There are two seasons for every Bordeaux vintage. One takes place during harvest, when the decision is made to pick the grapes. The other occurs six months later, when it comes time to sell en primeur. For the latter, the weather can be equally difficult and less reliable with no easy tests to catch the world currency market’s winds of change.
The picking options were easy this year: there was so much choice. There was no rain in the forecast, the days were warm, the nights cool. The grapes could hang seemingly forever.
So then, by being spoiled for choice, the decision became hard. As Sabrina Pernet, technical director at Château Palmer in Margaux, told me: “what was difficult in 2009 was to find just the right date when we had so many possibilities.” She describes what she politely calls “discussions” with the vineyard team and with chateau director Thomas Duroux. The fact that they produced such a superb wine in 2009 (rated 98-100) shows they eventually made the right choice.
And the date? For Palmer, September 23 to October 14. That week in September seems to have been the magic moment for so many estates in Margaux and the southern Médoc. It was also the picking date recommended by Jacques Boissenot, consultant to so many great and good wineries in the Médoc that the list would fill an article.
In Margaux, the names in his client book include Margaux, Palmer, Giscours, du Tertre and Dauzac. Sitting at lunch with him today, he told me that the “latest date for anybody to start picking in 2009 should have been September 27. The problem though was that some producers waited so long, their grapes became prunes, shriveled, even burnt.”
Those who followed the advice of Boissenot, a classicist from the Bordeaux school that still believes in elegance and balance, have made some great wines in Margaux and elsewhere in the Médoc (see more reviews tomorrow).
The weather in the currency markets, though, has been less calm. The euro has reached what many call crazy highs against the dollar (at one point near $1.60 to one euro, currently closer to $1.35).
This morning, Philip Castéja, whose family owns a negociant firm and chateaux in Pauillac and Saint-Emilion, said that currency is on everyone’s mind with this 2009 vintage and its success in the United States.
“For now, it’s good,” said Castéja. But with weak EU economies (that ultimately help create a balance between the dollar and euro) and an uncertain government resolution to aid said economies, one can never tell. No easy tests for the winds of change.
98–100 Château Palmer 2009 Margaux. Sumptuous, opulent, with gorgeous ripe fruit, and yet under 14 percent alcohol. The firm tannins are almost smothered by the delicious fruits. It is a great wine that expresses both the natural exuberance of Palmer and the rich fruit and balancing freshness of the vintage.–R.V.
94–96 Château Giscours 2009 Margaux. Full of blackcurrant fruits, ripe and sweet tannins and forward fruit. The wine feels polished, ripe, smooth.–R.V.
94–96 Château Labégorce 2009 Margaux. Delicious smoky aromas followed by ripe and sweet fruit that is in great balance with the tannins. There seems plenty of potential here.–R.V.
94–96 Château Rauzan-Ségla 2009 Margaux. Big tannins here, very dry, but the fruit seems rich enough to support it. It is finely structured, very dense, made for the long haul.–R.V.
93–95 Château Brane Cantenac 2009 Margaux. A richly structured wine, smoothed with wood, but based mainly on solid black berries and a firm fruit skin texture. It is big and very fruity.–R.V.
93–95 Château Kirwan 2009 Margaux. Compact wine, bringing in juicy fruits and tannins into a complete, firm whole. A good success.–R.V.
93–95 Château Lascombes 2009 Margaux. Big ripe and juicy, with a core of dark spice and wood. The wine is full-bodied, richly fruity.–R.V.
92–94 Château d’Arsac 2009 Margaux. A smooth, polished wine, with definite elements of new wood as well as a core of firm tannins. The fruit is bright, freshened even more by the acidity.–R.V.
92–94 Château Dauzac 2009 Margaux. With considerable new wood, this is a complex wine. The wood marches in step with the fresh blackcurrant and ripe fruit flavors to give a wine that is juicy as much as structured.–R.V.
92–94 Château du Tertre 2009 Margaux. Well balanced wine, the spiced wood integrating well with the rich plum and berry juice fruits. Firm, but generous.–R.V.
92–94 Château Margaux 2009 Le Pavillon Rouge de Château Margaux Margaux. Very rich, dense, pushing great blackberry fruits and ripe tannins. As always on the level of a classed growth.–R.V.
92–94 Château Prieuré-Lichine 2009 Margaux. A shiny, ripe and fresh wine, its tannins neatly merged into the blackcurrant fruits. Delicious and fresh, but also sweet.–R.V.
91–93 Château Cantenac Brown 2009 Margaux. Sweet, plummy wine, its tannins coming from spiced wood as much as fruit. There is a dry core, but the fruit is so opulent and ripe.–R.V.
91–93 Château Deyrem Valentin 2009 Margaux. Well structured, this has dry tannins over vivid black fruits. It shows acidity but also great juicy sweetness.–R.V.
91–93 Château Ferrière 2009 Margaux. Big, ripe and juicy, spiced and fleshy. There is certainly concentration here, but also considerable spicy juiciness.–R.V.
