Rumors are flying around, both from chateau owners and buyers, that first growths, those engines of Bordeaux price increases, will discount their wines for 2008 by almost 50 percent. That would inevitably force other big ticket wines to follow. According to Thomas Duroux at Château Palmerthey: “if they drop their prices, we will have to drop ours.”
If and until that happens, “a buzz doesn’t exist. The chateau owners need to excite us more,” says Mozy Tehrani of Exclusive Imports of Beverly Hills, CA.
As always, the first growths play the prices close to the chest. Prince Robert of Luxembourg, whose family owns first growth Château Haut-Brion, claims “we are all troubled by the market,” adding that the wide global consumer base is a factor that never before existed in depressed times.
At the crus bourgeois level, where affordable Médoc wine lives, the châteaux are having a hard time justifying a price reduction, when they have hardly increased their prices for several years. On the shelf, they remain within the $30 to $60 band.
“These are not speculative market wines,” says Renaud Momméja of Château Fourcas-Hosten in Listrac, “they are consumer market wines.” Christian Schaetzle, in charge of production at Château Citran, agrees that ” these are wines for people who want to keep their appetite open for Bordeaux.”
Even with lowered prices, the question remains: will buyers buy? They all have stocks of 2006 and 2007. If 2008 prices are drastically reduced then those buyers will have to discount their existing stock heavily just to move it, to make room for the new vintage when it arrives in 2011.
If that happens, it could be a great time to come back to Bordeaux.
The Wines: Margaux
Margaux wines have a reputation for varying widely in quality. In 2008, the reputation is well-deserved. The best wines—from châteaux Palmer, Giscours, Rauzan-Ségla (and of course Château Margaux itself—see report on Friday)—are chewy, chunky, but this year deliciously fruity. The tannins soften into the fruit and the backbone is flexible.
On the other extreme, there are wines that are over-extracted, meaning the winemaker tried to get more out of the fruit than was ever there. Sometimes those same wines are already showing signs of being over-oaked. In general, last year’s top châteaux performed well while last year’s underachievers, once again, produced wines that were harder to enjoy. But there are exceptions—for instance, Château Desmirail has started to perform well.
Buy on reputation, buy on your wine retailer’s advice—and look at the reviews. They will point you toward those wines that are delicious and that have enough tannins for aging.
Today Margaux, Moulis, Listrac and Médoc. Tomorrow Pauillac, Saint-Estèphe, Saint-Julien and Haut-Médoc. Note: Because these wines are barrel samples, the reviews have a spread of scores.
93-95 Château Palmer Margaux. With a higher proportion of Merlot than is usual even at Palmer, this wine goes for lovely fresh, soft fruits. There is a touch of spice, juicy red berries, finally getting to a depth of dusty, chewy tannins.-R.V.
92-94 Château Giscours Margaux. A solid, wood and fruit balanced wine, foursquare and chunky. It has a firm backbone of tannins, and the dark plum and fig fruits match well with a final lift of acidity.-R.V.
92-94 Château Lascombes Margaux. A rich, concentrated wine; the black fruits fit well into the solid, dark tannic structure and there’s a juicy aftertaste. An impressive performance, and a wine that will age well.-R.V.
92-94 Château Rauzan-Ségla Margaux. Firmly balanced, showing the tannins first and then ushering in the ripe black, juicy fruits. This is a fine wine, potentially delicious, and one worth aging.-R.V.
91-93 Château Cantenac Brown Margaux. Although the aromas are heavily of wood, the fruit has a fresh lift, giving some spices, with a core of tannin coming through to finish with some juiciness. A wine in the elegant style.-R.V.
91-93 Château du Tertre Margaux. A wine that wants to be grand, but one in which the tannins are still getting the better of it. It is solid, chunky, the black plum flavors still struggling to get out.-R.V.
90-92 Château Chasse-Spleen Moulis-en-Médoc. A finely wooded wine, with a good balance between the ripe tannins, the bright berry fruits and fresh acidity.-R.V.
90-92 Château d’Angludet Margaux. Initially rustic and earthy, this wine does show some good, solid fruit. The tannins are smooth, polished, coming into balance with the fruit.-R.V.
90-92 Château Desmirail Margaux. Dry, tight tannins, the fruit a hint of berries over stalky blackcurrants. This is a dense wine, with black flavors. Only a hint of a powerful future in store.-R.V.
90-92 Château Labegorce Margaux. Firmly in the tannic arena, the wine is initially dark and tight. But there is fruit underneath, blackberry and redcurrants, coming through in the final acidity.-R.V.
90-92 Château Siran Margaux. Along with the new wood flavors, the wine has rich fruit, spiced with dried figs, dark berries and a rounded, fruitcake character. There’s a good touch of perfume to lift the finish.-R.V.
