Friday, April 30, 2010

Bordeaux 2009 Pomerol (or summary part 3b)

OK, it took a while, but here is the last part of my Bordeaux 2009 tasting notes. I decided to make a separate posting out of it instead of completing the last one. So that would make this part 3b, to be precise. From the right bank most of the most spectacular wines are from Pomerol. The three wines that I was most impressed with: Vieux Château Certan, Trotanoy and La Fleur Pétrus. Unfortunately I did not get to taste Château Pétrus...

Old vines at Vieux Chateau Certan, 1 April 2010Old vines at Vieux Château Certan, 1 April 2010. For the 2009s my favourite Pomerol.

From the Pomerols that I tasted I only present the ones that I recommend.

1. Vieux Château Certan 2009 (Pomerol). Ripe, fresh and expressive. An attractive, modest sweetness. Very deep (exciting) wine. Chalky, succulent, seducing and quite soft. The freshness is great (9+/10).

2. Château Trotanoy 2009 (Pomerol). Open and fresh fruit, hint of sweetness. Once in the mouth it comes across quite classic and tight. Love the mineral touch, with an impression of chalk in the finish. Solid wine for the long term. Very good and harmonious (9/10).

3. Château La Fleur-Pétrus 2009 (Pomerol). Lively red fruit. Elegant corpus, freshness too. Very fine. Not very powerful yet sufficient structure. Especially fine and elegant (9-/10).

4. Château Hosanna 2009 (Pomerol). Ripe fruit, animal tone, hint of warm fur. The wine comes across ripe and broad (nose), and at the same time there is a certain youthful slenderness, a focal line in this wine. A bit astringent now (8,5/10).

5. Château La Conseillante 2009 (Pomerol). Pleasant sweet-ripe nose. Hearty juice, good concentration and good balance. Not the superb freshness that I found in the 'VCC' (Pomerol). (8,5/10).

6. Château Nénin 2009 (Pomerol). Tasted at Léoville-Las-Cases with R&D manager Rémy Fulchic. Mineral and chalky, good texture, not hard but slightly astringent now. In the nose the wine presents itself soft and quite round. Succulent juice with some sweetness (8+/10). The nose of the 2nd wine Fugue de Nénin 2009 is stony and animal. The wine is dark, quite fat and ripe. Distinctive wine, very mineral and with good freshness (8-/10).

7. Château La Providence 2009 (Pomerol). Very ripe and quite low acidity. Solid structure but no hardness. Very round style (8/10).

8. Château Gazin 2009 (Pomerol). Not expressive but modest (now). Chalky, lively fruit. Bit spicy. Good freshness (8/10).

9. Château Petit Village 2009 (Pomerol). Modern style Pomerol, ripe to very ripe, powerful and quite sweet. Solid structure too, a bit astringent, but there's an attractive freshness to the wine (8/10).

10. Château Certan (de May Certan) 2009 (Pomerol). Nose very open and expressive, bit toasted. Quite classic though. There's a hint of bitterness. Bay leaf (8/10).

11. Château Feytit-Clinet 2009 (Pomerol). Attractive modern-classic. Good ripeness of the fruit. Good balance, lovely wine (8/10).

12. Château Bourgneuf 2009 (Pomerol). Nose: intense and with animal hints. Acidity seems low but kicks in with the finish. Quite classic style. This wine especially presents itself in the finish (8-/10).

13. Château Lafleur-Gazin 2009 (Pomerol). Classic style, more serious and less approachable at this moment. Needs time. Tight and with fraîcheur, and mineral (8-/10).

14. Château Rouget 2009 (Pomerol). Ripe, spicy and lavish. Distinctive, different but interesting. Some sharpness (8-/10).

15. Château Plince 2009 (Pomerol). Nose very 'dark', stony and sweetish (chocolate). Lively wine. In the mouth still closed and a bit astringent (7,5/10).

16. Château Le Bon Pasteur 2009 (Pomerol). Michel Rolland's own domain. Ripe and round, a crowd-pleaser. Good wine, interesting 'Rolland-standard' (7,5/10).

