On a blustery spring Tuesday in Bordeaux, the 2009 en primeur circus arrived in the Right Bank region of Saint-Emilion and Pomerol.
The majority of wines, mainly based on Merlot, with some Cabernet Franc, are immensely powerful. They are also packed with the sort of ripe fruit that a New World wine producer would recognize, but coupled with Bordeaux elegance and freshness.
For winemakers, the 2009 growing season was perfect. Dany Rolland, who makes the wine at the Michel Rolland family properties in Fronsac and Pomerol, describes this as a “a vintage à la carte, when we could pick when we wanted without having to worry about our usual enemy, rain. The grapes had the same quality as 1982, maybe even better, almost the best in my experience. What she likes is the “great balance between alcohol, sugar and rounded tannins.”
Mireille Thunevin produces Château Valandraud. For her, “this is best Valandraud I have ever made. The fruit is so rich that you don’t feel the tannins.” But, she cautions, “it was a complicated vintage. You had to take risks.” A view echoed by Jonathan Maltus, producer of Le Dôme, Château Teyssier and other highly rated Saint-Emilion wines: “while it was a great vintage, and we feel we have made the best wines ever, we had to work harder in the cellar, do more winemaking than in 2005.”
Otto Rettenmaier, whose family owns Château la Tour Figeac in Saint-Emilion, calls this “a charming vintage, as well as a great one.” He makes a comparison with the best recent vintage: “While 2005 is square in character, 2009 is rounded and opulent. Frankly, I am not sure which is the greater vintage. It is almost a personal choice.” Pauline Vauthier at her family’s Château Ausone compares the fruit of 2009 with another great recent vintage, 2000: “the two years have the same lushness.”
The high alcohol, for Bordeaux, was a challenge in many cellars, including famed Château Pétrus of Pomerol.
“Over 14 percent and that is too much,” said Olivier Berrouet, who arrived as director of Petrus for the 2009 vintage. Pétrus 2009 is just at 14 percent.
Berrouet echoed many winemakers on the Right Bank. “The weather conditions were almost perfect,” he said. “For us at Pétrus, it was the first time we had so much time between grapes turning red and picking. Instead of 45 days, it was about 60 days,” said Berrouet. “The vintage called for this, it was not our call.”
Berrouet, who was plucked from Château Cheval Blanc to take over winemaking at Pétrus, laughed as he escorted journalists from the tasting. “After this vintage, I can probably retire.”
How does 2009 Saint-Emilion and Pomerol taste? Here’s a first look. Also see: Roger’s reviews for Sauternes.
95–97 Clos Fourtet 2009 Saint-Emilion. Black, dense fruits; licorice and dark chocolate over prunes and ripe figs. This is a spicy wine with the acidity of the fruit forming a great balancing counterweight. Very complete. – R.V.
95–97 Château Pavie 2009 Saint-Emilion. A super-rich wine, but one that has managed to retain a superb balance. It is powerful, dense and concentrated, but there is also complexity from the wonderful juicy fruits. – R.V.
95–97 Château Trotanoy 2009 Pomerol. Big and ripe, a wine that showers you with ripe tannins, black plum and licorice flavors, and the most dusty tannins. An impressive and seriously concentrated wine. – R.V.
94–96 Château Angélus 2009 Saint-Emilion. A immensely powerful wine, heaving with fresh fruit and dark tannins. It is full of spiced plums, dark cherries and berries. These lie over wood and a powerful structure. – R.V.
94–96 Château Beau-Séjour Bécot 2009 Saint-Emilion. A wine that makes the most of its freshness, with bright acidity, great blackcurrant fruits. It has density balanced with a beautiful final acidity and final smokiness. – R.V.
94–96 Château Belair-Monange 2009 Saint-Emilion. There is some initial mineral austerity, but this lies on top of powerful fruits. The wine is dense and solid on the chunky side. Very concentrated. – R.V.
94–96 Château Certan de May de Certan 2009 Pomerol. Wonderful concentration here; the wine has the most powerful wood spice, ripe and mineral tannins. It is impressive in every way, showing the total richness of the vintage. – R.V.
94–96 Château Hosanna 2009 Pomerol. Solid wine, it hides its richness beneath a smooth surface. The tannins feel powerful, but are hard to detect. The wine offers final power. – R.V.
94–96 Le Dôme 2009 Saint-Emilion. A complete wine, with the tannins, deep blackberry fruit, sweet acidity and dense structure all coming together in great harmony. The wine is certainly ripe, but equally structured. For aging. – R.V.
94–96 Château Trottevieille 2009 Saint-Emilion. A wine with wonderful concentration, smooth, spiced fruit, the richness lifted by acidity. The wine is dense, compact, a great waft of sweet final fruits. – R.V.