91–93 Château Maucaillou 2009 Moulis-en-Medoc. Smoothly polished wine, lovely blackberry jelly flavors and sweet fruit. Ripe, juicy with wood and a potentially good structure.–R.V.
91–93 Château Palmer 2009 Alter Ego de Château Palmer Margaux. Very ripe fruit aromas. The palate is almost velvet in texture, smooth and rich, fruits packed with black berries and sweet plums. A charming, delicious wine.–R.V.
90–92 Château Brillette 2009 Moulis-en-Medoc. A bright, shiny wine, spiced with blackcurrants and sweet plums, very fruity, dancing with liveliness.–R.V.
90–92 Château Chasse-Spleen 2009 Moulis-en-Medoc. Dense tannins over delicious blackberry juicy fruit. A finely structured wine, good freshness and sweet aftertaste.–R.V.
90–92 Château Durfort Vivens 2009 Margaux. Ripely juicy, a wine that feels fresh as much as rich. It shows extreme berry juice as well as acidity. But there is also some density.–R.V.
90–92 Clos Magdelaine 2009 Margaux. Dense, smoky tannins over ripe fruit with layers of powerful structure. It is extracted but also well-made.–R.V.
90–92 Château Poujeaux 2009 Moulis-en-Medoc. Power and structure over extreme juicy fruits, with black plum skins, spice from wood and a firm underlay.–R.V.
90–92 Château Rauzan Gassies 2009 Margaux. Tannin dominated wine, very solid, chunky. It has a very dry, firm core, with the surrounding fruit extracted and tight, just a final hint of juiciness.–R.V.
89–91 Château d’Angludet 2009 Margaux. A rounded wine, packed with rich fruits, feeling generous. The plum and damson juice flavors are dominant, ripe and powerful.–R.V.
89–91 Château d’Issan 2009 Margaux. The wine has a rustic edge, over very juicy fruit, very blackcurrant, and with a high acid content. It feels light.–R.V.
89–91 Château Dutruch Grand Poujeaux 2009 Moulis-en Medoc. Spice and sweet fruits, a delicious wine, already soft and approachable. Only a hint of tough tannin suggests aging.–R.V.
89–91 Château Fourcas-Dupré 2009 Listrac-en-Médoc. A smoothly ripe wine, the tannins well integrated into the rich fruits. It has structure, layers of caramel and a good solid and firm character.–R.V.
88–90 Château Anthonic 2009 Moulis-en-Medoc. Very soft, rounded wine, the tannins a mere hint as the fruit rolls forward. Fine, juicy spice.–R.V.
88–90 Château Desmirail 2009 Margaux. A ripe wine, its structure coming from tight fruit skins. It feels a little unfocussed at this stage, the tannins out of balance.–R.V.
88–90 Château Greysac 2009 Médoc. Soft, light and fresh, a wine that misses the structure but does keep the bright fruits and ripe plum and berry flavors.–R.V.
88–90 Château Malescot Saint-Exupéry 2009 Margaux. Packed, fruity wine, dominated by very fresh acidity. The wine is crisp as much as rich, maybe on the lean side.–R.V.
88–90 Marjoallia 2009 Margaux. A hugely extracted wine, very dark and tannic, solid, spicy wood.–R.V.
88–90 Château Marquis du Terme 2009 Margaux. New World in style, almost too opulent and ripe, with the wood a distraction. This is for lovers of extreme juiciness.–R.V.
88–90 Château Monbrison 2009 Margaux. Juicy, with acidity to balance, like a glass of crisp cranberry juice, with the extra tannins from wood and tight fruit.–R.V.
88–90 Château Siran 2009 Margaux. Very structured wine, dense tannins, weighty, extracted and dark. The fruit is hard to find in all this.–R.V.
87–89 Château Fonréaud 2009 Listrac-en-Médoc. High toast aromas, packed with new wood flavors that rather submerge the fruit. It is an early stage, but the chateau needs to watch that wood.–R.V.
87–89 Château la Tour de By 2009 Médoc. The tannins have taken over here, hard to find the fruit. There is structure in plenty, and a solid base.–R.V.
87–89 Château Paveil de Luze 2009 Margaux. Solid, foursquare, chunky wine that packs a punch of tannin, the fruit rather reticent. – R.V.
86–88 Château Clarke 2009 Listrac-en-Médoc. Firmly tannic and rather jammy at the same time, a wine that shows a rustic edge, but does retain the juiciness of the year.–R.V.
86–88 Château Fourcas-Hosten 2009 Listrac-en-Médoc. Big, juicy fruit, but also a rather dilute tannic character. The wine misses structure.–R.V.
84–86 Château Mongravey 2009 Margaux. An over juicy wine, the fruit so ripe, soft, with candy shop flavors.–R.V.
Wines reviewed en primeur (from barrel samples) are rated with a three-point margin.
Roger Voss in Bordeaux, 2009 vintage:
Thursday: Saint-Julien, Saint-Estèphe, Pauillac.
Friday: Graves, Pessac-Léognan, the “firsts” and Roger Voss’s Wine of the Vintage.
Also read: Day 2: Saint-Emilion and Pomerol and Day 1: Sauternes.