17. Château Moulinet 2009 (Pomerol). Modest, smokey, classic. Hearty juice, good wine (7,5/10).

Offers can be followed on bordeaux-2009.nl. The tasting notes for the other Bordeaux regions can be found in the 3 previous postings.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Bordeaux 2009 - tasting the new vintage part 3: Saint-Emilion & Pomerol

In the last two postings I wrote about the Bordeaux 2009 left bank primeurs. In this summary part 3 of the long tasting week in Bordeaux I dive into the right bank wines: the primeurs from the appellations Saint-Emilion and Pomerol.

Across the board I had a slight preference for the left bank wines - in 2009 the overall quality in the Médoc is quite high; in Saint-Emilion we also encountered some ugly wines. But in this posting I will only talk about the beauties.

Saint-Emilion 2009

Especially in Saint-Emilion you find modern Bordeaux's that can be very massive and ripe, even too much so. It won't come as a surprise that in the warm and sunny 2009 vintage big wines have emerged (for details on the weather during the growing season see the previous posting). Some of these are too hard to handle for me. But as said, let's focus on the good stuff here.

1. Château Cheval-Blanc 2009 (65% of the total volume for the grand vin, 60% merlot, 40% cabernet franc). The most attractive Saint-Emilion that I tasted. Very pure, classic and fleshy wine. Structured and balanced. Good - masked - acidity, freshness. Grand Bordeaux for the long term. The 'completeness' of the picture impressed me (9+/10). Le Petit Cheval 2009 (just 15% of the total volume, 65% cabernet franc, 35% merlot). Interesting fact: the quality of the fruit for the second wine is the same as that of the grand vin (and from the same terroir), it is that part that is left after the assemblage has been made. The lesser fruit is sold of (to Albert Frère), for the future a third wine is announced. The Petit Cheval is very good too, with powerful intense fruit and ripe tannins. Succulent and fat juice (8+/10). I also liked La Tour du Pin 2009 (formerly La Tour du Pin Figeac) very much. Same style, but not as layered (8/10).

2. Château Ausone 2009. A more polished cru. Bordeaux towards perfection. The fruit is beautifully round and ripe, and the tannins are soft. This is harmony and seduction. Impressive, beautiful wine (9/10). La Chapelle d'Ausone 2009 has very expressive fresh and ripe fruit. Juicy and soft, very approachable already (8/10).

Tasting Ausone 2009 with Pauline Vauthier, daughter of AlainChâteau Ausone. Tasting Ausone 2009 with Alain Vauthier's daughter Pauline.

3. Château Bélair-Monange 2009 (formerly Bel-Air). Quite powerful, dark-sweet matière, fine acidity. Complete and refined. Lovely dark red fruit with a pleasant freshness (8,5/10).

4. Château Figeac 2009. Serious wine, modest start. Classic style, for the long term. Pure stuff, good fruit. Freshness and elegance (8+/10).

5. Château Canon 2009. Another classic style Saint-Emilion. Dark purple, solid structure. Ripe fresh firm fruit. Serious wine. Long. And for the long term also (8+/10).

6. Château Larcis-Ducasse 2009. Attractive freshness, and ripe too. This wine exhibits very vital and hearty fruit, and there is a fine mineral touch (8+/10).

7. Château Pavie-Macquin 2009. Ripe fruit with chalky touch. Firm, convincing and good (8/10).

8. Château Magdelaine 2009. Sweet and ripe in a modest way. Flattering wine, no hardness, altogether a very attractive wine (8/10). I also liked two other Moueix wines: the Château Puy Blanquet 2009 and La Serre 2009.

9. Château Beau-Séjour Bécot 2009. Purple and ripe. Intense dark fruit, bit of sweetness. Powerful wine, quite modern. Tannins (8/10).

10. Clos Badon Thunevin 2009. Again a fine effort! Very lively red fruit, quite concentrated. Powerful and spicy on the tongue, intense and ripe, expressive wine (8/10).

11. Château de Valandraud 2009. Dark, powerful fruit. Quite low acidity. Mineral fruit. Very concentrated, needs time (8/10).

12. Le Carré 2009. Garage production (300 cases!) from Jonathan Maltus. 88% merlot from low yields (35 hl/ha). From a 1 hectare parcel that was bought from Canon. Spicy, very dark, mineral, stony and concentrated (8/10).

