, 300 wines sold, in 2006, 70 wines sold, and this year only about 40 wines will sell.”
Thunevin doesn’t see much chance of radical price decreases. “The Bordeaux proprietors are rich, they don’t need to sell, so why should they drop their prices.” As in every year, the proprietors who play with their prices are the owners of the top estates. Below that level, prices hardly change, while basic Bordeaux is a great value in a good vintage.
Kathleen Buckley also contributed to this report.
Right Bank Reds
96-98 Château Pétrus, Pomerol Immense, deep wine, packed with firm tannins, the tannins and wood in great harmony. This is always an iconic wine, and once again it has shown why it has this status. —R.V.
93-95 Château Hosanna, Pomerol A hugely structured wine, very firm, a series of building blocks of ripe flavors. Needs aging. —R.V.
93-95 Château Trotanoy, Pomerol An austere style, definitely ageworthy, with the potential coming from its firm structure, big fruit, which is lightly touched by fresh blackberries. —R.V.
92-94 Château Certan de May, Pomerol Lively, perfumed, the tannins offering richness to the light, almost delicate character of a delicious wine. —R.V.
92-94 Providence, Pomerol A wine that layers dryness with powerful fruits and tannins. The fruit has a delicious juicy overlay, which comes though in the fresh aftertaste. —R.V.
91-93 Château La Croix de Gay, Pomerol Dark,bitter wine, which has high toast wood flavors, smoky, gravy tastes and layers of firm tannins. There is plenty of material here, so it should age. —R.V.
91-93 Château La Fleur Pétrus, Pomerol Dense, dark, with smoky, bacon flavors, with cranberry and black cherry fruits. Intense and solid. —R.V.
91-93 Château Latour à Pomerol, Pomerol On the austere, mineral side,this has firm, tannins, dark, dry, solid. Obviously a wine that needs to age. —R.V.
90-92 Château Commanderie de Mazeyres, Pomerol Good, dense fruit, ripe, sweet with great juicy red berry fruits. Lively, vibrant juicy aftertaste. —R.V.
90-92 Château La Conseillante, Pomerol Very firm, dark,dense, supported by new wood which seems to give extra richness to the fruit. It has good freshness as well, ending with bitter chocolate. —R.V.
90-92 Château La Grave à Pomerol, Pomerol This shows some of the impressive density of 2007 Pomerol, with solid fruits, sweet tannins and a finish which is impressively firm. —R.V.
90-92 Château Nenin, Pomerol Sweet fruit, rich, the tannins firm, dense, hinting at extraction. But there is lively acidity as well, even though it is the sweet fruit which dominates. —R.V.
90-92 Château Petit-Village, Pomerol A big, fruity wine, all ripe berries and some black tannins. It is fresh, layered with some dark plums and juicy acidity. —R.V.
89-91 Château Clinet, Pomerol Dry, with the wood tannins just on the right side of dominance, the fruit rich with blackberry, plum and fine ripeness. —R.V.
89-91 Château La Fleur Gazin, Pomerol Ripe, powerful, soft and velvety. The tannins continue the softness, rich, the finish is rich. —R.V.
89-91 Château Prieurs de la Commanderie, Pomerol Ripe, juicy Merlot with dried fruits and fresh acidity. It has a touch of bitterness, but there is some softness, and a juicy aftertaste. —R.V.
88-90 Château La Couspaude, Pomerol Packed with tannins, the fruit needs time to make its way through. But it is there, a fine layer of dark plums and cranberries. —R.V.
87-89 Fugue de Nenin, Pomerol The second wine of Château Nenin is solid, very approachable now, gentle and ripe, with sweet chocolate flavors. —R.V.
87-89 Château Gazin, Pomerol High toast wood aromas, which spill over into the taste. This is more to do with wooden planks than fruit. A mistake in this vintage. —R.V.
87-89 Château La Pointe, Pomerol Initially fruity, this loses its freshness when the new wood comes through to dominate. The acidity, though, is good, especially in the crisp aftertaste. In the end, it will be fresh heading to fruity. —R.V.
86-89 Château Beauregard, Pomerol Quite dense, but there is also some green pepper flavor. Bitter chocolate and high acids show through the dry, dark texture. The aftertaste though shows good freshness. —R.V.
85-87 Château La Cabanne, Pomerol Lean, mineral, with petrol aromas, and dark, extracted tannins. A hard wine, with the wood pushed to the fore by the hard extraction. —R.V.
