I have tasted all the 2009 Bordeaux first-growths over the past two days while on a tasting road trip through Pessac-Léognan and the Médoc, the Holy Grail area for Cabernet Sauvignon in Bordeaux. And, as you probably expected, their 2009s are excellent from barrel. A couple are amazing, notably Mouton-Rothschild and Latour.
I am already saving what few pennies I have left to try to buy some when they come out. Who knows how much the first-growths will be per bottle, but I am sure they are not going to be a bargain, even for millionaires. Better to talk about the quality of the wines for the moment.
"Compared to 2005, the wines are wilder, with more edges and colors," said Frédéric Engerer, the president of Château Latour, the famous Pauillac first-growth. "I am not saying the 2009 is better than 2005 [Actually he was!], but what I can say is that the fermentation and maceration was longer in 2009; so we captured more character and tannins in our wine. You have much more tannins and everything else."
For an interesting comparison, I asked Engerer to open a bottle of the 2005 Latour this morning to taste after the 2009, and I had the biggest smile on my face when I tasted that wine. (Don't tell anyone, but I drank it.) It was so seductive. It showed aromas of toasted oak and bright dark fruits, with hints of plums and peaches. It was full and very velvety, with super ripeness and silky tannins. Sure it was just a baby, but it was so attractive and pleasing.
I think that the 2009 will be very, very close to a perfect score. It reminds me of the perfect 1990 Latour, but with a little more intensity and clarity. The 2009 is an incredibly floral infant claret on the nose, with violets and lilacs as well as dark fruits with ripe raspberries and blueberries. It's full-bodied, with a dense and incredibly rich palate, yet held back in reserve on the finish. I totally dig on the precision and beauty of this wine. And it lasts for minutes on the palate.
The 2009 Mouton-Rothschild is not as powerful or muscular as the Latour. But what a wine! This is certainly the best Mouton produced since 1982, and it could eclipse that modern legend. Philippine de Rothschild, the owner of the first-growth château, may have to go as far back as 1959 to find a wine as stunning as her 2009.
I was speechless over the nose of the 2009 Mouton. It showed fabulous aromas of mint, blackberries, currants and black licorice that turn to flowers such as lilacs and roses. Wow. You taste it and it fills your mouth with the same fruit as the nose, but with an insane intensity of polished tannins. The finish comes with complex yet reserved flavors of coffee, toasted oak and ripe fruit. And then it goes to currants and dark fruit on the finish. After two or three minutes it turns to milk chocolate. It's just a joy to taste. It makes you want to drink it. It was made with 88 percent Cabernet Sauvignon and 12 percent Merlot.
As I wrote yesterday in my blog, I don't think 2009 is obviously going to be better than 2005 across the board, but there are going to be some obviously better top wines in 2009. Mouton is obviously so, and so are Montrose and Pichon-Longueville-Lalande, which I tasted today.
"We really made a serious selection to make this style of wine at Pichon-Lalande in 2009," said Thomas Dô-Chi-Nam, the winemaker at the second-growth Pauillac. I think his 2009 harks back to the great 1983 and 1982. "We were obliged to be more precise and really make a selection parcel by parcel when picking. We looked for purity and harmony. We are not into fashion, but the style of Pichon-Lalande. It is about finesse with harmony and density. You have to find this energy in a great 2009."
I like that. I am looking for good energy in 2009 Bordeaux, and there seems to be a lot of it from the bottle. Sure, I am a little tired of hearing "this is the greatest wine I have ever made" after barrel tasting in Bordeaux for almost three decades. Some people sound like a scratched CD. First their parents said it, and now they are saying it. But I think that many people made some amazing wines in 2009, as some of them did in 2005, 2003 and 2000 as well.
I keep on asking most of the winemakers I visit if they are concerned that they have another top year after so many other top years in the past decade, but they don't seem concerned. Most believe their wines will find a buyer. That we will see very soon.
"It is very lucky for people who like Bordeaux," said Christian Seeley, the president of Pichon-Longueville-Lalande and Petit Village, among others. "We have had a string of excellent vintages. What's the bad news?"
I'll be posting a list of wines reviewed to date, with full tasting notes and with scores (in four-point ranges) later this week, so don't forget to check back on our 2009 Bordeaux barrel tasting page.
ERIK GORDON — Kirkland, WA — March 24, 2010 6:05pm ET
Jr Nunez — alpine,nj — March 24, 2010 7:02pm ET
Matt Scott — Honolulu HI — March 25, 2010 12:13am ET
Mark Sinnott — Issaquah, WA — March 25, 2010 12:52am ET
Vandendriessche Bernard — Ostend, Belgium — March 25, 2010 6:08am ET
Jordan Horoschak — Houston, TX — March 25, 2010 7:55am ET
Karl Mark — Geneva, IL. — March 25, 2010 9:10am ET
David Allen — Lufkin, Texas — March 25, 2010 9:48am ET
Sergio Gonzalez — Los Angeles, CA USA — March 25, 2010 12:36pm ET
James Suckling — — March 25, 2010 3:08pm ET
James Suckling — — March 25, 2010 3:10pm ET
Sergio Gonzalez — Los Angeles, CA USA — March 25, 2010 7:14pm ET
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