13. Le Dôme 2009. Maltus' top wine. Fascinating cuvée made from 80% cabernet franc, on sand over crasse-de-fer. Very powerful, stony, hearty and very concentrated. A bit too concentrated for me, I'm afraid (8-/10).

14. Château Troplong-Mondot 2009. The base, the fruit, is good. And there's an attractive mineral aspect to the wine. But for me it is too concentrated, too hard. Perhaps for the far future (8-/10).

15. Château Fonroque 2009. Organic Saint-Emilion. Direct, healthy fruit. Attractive stuff with a proper backbone (8-/10).

16. Château Grand Corbin-Despagne 2009. Also organic. Animal touch in the nose. Bit sweet and hint of oak. Succulent though (7,5/10).

17. Clos la Madeleine 2009. Tiny property amidst various 1er grand cru classés. Hasn't been performing well for years, but in 2006 Hubert de Boüard started to help the domain and since they are making a modern, seducing and velvet-textured wine, a bit sweet also. Interesting to follow this domain (with a top terroir), can be drunk quite soon (7,5/10).

18. Château La Bienfaisance 2009. Open and accessible wines, inviting. Fruit is beautiful, pure and attractive. This wine can also be enjoyed quite soon (7,5/10).

19. Château La Confession 2009. Forward and expressive vital fruit. Good structure. An attractive wine altogether. Just don't store it too long (7,5/10).

Before I write about the Pomerols I will publish this posting. I will probably add the Pomerols early next week. To be continued.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Bordeaux 2009 - tasting the new vintage part 2: Médoc

Bordeaux 2009 is not an evident Left or Right Bank vintage. At the same time many of the wines that I like are from the Left Bank this year. The appellation Saint-Julien shows a high overall standard. But more important: all Bordeaux appellations, on both river banks, brought forth a number of excellent wines.

Tasting the 2009's from Chateau Saint-Pierre and Chateau GloriaTasting the 2009's from Château Saint-Pierre and Château Gloria. The Gloria is again one of the 'Best Value' wines.

It has been said before: Bordeaux 2009 is not a grand year across the board, but it has many grand if not spectacular wines. Besides that there are some real failures. This fanciful picture - the striking feature of the Bordeaux 2009 vintage - is the result of the character of last year's growing season.

After a normal, neither bad nor ideal start (hail storms in May, mildew attacks with the May and June rains) a long period of warm and dry weather arrived. As a result the sugar level in the fruit got very high, and by the end of August the berries were generally small containing concentrated juice, sweet and colourful.

At the same time skins and pips often didn't yet match this level of ripeness. Tannins could still be unripe, and you do not want unripe or green tones to end up in a wine. In December Vincent Bache-Gabrielsen published about this interesting phenomenon.

During the last two months of the season, September and October, the good weather continued: warm and dry days, and cool nights. Especially the late ripening cabernet sauvignon has benefited from this late summer: it made a slow and complete ripening possible, and in addition the difference between day and night temperatures accounted for a good development of aromas (and even more colour as well).

Risk avoiding producers who harvested the cabernet too early ended up with vegetal tones in the wine. Merlot on the other hand could suffer from over-ripeness this year. We saw examples of both shortcomings this year. In short, it was a challenge this year to determine the right moment to harvest.

In general, the high sugar levels led to wines that are high in alcohol. It appears that for 2009 it doesn't have to be a problem: the wines are so rich with everything that the good ones exhibit - say - a high-level balance. The best 2009s show this rich-expressive-fruit-with-freshness-plus-succulent-sometimes-even-chalky-structure-with-ripe-tannins-balance. And the very best aren't even overly heavy.

The wines. Let me start with the most embarrassing part: I missed out on four important wines. On the other hand, I know they are among the best, so why bother? Latour simply wasn't part of the full schedule. Stupid, it won't happen next year. Pontet-Canet changed its mind on quite short notice and did not present its wine on the UGC tasting of Pauillacs. So missed that one too. And I missed Calon-Ségur and Grand-Puy-Lacoste; I don't know why actually.

Before I go to the wines there's one observation that I want to share: the extreme contrast between the Big-2 from Saint-Estèphe. There's the very classic Montrose: the wine is classic and such is the presentation. The best example of this is the women who change the glasses. They are dressed in old fashioned light blue Disney-like aprons. Just like the maid in the Tom & Jerry cartoons, whose face you never get to see - I really hope they will never change this!