95-97 Château Ausone, Saint-Emilion Grand Cru It’s a big wine, of course, but this year’s Ausone has elegance, roundness, and intense fruit. The fruitiness is rich, sweet, with blackberries backed up by its structure. —R.V.
95-97 Château Cheval Blanc, Saint-Emilion Grand Cru Very pure, perfumed with Cabernet Franc, flavors of coffee. The fruit is ripe, the structure square, angled, giving the fruit a definite shape and a future. —R.V.
93-95 Château Figeac, Saint-Emilion Grand Cru This is good, there is a rich, dark texture of Cabernet fruit, which shows some velvet smoothness over the dry tannins. It shows some bitterness, but also good firm richness. —R.V.
92-94 Château Bélair, Saint-Emilion Grand Cru With the new input from the Moueix winemaking team, this is an intense, but elegant wine. It shows ripeness, blackberry jelly, some bitter chocolate, balanced with lively acidity. —R.V.
92-94 Château Canon, Saint-Emilion Grand Cru Intense, concentrated, but well balanced, with great layers of fresh blackcurrant juice, cranberry tannins and a denseness that is justified by its richness. —R.V.
92-94 Château Magdelaine, Saint-Emilion Grand Cru Rich, dense, balanced, a success with its dark coffee flavor, balanced with plum skins, wood very much a supporting element here. Solid, dark, but still keeping its fruit. —R.V.
91-93 Château Angélus, Saint-Emilion Grand Cru Very woody wine, the dryness and acidity coming from the wood tannins. There is some fruit under all this, with some juicy blackcurrants, but the wood is dominates. It needs time for the fruit to come through. —R.V.
91-93 Château Beau-Séjour Bécot, Saint-Emilion Grand Cru Heady wine, floating ripe perfumes over its concentrated tannic structure. The fruit seems ripe, giving good balance. —R.V.
91-93 Le Dôme, Saint-Emilion Grand Cru As so often with this single vineyard wine, the Cabernet Franc gives wonderful perfumes. In 2007, the elegance comes up front, layered with acidity and blackberries. The tannins, while dry, are not intense, going more to support the freshness. —R.V.
91-93 Château Troplong-Mondot, Saint-Emilion Grand Cru Toasty wine, tasting of new wood, spice which gives an exotic edge to the soft fruit. It all hangs together, finishing with the vintage’s hallmark freshness. —R.V.
91-93 Château Valandraud, Saint-Emilion Grand Cru Dark, dense, the fruit almost black. The wood is an important feature here, but its dryness underlies the powerful fruit. The finish maintain the richness, along with the spice. —R.V.
90-92 Château Canon-la-Gaffelière, Saint-Emilion Grand Cru High toast, followed by firm, dry tannins. A wine that has layers of blackcurrant and finishes with high acidity. —R.V.
90-92 Château Fombrauge, Saint-Emilion Grand Cru Dense and extracted, with crushed blackberry fruits dominating. To finish, the vintage’s freshness come forward. —R.V.
90-92 Château Grand Corbin Despagne, Saint-Emilion Grand Cru Great structure, a wine with big fruit weight to support the tannins. It has vivid acidity, which lends fine freshness to the solid structure. —R.V.
90-92 Château Larmande, Saint-Emilion Grand Cru Firmly tannic wine, but the fruit has enough weight to support the dryness. There is a core of richness here, which promises well for aging. —R.V.
90-92 Les Astéries, Saint-Emilion Grand Cru Dense, dark wine, with bitter chocolate and licorice flavors, packed into a powerful structure. For the year, this has power, but it still finishes freshly, lightly. —R.V.
90-92 Château Quinault l’Enclos, Saint-Emilion Grand Cru Fresh and fruity, this wine shows the year well. Plenty of black currant, red berries and frehsness. The acidity is delicious. —R.V.
89-91 Clos Badon, Saint-Emilion Grand Cru Big, extracted, dense. There is a quantity of wood, but the fruit is certainly sufficient to sustain it. Darkly ripe, with black plums and spice. —R.V.
89-91 Château Dassault, Saint-Emilion Grand Cru Good solid wine, the tannins and acidity balancing each other over the ripe, juicy black plum juice fruit flavors. It is fresh, vibrant and juicy. —R.V.
89-91 Clos Fourtet, Saint-Emilion Grand Cru Red berry jam aromas on this soft, fruity wine. The tannins are kept in the background in a light, fresh wine that accurately shows the nature of the vintage. —R.V.
