I have to agree with some Bordeaux wine producers. The 2009 vintage in Bordeaux may be their "best ever." I am especially impressed with some of the smaller, lesser known producers in some of the top appellations such as Margaux and St.-Estèphe. They seem to have made some wonderful rich, ripe and structured young reds, and I have written in many of their tasting notes "best ever."
However, it doesn't appear that 2009 is an across-the-board success, such as 2005 and 2000, or even 2003. The smaller appellations in no way produced consistently excellent wines. For example, I had lunch early last week with Christian Moueix, the head of the family wine merchant house of Jean-Pierre Mouiex in Liborne, and he said that he and his son, Edouard, were finding it hard to select enough 2009 wine for their house blends.
"We might taste 900 samples and we only come across 10 percent that are good enough quality to go into our house blends," he said. "Many of the small producers just didn't have the means to make good wine in 2009."
I have heard the same thing from some of Bordeaux's négociants. There seems to be a consensus with them that 2005 was much more consistent in quality in Bordeaux. I found the same in my tastings so far of more than 300 wines. Wines from the smaller appellations are clearly not as impressive as the top ones relative to what they are, but there are some very good to excellent wines in such zones as Bordeaux, Côtes de Castillon and others.
The problem is simple economics. It's become a vicious cycle. Small wine producers in lesser known appellations are not selling their wines, so they have nothing to do but drop prices in hopes of selling. The lower the price they sell their wines for, the less money they have to work with toward quality in their vineyards and cellars. They grow too many grapes, they don't tend their vines properly, they make no selection, they don't maintain their cellars, and it equates to mediocre wines.
I heard from a wine producer in St.-Emilion that 50 percent of all Bordeaux now sells for about $5 a liter. That's priced less than a liter of Evian water in some U.S. supermarkets. Apparently, 95 percent of all Bordeaux sells for less than $20 a bottle.
So when some of you start bashing Bordeaux for its high prices, maybe you should think twice. It's only about 50 or so of the top names that sell their wines for astronomical prices. And I think that for value and style, Bordeaux is still one of the most exciting wine regions in the world.
But for the moment, the eyes of the wine world are primarily on the superstars of Bordeaux. Here are my latest notes on the 2009 Red Bordeauxs.
John Brody — Montreal Canada — March 29, 2010 9:03pm ET
Thomas Kobylarz — Hoboken, NJ — March 29, 2010 9:16pm ET
James Suckling — — March 30, 2010 3:19am ET
John Brody — Montreal Canada — March 30, 2010 8:41am ET
Luis Fernando Aguiar — Sãio Paulo,Brazil — March 30, 2010 10:50am ET
Trevor Sheehan — Yountville — March 30, 2010 2:10pm ET
James Suckling — — March 30, 2010 2:30pm ET
Sergio Gonzalez — Los Angeles, CA USA — March 30, 2010 6:05pm ET
Chris Handal — Charleston, SC — March 31, 2010 2:03pm ET
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