I went to a lively birthday party last night at a small restaurant in the village of St. Julien-Beychevelle for LA wine merchant Steve Wallace. They had taken over the restaurant and it was full of wine producers, merchants and friends. The barbeque was roaring outside. The live music was blaring. I was surprised the locals didn't ask the gendarme to close it down.
Wallace wouldn’t confirm how old he was exactly. Apparently the 1943 Latour served near the end of the meal, which included live lobsters and aged steaks flown in on a friend’s G4, was close to his birth year. And the wine was very good for that vintage. It was still fresh with some currant, mineral and mushroom character, medium body and a light finish. The acidity was a little tart on the finish. I gave it 88 points, non-blind.
The 1943 was not a great vintage for Bordeaux, and it shows that even back then, Bordeaux could make very good to excellent wines in less the perfect growing and harvesting conditions.
I got the feeling from Steve that he had already made up his mind about 2006. But he was keeping his cards close to his vest. He was leaving Bordeaux today for warmer climates. (Cote d'Azur?) And he had only been in Bordeaux for a few days. Another American wine merchant was at my table and he said that he wasn’t going to buy much 2006. “I am not going to buy what I can’t sell,” he said. “I'll buy 20 or 30 labels instead of the 85 or 90 I did in 2005.”
I think that sentiment is going to sum it up for a lot of wine merchants this year, unless prices for the top, expensive wines come down significantly. I don’t think consumers in America will buy much either. They might buy if they could pick up some of the trophy wines at interesting prices. Would you buy a first growth at $250 a bottle? How about a top second growth for $100?
Maybe it’s just wishful thinking that prices could go down that much?
The party started a little rough for me. I ran into a wine producer who accosted me for 10 minutes in front of the party over his rating of 80-84 points for his 2006. It was uncomfortable to say the least. He said that he thought we were friends and that he considered it a personal insult – among other unkind words.
I told him it had nothing to do with friendship, and that 80-84 is not a bad score. It is good, by our rating. Anyway, there are bound to be disappointments in 2006. And he was only doing his job as a vintner and me as a wine critic. C’est la vie.
I heard someone say that I thought 2006 was like 1995. I think I have only written that some wines reminded me of 1995 – not the vintage. I also found wines that reminded me of 1996. Some even made me recall 1986 from barrel. But 2006 is not 1995, 1996, or 1986.
And it’s certainly not 2005. I can’t think of a château that made a better wine in 2006 than in 2005. The latter is amazing. And I can’t wait to taste the wines in bottle in November or December.
It's hard to generalize about 2006. You can say that the growing season was difficult, with many extremes in temperatures and weather conditions, and that the harvest was tricky. You can say that top vineyards had the edge due to terroir as well as resources to combat Mother Nature’s hostility. And you can say that winemakers had to be precise at every stage of the vintage from vineyard management to fermentations.
But to say it’s like this or that vintage is difficult.
If we just looked at what happened on paper with weather, you would expect a pretty weak vintage. If Bordeaux had made a vintage like this 15 or 20 years ago, I would have found many green, vegetal wines with metallic tannins. But for 2006, I didn’t.
Let’s just agree that the 2006 vintage is a very uneven one, where a number of the top names made excellent wines and many other established châteaus made good to very good wines. Other than that, it’s difficult to say at this stage.
I am driving to Paris ...
(To see score ranges for all of the 2006 Bordeaux I tasted, click here.)
Guus Hateboer — Netherlands — April 4, 2007 6:46am ET
Erik Kaellgren — Paris/France — April 4, 2007 8:41am ET
Hans Rowaan — Netherlands — April 4, 2007 9:01am ET
James Suckling — — April 4, 2007 9:56am ET
Totv — La Quinta, CA — April 4, 2007 1:14pm ET
Joseph Byrne — Gardiner NY — April 4, 2007 1:34pm ET
Larry Link — April 4, 2007 1:45pm ET
David A Zajac — April 4, 2007 3:17pm ET
Jeffrey Ghi — New York — April 4, 2007 3:41pm ET
Jack Bulkin — April 4, 2007 5:41pm ET
Ray Barnes — Surrey BC Canada — April 4, 2007 7:10pm ET
Charles J Stanton — Eugene, OR — April 4, 2007 8:17pm ET
Colin Haggerty — La Jolla, California — April 4, 2007 10:58pm ET
Karl Mark — Geneva, IL. — April 8, 2007 9:03pm ET
James Suckling — — April 9, 2007 3:56am ET
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