94–96 Château Valandraud 2009 Saint-Emilion. A powerful, rich wine, building between freshness and ripe chocolate, licorice and powerful, ripe fruits. The structure is potentially immense. Great wine. – R.V.
93–95 Château la Fleur Pétrus 2009 Pomerol. There is great weight here, a wine that is dark and dense, packed with superb dusty tannins. Solid and with a firm core, but also opulent. – R.V.
93–95 Château La Gaffelière 2009 Saint-Emilion. Soft, almost too smooth, the sweet plum fruits way underneath layers of velvet and plush. The structure is hard to find here, but the richness of the year is very apparent. – R.V.
93–95 Château Magdelaine 2009 Saint-Emilion. Big and very dense; serious. The ripe plums go with prunes as well as full fruits. On the surface, it seems smooth, but there is concentrated dark tannin underneath. – R.V.
93–95 Château Troplong Mondot 2009 Saint-Emilion. At this stage, the wood element is overpowering. You have to imagine the fruit, but the weight of the wine suggests it is there. Big, solid and chunky, it is the product of very ripe fruit. – R.V.
92–94 Château Ausone La Chapelle d’Ausone 2009 Saint-Emilion. Rich and smooth, with some juicy character, the fruit with black cherries, licorice and sweet jam. At the level of many top wines, this is the second wine Château Ausone. – R.V.
92–94 Château Beauséjour Duffau-Lagarosse 2009 Saint-Emilion. Smooth, ripe wine, velvet texture and sweet fruits. It has structure under this smooth surface, giving some bright acidity. But the general feel is of richness, super extraction. – R.V.
92–94 Château Bellevue 2009 Saint-Emilion. Big, deep fruit, smoky tannins, but beautifully integrated, rich, packed with plum juice sweetness. – R.V.
92–94 Château Faugères 2009 Saint-Emilion. Very ripe, sweet plums and figs, with plush, sweet fruits and the richest structure. – R.V.
92–94 Château Figeac 2009 Saint-Emilion. This is relatively light, with freshness over the bright spicy acidity. The wine dances almost, with its wood element well integrated. A delicious final freshness, but certainly not weighty. – R.V.
92–94 Château Grand Corbin Despagne 2009 Saint-Emilion. Packed with sweet fruit, but also structured to balance. The wine shows a satisfying mix of acidity and sweet chocolate flavors. – R.V.
92–94 Château la Tour de Pin 2009 Saint-Emilion. Now owned by Cheval Blanc, this is a big, spicy wine with rich fruit, packed dates, figs and sweet tannins. It is powerful, dense, finishing with great acidity. – R.V.
92–94 Château la Tour Figeac 2009 Saint-Emilion. A dense wine, very rich and concentrated, the Cabernet Franc tannins giving bitter chocolate and dark structure. Meantime, the fruit is ripe, sweet, packed with blackberry flavors. – R.V.
92–94 Château Latour à Pomerol 2009 Pomerol. Impressively powerful wine, smothered in ripe fruit, with a velvet texture over solid tannins. Fine concentration along with great fruit. – R.V.
92–94 Château Le Bon Pasteur 2009 Pomerol. Dense, with impressive solid tannins and powerful fruit. The wine is smooth at first, then structure comes through with a final dry core. – R.V.
92–94 Les Astéries 2009 Saint-Emilion. A beautifully structured wine, offering powerful tannins along with the ripest, perfumed fruit. It balances rich fruit with an intense mineral structure. Impressive – R.V.
92–94 Sanctus 2009 Saint-Emilion. Rich, beautifully structured wine from a 14 acre vineyard. Wood is there for the polish, with acidity and the finest, elegant structure. – R.V.
91–93 Château Canon 2009 Saint-Emilion. Definite wood aromas, the fruit buried under the high toast flavors. This gives dryness as well as extract. The wine comes across hard, tight, almost dark in character. – R.V.
91–93 Château Fontenil Le Défi de Fontenil2009 Fronsac. Very dense, a beautiful wine, dark in character, built on solid fruit, structured with sweet tannins. You can sense the acidity, even if you can’t taste it. – R.V.
91–93 Girolate 2009 Bordeaux. Firm tannins, with some extract, bitter chocolate, dark coffee, almost dry tannins, very dense in character. – R.V.
91–93 Château Jean Faure 2009 Saint-Emilion. A immensely smooth, polished wine. The complement to this are the acidity, great fruit, making a modern, sophisticated wine. – R.V.
91–93 Château la Dominique 2009 Saint-Emilion. Dark licorice, sweet fruits and ripe tannins. A wine that shows great fruits and freshness, while at the same time big, dark tannins. – R.V.