90-92 Château Malescot Saint-Exupéry Margaux. A fruity wine, lovely, lively and with well-integrated fresh fruits, blackcurrants and berries. The tannins are a part of this, with their suppleness. Whether this is a wine for aging is a question.-R.V.
90-92 Château Prieuré-Lichine Margaux. A perfumed wine, floral and flowery. The spices and wood comes from its tannins, which are very present. But there’s also friendly berry fruits, plum skins and, on the finish, acidity.-R.V.
90-92 Château Potensac Médoc. With the team of Léoville Las-Cases in charge, this is always one of the high performing Médoc properties. This wine is tight, dark and takes a while to open. The blackberry flavors are almost stalky, but they are softened by smoky wood.-R.V.
89-91 Château Clarke Listrac-Médoc. Well balanced, the fruit, fresh but ripe. There is an edge of dry tannins which slashes through the fruit and gives a firm, dry aftertaste.-R.V.
89-91 Château Maucaillou Moulis-en-Médoc. Fresh and juicy, this wine exudes blackcurrant juice flavors, the wood a background hint. It is has an attractive light touch, with fine final berry tastes.-R.V.
89-91 Château Brane Cantenac Margaux. Rounded berry fruits give this attractive wine a nice lift of ripeness. The acidity is light, along with the spice and nutmeg wood flavors.-R.V.
89-91 Château Dauzac Margaux. A heavily wood-dominated wine, the high toast character showing both in the aromas and to taste. It has weight, so maybe the fruit will come through—but not yet.-R.V.
89-91 Château Dufort Vivens Margaux. Full in the mouth, with its juicy fruits, this is an immediately attractive wine, with red berries giving a great waft of freshness. The tannins are restrained, finally fresh.-R.V.
89-91 Château Rauzan-Gassies Margaux. With sweet caramel aromas, this is a jammy wine, all sweet fruits, richness and not much structure. A wine that shows warmth and ripe fruits.-R.V.
89-91 Pavillon Rouge de Château Margaux Margaux. A wine that has all the grace of Château Margaux, but just a hint of depth and power. The tannins stay soft and there are hints of spice as well as a distinct acidity.-R.V.
89-91 Goulée Médoc. Owned by Cos d’Estournel, this is made in a sumptuous style for a Médoc wine. It is plump, ripe—the fruit being the sole event here. It is sweet, black and rich. For early drinking.-R.V.
88-90 Château Fourcas Dupré Listrac-Médoc. A dark-hued wine that has big, bold ripe fruits, the dry tannins powerful, edging towards rustic. The wine has potential, but it is hardly elegant.-R.V.
88-90 Château Ferrière Margaux. With its minty aroma and high proportion of new wood, this is a wine that shows polish and a smooth, wood-laden texture. Will probably age quickly.-R.V.
88-90 Château Kirwan Margaux. Caramel new wood aromas are followed by spice and toast flavors. The fruit seems thin by comparison, hard to feel under all that polished toast.-R.V.
88-90 Château Marquis de Terme Margaux. Spicy and juicy, this wine has some good depth of flavor, even though the texture is lightweight. More juice than structure.-R.V.
88-90 Alter Ego de Château Palmer Margaux. The second wine of Château Palmer is light, fresh and fruity, with accessible blackcurrant fruits. There is a light touch of wood, with delicious, easy, juicy acidity.-R.V.
87-89 Château Poujeaux Moulis-en-Médoc. With its tendency for dry tannins, this wine shows more structure than fruit. The wood gives many of those tannins, but the fruit extraction certainly contributes to the dry character.-R.V.
87-89 Château Monbrison Margaux. Initially closed, the wine is tight and mineral, with tannins that are hard and dense. The fruit is perhaps too light for all this weight of structure.-R.V.
86-88 Château Greysac Médoc. A dominance of new wood gives this wine spice, while the fresh berry fruits are a background, until the final burst of fresh, fruity acidity.-R.V.
86-88 Château La Tour de By Médoc. Densely structured wine, all rich plums and berry fruit flavors. There is a strong amount of wood, but it is the juicy, just green, character of the wine that is most prominent.-R.V.
86-88 La Chapelle de Potensac Médoc. Firm, with a bitter, tight edge, this second wine from Château Potensac has high acidity, spice, and a tight layer of tannins. For a second wine, this is not that accessible.-R.V.
85-87 Château Fonréaud Listrac-Médoc. This is light, fresh, on the dilute side, with easy berry fruits and some juicy character. Not much depth here.-R.V.
84-86 Château Fourcas-Hosten Listrac-Médoc. Definitely in the earthy style of Listrac, this wine is very tannin dominated, with the fruit way behind that dry structure. It seems to have been over-extracted.-R.V.
Read Wine Enthusiast Magazine’s report from Day 1 of Bordeaux En Primeur week with reviews of Sauternes.