However at Cos d'Estournel you walk into a decadent new age temple that doesn't immediately resemble a wine making facility. Don't get me wrong, it's impressive and even - stylistically - beautiful. But at the same time it's so over the top. And the same is true for the wine - I quite liked the Pagodes, but the Grand Vin is too grand for me. Two neighbours, same appellation, same pedigree. Totally opposite character.

Enough about that, let's look at the wines. What follows below is a short list of the Médocs that I liked the most.

1. Château Lafite-Rothschild 2009 (Pauillac). Broad-shouldered seduction, sweet dark fruit, lots of colour. Very complete and balanced wine, and locked-up promises at the same time. Fresh and healthy fruit. The classic approach. Impressive structure. (9+/10). The Carruades 2009 is seducing and stylish, quite sweet actually (blackberry). Supple, precise and refined. A pure, lenient and properly structured wine (8+/10).

2. Château Margaux 2009 (Margaux). Complete yet modest. Attractive freshness, some chalk. Good structure and strikingly soft. Like thick velvet. Bit closed (9/10). The Pavillon Rouge 2009 is great. But it is also a wine that shows well in it's youth. It's soft and fresh, there's powerful vital fruit in the mouth and the 2nd wine also has this lovely velvet texture. De-li-cious (8+/10). The Pavillon Blanc 2009 (100% sauvignon) is beautiful too and kept elegant by - in contrast to the years before - leaving out the last part of the press wine. Very intense and extroverted nose, lots of freshness, no oakiness at all, less exotic than previous years (8/10).

3. Château Léoville-las-Cases 2009 (Saint-Julien). Some gentle sweetness in the nose. Dark wine with lots of depth. Powerful, but not overpowered. Serious ripe tannins, big structure. Very healthy and pure fruit, very harmonious. Meant for the long term, and at the same time the purity of the fruit is inviting (9-/10). The new 2nd wine Le Petit Lion 2009 shows pleasant sweet fruit. Easy and fruity, very lovely, for the medium long term (8-/10).

4. Château Ducru-Beaucaillou 2009 (Saint-Julien). Lots of colour. Ripe, fresh and structured, attractive nose. Lively & a bit spicy. Nice mineral touch. Ripe, very well balanced, very good (8,5/10).

5. Château Palmer 2009 (Margaux). Dark-sweet nose. Velvet texture, feminine appearance and a pleasant chalky freshness. Mmm (8,5/10). The Alter Ego 2009 is even more gentle and round. Sweet and silky, very lovely wine (8+/10).

6. Château Mouton-Rothschild 2009 (Pauillac). Broad, structured and seducing. Fur. Lofty appearance. All is there in a promising whole, tannins, acidity etc. Dense (8,5/10). Le Petit Mouton is juicy, fresh and attractive. Nice mineral and chalky touch. Ripe tannins, good acidity (8/10).

7. Château Léoville-Barton 2009 (Saint-Julien). Ripe, intense, tight, classic. For the long run. Impressive and honest stuff (8,5/10).

8. Château Montrose 2009 (Saint-Estèphe). Classic power like a clenched fist. Not the friendliest wine at this moment, but there is a nice purity about the fruit. Good structure. This is for a deep cellar. Hearty wine (8++/10). The 2nd wine La Dame de Montrose 2009 is good too: vital fruit, serious acidity, tough but not too, chalky tannins, classic (8/10).

9. Clos du Marquis 2009 (Saint-Julien). Now subdued. Hint of sweetness. Same purity as the Léoville-las-Cases. Quite tight in this stage. Serious wine with a fascinating minerality. Quite lovely stuff despite its youthfulness (8++/10).

10. Château Duhart-Milon Rothschild 2009 (Pauillac). Quite closed on the nose. Slender and classic, stylish. Ripe and chalky tannins. Lively dark juice, complete and balanced. For the long term (8++/10).

11. Château Pichon Longueville Comtesse de Lalande 2009 (Pauillac). Rich, ripe and round, supple. Complete and with a seducing sweetness. Lovely (8+/10).

12. Château Gruaud Larose 2009 (Saint-Julien). Rich on the nose, round and ripe. Fine structure, harmonious, quite seducing wine actually (8+/10).