91–93 Château la Fleur du Gay 2009 Pomerol. This is concentrated, powerful stuff, the fruit seriously ripe and rich, balanced between chocolate, dark coffee and blackcurrant juice. – R.V.
91–93 Château la Vieille Curé 2009 Fronsac. Good dusty tannins, lively fruit, a wine that seems very complete. There is a touch of final wood and dark tannins. – R.V.
91–93 Château Marzelle 2009 Pomerol. While it has weight and concentration, the wine also has great freshness. It is a fine combination of dry tannins and fresh blackcurrant fruits. – R.V.
91–93 Vieux Château Mazerat 2009 Saint-Emilion. Dark and tannic, very smoky. Perfumed fruits go with oak and a complex structure. The Cabernet tannins are rounded out by juicy Merlot. The alcohol shows in a touch of pepper. – R.V.
91–93 Château Pavie Macquin 2009 Saint-Emilion. Flavors of acid red berries dominate the wine, leaving the tannins and structure somewhat buried. The wine is very juicy, almost too fruity. – R.V.
91–93 Château Valandraud Virginie de Valandraud2009 Saint-Emilion. This is the second wine of Valandraud, a structured, important, big wine, beautifully balanced. It has good freshness at the same time as richness. – R.V.
90–92 B de Valandraud 2009 Saint-Emilion. This is almost a third wine of Château Valandraud, rich, sweetly fruity, very ripe and spice. Delicious fruit. – R.V.
90–92 Clos Badon 2009 Saint-Emilion. The ripest fruit, with plenty of sweet flavors, packed with spice, the ripe wood giving structure. – R.V.
90–92 Château Bourgneuf 2009 Pomerol. Concentration and ripe fruit, but with a definite structure that shows as considerable depth of fruit and structure. – R.V.
90–92 Château Daugay 2009 Saint-Emilion. Owned by Château Angélus, a soft and gentle wine, wearing its fruit on its sleeve, the tannins light, followed by a juicy texture. – R.V.
90–92 Clos des Jacobins 2009 Saint-Emilion. Ripe, sweet fruit, lots of smooth tannins, caramel and toast. The fruit is rich, lightly structured with firm tannins showing through. – R.V.
90–92 Clos du Clocher 2009 Pomerol. Big, solid rich and dense fruits, packed with black berry juice and very ripe tannins. It feels wighty, with a stewed prune aftertaste. – R.V.
90–92 Château Fontenil 2009 Fronsac. A very smoky character, with an attractive lightness. The fruit is bright, even though there is richness. The tannins give a dark, dry aftertaste. – R.V.
90–92 Château la Couspaude 2009 Saint-Emilion. Pure blackberry and currant fruits, lots of ripe and juicy flavors. Intense, concentrated and smoky. – R.V.
90–92 Château la Serre 2009 Saint-Emilion. There is wood here, the fruit is fresh, with a lively acidity on top of the core of tannin. A bright, fresh, blackcurrant wine. – R.V.
90–92 Le Carré 2009 Saint-Emilion. From a vineyard right on the edge of the city of Saint-Emilion, this is a rounded wine, packed with ripe and generous fruit, black cherries and velvet tannins. The finish is very juicy. – R.V.
90–92 Château Moulin St-Georges 2009 Saint-Emilion. Under the same ownership as Château Ausone, this is a smoky wine, with fresh tannins and blackcurrant fruit flavors that are bursting from the glass. It is beautifully fresh, with plenty of bright acidity. – R.V.
90–92 Péby Faugères 2009 Saint-Emilion. Good ripe fruit, very dense with concentrated black chocolate and ripe fruits, but showing some alcohol burn. – R.V.
90–92 Château Quinault l’Enclos 2009 Saint-Emilion. Under new ownership after the sale by Alain Raynaud, this is now a lighter style of wine. But it does have great acidity, really fresh, with smoky tannins. – R.V.
90–92 Château Rol Valentin 2009 Saint-Emilion. Rich and smooth, a former garage wine turned respectable. It is powerful but very smooth, with sweet damsons and juicy berry fruit. The wood is well integrated. – R.V.
89–91 Château Bel-Air Ouÿ 2009 Saint-Emilion. Owned by Jean-Luc Thunevin of Valandraud, this is an intense – maybe too intense – spicy wine, packed with new wood. There is a juicy character, but structure dominates. – R.V.
89–91 Château Bonalgue 2009 Pomerol. A solid chunky sweet wine, with lots of ripe bright fruits, and vivid blackcurrants. With this structure it will age. – R.V.
89–91 Château du Domaine de l’Eglise 2009 Pomerol. Solid, but still fresh wine, good acidity, some sweetness, but more pure blackcurrant and berry fruits. – R.V.
