In all the gossip and rumors about the 2008 market, the wine seems to have slipped off the radar. The Bordeaux discussion now seems to revolve around money—the result of a decade of hyper-speculation, some greed and the dominance of the many by the few.
So what of the wine? Already, midway through the en primeur week, some regions are emerging as the stars of 2008. It is no surprise that Saint-Julien and Pauillac wines are a success. The Cabernet Sauvignon in the north Médoc vineyards ripened slowly over the last weeks of September and the opening of October. The days were warm, the nights cold—down to freezing. And it was dry.
Winemakers know that these conditions are perfect for Cabernet Sauvignon, keeping the acidity while allowing the fruit to reach perfect maturity. The result can be seen in the standout wines of the vintage so far tasted. Thomas Duroux of Château Palmer explains: “we reached mid-September with clean fruit after all the care we had taken during the summer. Then the dry weather came and the vines could bring a superb purity of fruit. It shows in the freshness which balances the tannins.”
The Merlot is more of a surprise. It ripens earlier than Cabernet and could be expected to have had no time to benefit from the dry weather which started in Bordeaux from mid-September onwards.
And yet, that master of Merlot, Michel Rolland, told me that he considers 2008 the best vintage since 2001, 2005 excepted.
Already it is apparent that Saint-Emilion and Pomerol have some intense Merlot-based wines. That is likely to be confirmed when the Right Bank appellations show their wines to the press on Friday.
So here is a vintage which was written off by those who saw the 2008 summer, but which, as Jean-René Matignon technical director of Château Pichon-Longueville in Pauillac told me: “was saved by Mother Nature. We had, he admits, “amazing luck.”
Stand Out 2008 wines from Saint-Julien, Pauillac and Saint-Estèphe. First growths will be revealed Friday.
95-97 Château Léoville-Barton, Saint-Julien
94-96 Château Léoville las-Cases, Saint-Julien
94-96 Château Pichon-Longueville, Pauillac
93-95 Château Ducru-Beaucaillou, Saint-Julien
93-95 Château Pichon Longueville Comtesse de Lalande, Pauillac
92-94 Château Clerc-Milon, Pauillac
92-94 Château Montrose, Saint-Estèphe
91-93 Château Haut-Marbuzet, Saint-Estèphe
91-93 Château Duhart-Milon, Pauillac
Full ratings and reviews of these wines and many more will be on-line next week.