Barrel tastings for the Bordeaux 2009 vintage started with a flourish today as tasters faced wines with unprecedented richness, and, in some cases, unheard-of alcohol levels.
Across the region, there are great wines. Comparisons are being made to 2005, 1982 and, even, for those with long-enough memories, to 1947. There are also some references made to records from the 1893 vintage. Although the summer was long and hot, the daytime temperatures never reached the excessive levels of 2003. Nor were summer nights as warm as those in 2003. That means that 2009 wines are balanced, even with all their richness.
It is early days in the en primeur week for tasting the red wines. But already there is a style to this year. Rich wines, surprisingly easy to drink for barrel samples, packed with opulent fruit. It takes a while to find the acidity and the tannins to balance all this richness. About 6,000 trade visitors and journalists—a number that surpasses the final tally for the invasion of 2005—have descended on the city of Bordeaux and its vineyards.
Denis Dubourdieu, professor of oenology at Bordeaux University and chateau owner in the Graves and Sauternes region, sounded a note of caution about the wines. “2005 was a perfect vintage. Is that true of 2009? In many regions, it certainly will be, but probably not everywhere for two reasons. First the color change was uneven, second some vines suffered from drought in August.”
For those winemakers who escaped these problems, though, many have created masterpieces.
The first revelation was among the medieval lanes and byways of Sauternes. One of the oldest wine regions of Bordeaux, Sauternes has produced extraordinary wines, powerfully rich, packed with noble rot and destined to age for decades. You could hear the producers talking to each other in awe about what was in their barrels. “We had the perfect combination of great fruit and great botrytis,” said Sandrine Garbay, winemaker at first growth Château d’Yquem. The conditions were perfect, great wines and in great quantity. In fact,” she added, drawing on the long history of Yquem, “we have exceeded the previous record of 1,000 barrels set in 1893.” At Château Climens, owner Bérénice Lurton, ponders what she calls “the mystery of why this year is so good. There was concentration, extreme purity of fruit, botrytis that came quickly and easily. I can’t explain the quality, but it is fact.” Chateau Lafite-Rothschild’s Charles Chevalier who oversees Lafite’s Château Rieussec in Sauternes is not given to descriptions in excess. But following the tasting, he succinctly summed up Sauternes’ 2009 vintage: “It is a very great year. Superb.”
Wine Enthusiast’s European Editor Roger Voss reports tasting notes daily from En Primeur Futures Bordeaux. Today Sauternes. Tomorrow Saint-Emilion and Pomerol. Note that Wine Enthusiast uses a three-point range for ratings from barrel samples.
97-99 Château Climens 2009 Barsac. A tasting from several barrels, because the chateau has not made the final blend, so the rating is provisional. But the wine is so rich, with an almost perfect balance of acidity and ripeness, allied to a complete purity of honeyed botrytis. However the final wine turns out, it will be magnificent. –R.V.
96–98 Château Coutet 2009 Barsac. A wine that shows intense spice, with ginger and grated nutmeg. This lies over the top of the ripest yellow fruits, added to mango, sweet pears and a fresh, final character. Complex wine with an immense future. –R.V.
96–98 Château la Tour Blanche 2009 Sauternes. A powerful, complex wine, its layers of sweetness mixed with a total dryness from botrytis. The wine is impressively rich, considerably inspired by dried fruits and spice. Certainly for aging over decades. –R.V.
96–98 Château Rieussec 2009 Sauternes. Concentrated and dense, this is a wine that fits well into the power of 2009. There is richness, but as well there is great elegance, a great structure of richness and sweetness, with the final bite of honey. –R.V.
96–98 Château Suduiraut 2009 Sauternes. Complex wine, packed with sweetness, apricots and the ripest, smooth honey. Beautifully rich and ripe, finished with acidity. A great wine. –R.V.
95–97 Château de Rayne Vigneau 2009 Sauternes. Very spicy, packed with fresh ginger, this is a delicious wine, tasting fresh but with an additional burst of supreme ripeness. –R.V.
