Bordeaux 2009: Vintage Round-up

1 of several…


Several weeks ago I had the opportunity to attend what is colloquially known as “En Primeur” week in Bordeaux. This is essentially a week where Bordeaux chateau throw their cellar doors open to importers and journalists from throughout the world and offer them a “sneak peak” of the vintage—years before its actually released.

Hundreds taste the wines, dozens write them up. Slowly the chateau release their prices to merchants who, in-turn, forward them to importers and down the line until they reach your friendly neighborhood wine store who then may call you breathlessly to tell you that “… Chateau Haut-Brion just released their prices; and it’s a steal… only 500.00 euros a bottle…” You pay upfront as does the store, merchant and upward through the chain. The wine, still in barrel, won’t be bottled for another year. In fact you won’t see it for about three to four years—but the point is that by the time you receive the actual bottle (or it arrives at your local wine shop) it may well be worth over 600-700Euros making you a nice profit, should you choose to sell it. The wine, in theory, should appreciate in value as the years and decades pass (in relation to the longevity of the vintage, the reputation of the Chateau to make age worthy wines and the auction index on that particular vintage/property).

This is the futures game and, should you have some cash in the bank, a good guide and a great vintage on your hands, you could stand to make some money (or buy some really nice wines…).

So- we have a guide: yours truly, and we have a plan:  We will present to you some of the outstaidn Chateaux of the 2009 vintage.

Bordeaux 2009: The gist

Without boring you we can tell you this: 2009 was an outstanding vintage (the eminent Jancis Robinson and Robert Parker both hailing it as better than the 2005!)

Well is it? I’m not sure or, should I say, not totally convinced.

The Bordelaise have been hit hard by the Great Recession and need a blockbuster badly—their lust for it was palpable. Just as obvious was their enthusiasm to keep spreading the idea of 2009’s God-given superiority to anything that has come before it.

It so happens that back in 2006 I attended the futures week and tasted the nascent 2005’s first hand and I can draw some comparisons.

2005 vs 2009

  • 2005 was consistently-great; everyone, everywhere in Bordeaux made great wine. 2009 is far more inconsistent—some appellations doing better than others while in some the differences between the “well heeled estates” and the “petit chateau” was huge.
  • 2005’s were dreamy on the onset; bright red fruit with a perfectly seamless balance between tannin and acid. 2009’s are more monolithic. HUGE tannin levels, these are furious wines which when great are amazing—and they know it.
  • 2009 brings with it lower overall alcohol levels in-keeping with global trends.
  • 2005 was released in the middle of a spending orgy while the 2009’s come out in the midst of the check-book dark-ages. What does that mean? They’ll be relatively more affordable and can, in theory, appreciate at a steeper climb over the years. The ’05 vintage was so top-heavy that not only have they lost a bit of their value but also they are largely unsellable.
  • 2009 is good, damn good, but unlike 2005 you need to be careful where and what you buy.

Bordeaux 2009 Vintage Roundup: Appellation Sensations

The Place

An appellation is a legally defined wine growing region with a specific climate, soil type, and geographical boundary which endows its wines with characteristic unique to it. For more.

Bordeaux is one of the world’s most famous wine regions and is located in western France in the Aquitaine region on the banks of the Gironde. The “right bank” refers to the wine regions found on the right of the Gironde (Pommerol and St. Emilion amongst the most prominent) while the Left Bank contains the much for familiar appellations of St. Estephe, Paulliac, Margaux and Sauternes amongst others).

2009 will prove in the annals of history to be a breakthrough for Bordeaux; both in terms of hype and in terms of what is ultimately a reconciliation with what has been a dour global economy. This is not lost on the Bordelaise and they have been quick, energetic and unrealities in proselytizing the idea that 2009 may well top any vintage in the last century.

It’s good. 2009, in fact, was great. Some wines reaching a monumental elegance balanced with a power seen nowhere in 2005. But, it’s a gilded boulevard with potholes. Unlike the evenly-high quality of the 2005s, ’09 delivers nothing short of magic but not consistently throughout.

2009 Performance by Appellation: (a snap shot)

  • Moulis, Listrac, Cotes-de-Bourg: Great and amazing values. Comparable to ‘off’ years these wines are generous, balanced and delicious.
  • Margaux: a minefield if any. Some guys created magic (Margaux, d’Issan, Rauzan-Segla) while others were stalwartly disappointing making backwards wines with little character.
  • Haut-Medoc: overall very good (La Lagune, La Tour Carnet), some dogs.
  • St. Julien: Overall great and consistent.
  • Paulliac: a bit spotty but for the most part fabulous.
  • St. Estephe: Monumental, huge wines with power and grace unlike anything I have ever seen
  • Graves: Overall very good whites with wispy red-berry reds
  • Pessac-Leognan: Very, very good in both red and white; very consistent.
  • Pommerol: Overall good, not great—but when very good, they’re amazing.
  • St. Emilion: Very inconsistent. Clay-rich valley floor vineyards made uninspired and muddled reds (Cheval-Blanc amongst them) while the vineyards on limestone soils created wines of amplitude and sophistication (a stellar Chateau Ausone as a result).
  • Sauternes (and Barsac): fantastic!

2 thoughts on “Bordeaux 2009: Vintage Round-up

  1. Pingback: Bordeaux Vintage Round up: The Buying Guide- MARGAUX 2009 « The Young Gentleman's Guide

  2. Pingback: Bordeaux Vintage Round up: The Buying Guide- ST. JULIEN 2009 « The Young Gentleman's Guide

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