13. Château Langoa-Barton 2009 (Saint-Julien). Ripe big broad fruit. Lots of matière and colour, and supple at the same time. Quite tough stuff, straightforward. Hint of sweetness too (8/10).

14. Château Rauzan-Ségla 2009 (Margaux). Dark, sweetish blackberries, ripe and deep. Not the easiest wine to taste young. Great pure classic for the long term (8/10).

15. Château Brane Cantenac 2009 (Margaux). Beautiful velvet texture, seducing, female Bordeaux. Attractive freshness (acidity) as well. Baron de Brane was lovely too (8/10).

16. Château Giscours 2009 (Margaux). Structured, bit introverted now. Behind that youthful facade good, pure fruit is lurking. Good freshness, attractive mineral tone. Be patient with this wine (8/10).

17. Château Lynch Bages 2009 (Pauillac). Lots of colour. Attractive broad, ripe nose. Structured wine, tannins. Very complete wine that will need some serious cellaring (8/10).

18. Clos du Jaugueyron 2009 (Margaux). The rather rare Haut-Médoc is one of my favourite Bordeaux's, the Margaux is very rare. The 2009 Margaux shows vital, attractive fruit in the nose. Hearty juice in the mouth. This is a very complete wine, but it needs some ageing (8/10).

19. Château Pichon Longueville Baron 2009 (Pauillac). Clearly the more masculine part of the Pichons. A bit spicy, less approachable than the Comtesse. Serious Pauillac for in the cellar (8/10).

20. Château Saint-Pierre 2009 (Saint-Julien). Not as open as its sister Gloria (which has a much bigger proportion of merlot). Darkness and freshness, good structure which is quite soft actually. Lively acidity (8/10).

21. Château du Tertre 2009 (Margaux). One of the Best Value wines this year. Frédéric Ardouin is clearly doing a good job here. Yields went down seriously the last years, cement tanks were added in the cellar (next to the wooden tanks from the 1999 reconstruction) and the inverse osmosis machine has left the premises. The 2009 presents itself soft and ripe. A supple medium-bodied wine with some sweetness. Lovely stuff with a nice fresh and mineral touch (8/10).

22. Château Gloria 2009 (Saint-Julien). And another Best Value wine. Intense, vital fruit. Serious yet soft structure. Thick velvet... harmonious and convincing (8/10).

23. Château Ormes de Pez 2009 (Saint-Estèphe). The third Best Value Médoc! Powerful and dark, with depth. In the dark some sweetness. Quite supple. Very good stuff (8/10).

Then there are some 8- wines which I will just briefly mention: Monbrison (nice freshness), La Bessane (very attractive), Clos des Quatre Vents (slender, tight, fresh & pure), Poujeaux (convincing and alive), Potensac (very well made), Belle-Vue (very attractive), Branaire Ducru (perhaps it should be with the 8's, good stuff), Batailley (well made), Cos d'Estournel (too impressive for me), Les Pagodes de Cos (good value), d'Armailhac (fresh, mineral), Croix de Beaucaillou (2nd wine that needs time), Pédesclaux (the discovery) and last but not least Phélan Ségur (tough and good).

Next I will publish my findings about the Right Bank, so please check back later.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Bordeaux 2009 - tasting the new vintage part 1: Graves

Bordeaux 2009. Last week Jan van Roekel and I visited Bordeaux, running from the one château to the other to taste the young 2009 vintage. After the many signs of an unparalleled vintage our expectations were... high.

And yes, it was a joy to discover Bordeaux 2009. At the same time it was good to taste all these wines, because quality varied. We have tasted some breathtaking 2009s, but also some lesser gods. And even some unpleasant wines. I cannot point out a winning bank or sub-region: in every part of Bordeaux we encountered beauties as well as less special examples of the new vintage.

What did I look for? Not just joy. As most readers will know all these wines are too young to be drunk, and also too young to be fully judged. But it is definitely possible to say something about these wines, as long as you take into account that they shouldn't in the first place be pleasing you.

So again, what did I look for? Things like... does a wine display healthy (ripe) fruit or is there perhaps a lack of fruit? What is the quality of the tannins and how does the overall structure of the wine show? Does the wine come across lively and energetic, does it have freshness and good acidity? Am I tasting something pure, or something that seems more or less... assembled? What type of style is it, and do we look at something balanced or not?

