While visiting various châteaus in the Médoc yesterday, I was speaking to Bordeaux wine merchant Pierre Lawton of Alias about his customers' perceptions of 2006. He said that many already thought that the vintage was disgusting and too expensive. "I heard this in December,” he said with a laugh.
Lawton, who is one of the most knowledgeable wine merchants in the region, has been in the business as long as I have been writing about wine. In fact, we started out together. His family has been selling Bordeaux since 1739. I can’t say the same about my wine writing. But Sir John Suckling was an English Cavalier poet in the 17th century. Does that count?
Anyway, Pierre had a simple recourse for these people who said 2006 was not good and too expensive. “Come and taste the wines, wait for the prices, and then make your decisions on whether to buy or not,” he said. "That’s all I can say.”
I hadn’t tasted yet when we had this conversation. BUT I WANTED TO KNOW ABOUT PRICES. “How much do you think châteaus should drop their prices?” I asked.
He laughed. “James, let’s be a little serious,” he said. “Taste the wines first, and then we talk about prices …”
I did taste a number of wines yesterday and I was very surprised, considering the difficulty of the growing season and the rain during the harvest. For example, the 2006 Latour is a fantastic wine. It is long, very long. It shows wonderful licorice, berry and currant character and has a full and silky palate. It is beautiful and pure. It’s really distinguished. Feminine but strong. I thought that Mouton was close behind and equally structured, yet balanced and long. Ducru was very close to the two first-growths in quality, and I was also very impressed with Calon-Ségur.
“I would have loved a little more fun in this wine,” said Latour’s Frédéric Engerer. “It is a little serious. The 2005 is a little sexier. The 2006 is a little like the 1996 Latour but with a little more fruit. The acidity and the tannins are very high. They need lots of aging in barrel.”
I have tasted about 50 wines so far, and I am finding they are all very different in style and quality. I can’t think of a more heterogeneous recent vintage. Many of the wines are slightly hollow on the midpalate, even slightly diluted. Or some have slightly dry, austere tannins from overextraction in the maceration process, or slightly underripe tannins in grapes when picked. At the same time, there are some lovely wines—classic clarets or Bordeauxs.
Many of the young wines remind me of wines from the 1980s that I tasted in barrel. They are not modern clarets that you can drink superyoung. They are going to need time in the bottle to deal with their high tannins and bright acidities. Maybe the best are like top 1986s? "These are not modern wines by any means," said Charles Chevalier, the technical director of Château Lafite. “They are wines that are going to need lots of aging.”
Also, anyone who says the wines of 2006 are disgusting doesn’t know what they are talking about. Pricing is another matter ... I keep thinking that prices for the 2004 would be a good benchmark for 2006, but who knows? Prices have to go down ...
Guus Hateboer — Netherlands — March 27, 2007 7:18am ET
Jeffrey Ghi — New York — March 27, 2007 5:11pm ET
John B Vlahos — Cupertino Ca. — March 27, 2007 7:59pm ET
Didier Ghorbanzadeh — March 28, 2007 12:17am ET
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