89-91 Château Grand-Mayne, Saint-Emilion Grand Cru Ripe, jammy wine, attractive red fruits floating over the tannins. It is balanced, fresh, finishing jammy and juicy. —R.V.
89-90 Château La Dominique, Saint-Emilion Grand Cru Dry, solid wine, its firm structure coming from ripe fruit as much as from wood. So it is balanced, a wine that should develop well. —R.V.
89-91 Château La Gaffelière, Saint-Emilion Grand Cru A dark, heady wine, blackberry jelly, but also bitterness. The licorice and firm tannins give extreme dryness. It’s pretty hard initially, although there is final sweetness. —R.V.
89-91 Château La Tour Figeac, Saint-Emilion Grand Cru Ripe, fresh with strawberry jam flavors, a wine that shows good perfumed structure and an aftertaste which goes for pure freshness. —R.V.
89-91 Le Carré, Saint-Emilion Grand Cru Structured, dense, seemingly extracted, but redeemed by its firm tannins, and structured aftertaste. —R.V.
89-91 Château Pavie, Saint-Emilion Grand Cru A very ripe wine, packed with very juicy, extracted fruits. It has considerable opulence, richness, only giving hints of freshness in the aftertaste. —R.V.
89-91 Château Trottevieille, Saint-Emilion Grand Cru Firm, dry wine, using hard tannins to shore up the lighter fruit. A wine that shows its dark side, somewhat hard edged. The aftertaste at least offers juicy black fruits. —R.V.
88-90 Château Beauséjour, Saint-Emilion Grand Cru Dark, dry wine that shows some juicy acidity, but keeps its heavy tannic structure. There is some indication of extraction in this dryness. —R.V.
88-90 Château Berliquet, Saint-Emilion Grand Cru Spicy from the wood, this wine is too firm, too dry for the fruit. It gives structure, which goes right through to the aftertaste. —R.V.
88-90 Château Franc Mayne, Saint-Emilion Grand Cru Balanced, fresh wine, with dry tannins which support the juicy fruits. It has good balance to go with that freshness, attractive berry flavors and ripe fruit. —R.V.
88-90 Château Laforge, Saint-Emilion Grand Cru A gentle, ripe, fruity wine that has fresh tannins, some good fruit density, given a shape by some minerality and its sweet acidity. —R.V.
88-90 Château Larcis-Ducasse, Saint-Emilion Grand Cru Fruity wine, which has balancing tannins, layering their dryness with good strawberry flavors. The acidity is refreshing, offering black plum skin freshness. —R.V.
88-90 Château Pavie-Macquin, Saint-Emilion Grand Cru Soft, lightweight wine, which shows fresh red berry fruits, acidity, and floating tannins. Attractive, but certainly not powerful. Juicy aftertaste. —R.V.
87-89 Château Balestard la Tonnelle, Saint-Emilion Grand Cru Good raspberry fruits, a fresh wine, only just touched by tannins. It is soft, likely to be an early drinking wine. —R.V.
87-89 Château Faugères, Saint-Emilion Grand Cru Rich, dense tannins, extracted spice and a dark tannic structure. Very solid, without compensating fruit. —R.V.
87-89 Château Grand Destieu, Saint-Emilion Grand Cru Saint-Emilion Grand Cru. With its soft tannins and chocolate flavors, this is an immediately attractive wine. There is just some firm tannic structure to give depth to its lightness. —R.V.
87-89 Château Jean Faure, Saint-Emilion Grand Cru Soft, spicy fruit, with sweetness. It’s a modern, polished style of wine, although the fruit goes for some restraint. —R.V.
87-89 Château La Serre, Saint-Emilion Grand Cru Lively cherry fruits, with soft fruit, mouth-filling redberries and fresh finishing acidity. —R.V.
86-88 Château Lassègue, Saint-Emilion Grand Cru Ripe, soft, unfocussed, the fruit very jammy. Light in structure, this will develop fast. —R.V.
86-88 Château Teyssier, Saint-Emilion Grand Cru Grand Cru. Soft, ripe spicy, with sweet tannins. The fresh blackcurrant flavors give life to this soft, fruity wine. —R.V.
85-87 Château Cap de Mourlin, Saint-Emilion Grand Cru Medicinal and herbal, this is wine that shows rather lean characters, with some hard edged tannins. —R.V.