95–97 Château Guiraud 2009 Sauternes. Poised well between complex dry botrytis and very sweet, ripe fruit, this is a concentrated wine, full of richness rather than total sweetness. There is a final burst of spice. –R.V.
95–97 Château Lafaurie-Peyraguey 2009 Sauternes. Very gold in color, this is a wine that seems initially closed, tight, only slowly showing its full panoply of richness, density and sweet final acidity. –R.V.
94–96 Château de Myrat 2009 Barsac. The aromas are immense, dried apricots, sweet jelly and honey. The palate shows considerable power, richness, a wine that is packed with intense, biting botrytis, very spicy. –R.V.
94–96 Château Lamothe-Guignard 2009 Sauternes. An immense wine, but one that is keeping all its elements in balance. Big, rich and ripe, apricots, peach juice and dry honeyed botrytis, along with a good element of freshness. –R.V.
94–96 Château Rabaud-Promis 2009 Sauternes. Great acidity here, but allied with considerable richness, there are flavors of orange marmalade, spicy tannins, a complex structure of very fresh fruits and dry botrytis. –R.V.
94–96 Château Sigalas-Rabaud 2009 Sauternes. A wine that is so concentrated and dense, spiked with acidity, dry botrytis and soft final fruit. It is definitly rich, not essentially sweet, but a power-packed wine. –R.V.
93-95 Château de Fargues 2009 Sauternes. Ripe and sweet, initially very much a wine on the surface, but then one that offers an impressive density of botrytis, sweet apricots and complex biting honey. –R.V.
93–95 Château de Malle 2009 Sauternes. All the elements are there, piling the sweetness, intense richness on layers of botrytis and finishing a crisp top of acidity. Impressive. –R.V.
93–95 Château Doisy-Daëne 2009 Barsac. Honeyed and spice, with lots of nutmeg, a wine that is packed with flavors, lychee in character, defiantly rich and spicy. –R.V.
93–95 Château Clos Haut-Peyraguey 2009 Sauternes. Certainly on the dry side, the wine is very rich, hard edged in its spiciness, with quite a bite of ginger. The acidity, though, is very much in balance, offering a wonderful crispness at the core of all the sweetness. –R.V.
92–94 Château Nairac 2009 Barsac. A powerful, spice-driven wine, very rich, with a great seasoning of sweet grapefruit and bright, fresh acidity. At the same time, the wine projects richness, intensity. –R.V.
92–94 Château Romer-du-Hayot 2009 Sauternes. Tense, vivid wine, packed with acidity over the freshness. It is taut, but at the same time bright and fresh, finishing with the rich honey showing strongly to finish. –R.V.
91–93 Château Doisy-Védrines 2009 Sauternes. On the dry side, showing acidity, a bitter almond character, followed by spice, creamed apples and a dry final. A weighty wine, with an edge of acidity that is not quite in balance. –R.V.
91–93 Château Suau 2009 Sauternes. Lots of fresh acidity here, followed by a wine that is ripe, soft, open at first, then shows huge richness, complex and concentrated.–R.V.
90–91 Château Broustet 2009 Barsac. Very rich in character, but on the dry side, a solid, almost chunky wine, showing depth of spice, apricot and honeyed apple. –R.V.
90–92 Château Caillou 2009 Barsac. Complex wine, its botrytis character very dominant, heady, so concentrated it is almost dry. This is dense, very rich in character. –R.V.
90–92 Château Filhot 2009 Sauternes. Almond aromas, a wine that is dense, rich but also with a strong almond and nut character. It is certainly powerful, dense. –R.V.
89-91 Château d’Arche 2009 Sauternes. Strong botrytis, very rich, totally honeyed. This is a powerful wine, very straight in its style, packed with the sweetest apricot jam. –R.V.
89–91 Château Lamothe-Guignard 2009 Sauternes. Very apricot and yellow fruit aromas, the palate smooth – almost too smooth – soft and like opulent velvet. The final has more fruit, but the wine is very open. –R.V.
88–90 Château Bastor-Lamontagne 2009 Sauternes. Very apply wine, with light botrytis character, some spice and very fresh fruit. It is bright and almost crisp. –R.V.