For me these are basic questions when tasting a primeur wine. Especially important for primeurs is the aspect of structure. When a wine lacks a proper structure it means the ageing potential will not be there. So it can happen that a primeur is quite pleasant, yet it will not be one of my recommendations. For ready-to-drink wines we do not have to look at primeurs.

Château Smith-Haut-Lafitte, Pessac-LéognanChâteau Smith-Haut-Lafitte (Pessac-Léognan) on the dark and rainy Wednesday 31 March 2010. Here is where we tasted most Pessacs.

In this posting I will first focus on the wines from the Graves region. The Médocs, Saint-Emilions and Pomerols will be described later. What follows below is a short list of the red Pessacs that I liked the most.

1. Château Haut-Bailly 2009 (Pessac-Léognan). One of my favourite 2009s. A classic style wine with a very pure character, energetic fruit and lovely freshness. Plenty of matière and good ripe tannins. Precise, delicate and inviting (9/10).

2. Château Haut-Brion 2009 (Pessac-Léognan). Full-ripe, powerful and broad-shouldered. Attractive minerality. Lots of colour, very complete wine for the long term (but did I miss some refinement here?) (8,5/10). The 2nd wine Le Clarence de Haut-Brion 2009 is a lovely wine. Very purple, and compared to the 2nd wine of La Mission (see below) it just has a bit more of everything (colour, structure, intensity, acidity). A very complete wine and a beautiful 2nd wine. Just as its bigger brother, this wine needs some cellar time (8++/10).

3. Domaine de Chevalier 2009 (Pessac-Léognan). Chalky and lively fruit, good acidity, slender yet masculine structure (like Michelangelo's David). Modern classic (8,5/10).

4. Château La Mission Haut-Brion 2009 (Pessac-Léognan). Ripe fruit and a mineral touch. Style comparable to Haut-Brion but less round, say a little bit square. Quite prominent acidity also. Definitely for the long term (8++/10). Also liked the 2nd wine, La Chapelle de la Mission Haut-Brion 2009. Healthy hearty fruit, ripe, round and quite smooth. Chewable texture, good grip (8+/10).

5. Château Smith-Haut-Lafitte 2009 (Pessac-Léognan). Quite ripe. Round and powerful fruit. This is a rather seducing wine. There's also a nice chalky (fresh) touch. Style: towards modern (8+/10).

6. Château de Fieuzal 2009 (Pessac-Léognan). Svelte & vivid Pessac. Balanced, hearty texture, this is a good classic Bordeaux (8/10).

7. Château Couhins 2009 (Pessac-Léognan). Sweetish perfume. This wine has very attractive fruit. Chalky. Substantial structure, good stuff (8/10).

8. Château Le Thil 2009 (Pessac-Léognan). Wet stones... stony fruit. Pleasant freshness. Surprising wine for the medium-long term (8-/10).

9. Château Bouscaut 2009 (Pessac-Léognan). A modern Pessac, ripe and round, and with a good grip. This is an attractive wine for the medium-long term (8-/10).

10. Château Brown 2009 (Pessac-Léognan). Fresh, quite tight and pure. Very nice Bordeaux for the medium-long term (7,5/10).

11. Château Rahoul 2009 (Pessac-Léognan). Pleasant discovery but my tasting note is too limited to be very useful. Nevertheless this wine needs to be mentioned here (7,5/10).

12. Château Rouillac 2009 (Pessac-Léognan). Another discovery. New domain, wine made by Jean-Christophe Barron with Eric Boissenot. For the medium long term. Balanced wine with good structure yet supple mouth-feel. Lovely juice actually (7,5/10).

Other reds that I rated 7,5 out of 10: Carmes Haut-Brion, La Louvière, Latour-Martillac, Olivier, Malartic-Lagravière, Pape-Clément and Picque-Caillou.

From the white Pessacs that I tasted I picked out the following: Haut-Brion, La Mission Haut-Brion, Latour-Martillac, Couhins, Chevalier, Brown, Carbonnieux, Fonréaud and Fieuzal.

In the next postings I will look at the primeurs from the Médoc, and from Saint-Emilion and Pomerol. To be continued.