89–91 Château Grand Barrail Lamarzelle Figeac 2009 Saint-Emilion. A smooth wine, almost velvet, very polished. The fruits are ripe, sweet, very soft. – R.V.
89–91 Château la Tour de Pin Figeac 2009 Saint-Emilion. Sweet fruit, soft tannins, ripe wine. The structure takes a while to show with dusty, almost velvet tannins. – R.V.
89–91 Château Lafleur Gazin 2009 Pomerol. A big wine, with intense dark tannins and great concentration. This is a wine of power, somewhat rough around the edges. To finish, great juiciness. – R.V.
89–91 Château Puy-Blanquet 2009 Saint-Emilion. Powerful, but smooth, with ripe milk chocolate and sweetness. Very velvet in texture, with just enough acidity. – R.V.
89–91 Château Taillefer 2009 Pomerol. Firm, stalky almost, with considerable acidity. The wine feels very structured, designed for aging with the freshest final acidity. – R.V.
88–90 Château Cheval Blanc Le Petit Cheval2009 Saint-Emilion. Density with an important structure, this wine is concentrated, with fresh plum flavors. There is a slight edge of greenness, bringing out acidity. – R.V.
88–90 Château Haut Carles 2009 Fronsac. Light, ripe, fresh with pleasant acidity and the freshest of blackcurrants. – R.V.
88–90 Château Haut Simard 2009 Saint-Emilion. This is rich, with sweet fruits and delicious sweet plum flavors, good tannins, a lovely juicy character. – R.V.
88–90 Château Laforge 2009 Saint-Emilion. A solid, chunky wine, with a slight mineral character, just enough tannin and very pure blackberry juice and sweetness.
88–90 Château Mont-Pérat 2009 Premières Côtes de Bordeaux. Soft, very sweet, almost Port-like in character, with gentle tannins. There is acidity, but the wine is intensely ripe. – R.V.
88–90 Château Montviel 2009 Pomerol. Ripe and sweet, plush fruit, balanced sufficiently with acidity and some firm tannic character. The wine is chunky, but there is balance. – R.V.
88–90 Château Plince 2009 Pomerol. Some spice here, from the rich Merlot. The wine has ripe blackberry, sweet fruits as well as concentrated tannins. – R.V.
88–90 Château Rolland-Maillet 2009 Saint-Emilion. With its mineral edge and acidity, this is a very structured wine. This balances the dark tannins, smoky wood edge and the juicy blackberry. – R.V.
88–90 Château Teyssier 2009 Saint-Emilion. Dark bitter chocolate coated wine, soft in texture, but with a good stalky chewy edge. Final flavors are of cedar, new wood and spice. – R.V.
87–89 Château Beau Soleil 2009 Pomerol. Finely structured wine, plenty of black fruits behind the acidity. Plums, figs and bitter chocolate. – R.V.
87–89 Château Bertineau St-Vincent 2009 Lalande de Pomerol. Sweet blackcurrant, and a gentle tannins. The structure is obviously dense, but the richness hides it to give a velvet wine. – R.V.
87–89 Château de la Rivière 2009 Fronsac. This is on the juicy side, with sweet frutis, quite light textured. Smooth and juicy. – R.V.
87–89 Clos des Baies 2009 Saint-Emilion. A hugely enjoyable wine, finely structured, with great sweetness and the brightest fruit. – R.V.
87–89 Château Franc Grace Dieu 2009 Saint-Emilion. Quite light, a wine in a fresh style with some attractive fruits, the tannins showing along with the bright acidity. – R.V.
87–89 Château Lassegue 2009 Saint-Emilion. Rather light with the fruit fresh, with high acidity and bitter coffee. – R.V.
87–89 Château Simard 2009 Saint-Emilion. Good structure, attractive smoky fruit with bright acidity, over solid firm tannins. – R.V.
87–89 Château Vieux Maillet 2009 Pomerol. There is good structure here, fresh fruit and attractive sweet plums. The wine feels ripe, but quite structured, finishing sweet. – R.V.
86–88 Château la Fleur d’Arthus 2009 Saint-Emilion. Firmly tannic with plenty of extract, high toast over the solid texture. A wine that has been too heavily worked at by the winemaker. – R.V.
86–88 Château la Rose Trimoulet 2009 Saint-Emilion. Balanced and fresh, with plenty of blackcurrant fruits, very sweet, the tannins the merest hint. – R.V.
85–87 Château Fonbel 2009 Saint-Emilion. Soft, ripe fruit, with attractive blackcurrant flavors, fresh and juicy. – R.V.
83–85 Château la Clémence 2009 Pomerol. Juicy, over-extracted with flavors of beetroot. Difficult to discern any future. – R.V.