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First Growth 2000 Dinner in Bordeaux

Posted: Jan 16, 2008 2:28pm ET

I hosted a dinner in Bordeaux before Christmas at the hotel Les Sources de Caudalie, for the winemakers of four of the five first growths, as well as Alain Vautier of Ausone, which in effect is a first growth. We were talking about the glorious 2005 vintage but they also brought their 2000s to taste together as a reference points. And they were fantastic.

I had the feeling that some were just starting to open up and show the magic they had when I first tasted them in bottle in autumn 2002. Until recently, many had been very, very closed and I was even a little concerned, although that is the usual evolution of a great vintage of Bordeaux in bottle. The winemakers brought their 2000s already decanted. I think they had been opened about three or four hours before we tasted them.

Check out the comments of the various winemakers in my video in this order: Charles Chevallier of Lafite-Rothschild; Phillipe Dhalluin of Mouton-Rothschild, Paul Pontailler of Margaux, Jean-Philippe Delmas of Haut-Brion and La Mission Haut-Brion, and Alain Vautier of Ausone.

Here are my tasting notes. The wines were not tasted blind:

2000 CHÂTEAU LA MISSION-HAUT-BRION Pessac-Léognan (This is obviously not first growth, but shares the same owner as Haut-Brion): This is even better than I remember. It shows lots of spicy, blackberry, tobacco, and mineral character on the nose and palate. It’s full with lots of velvety tannins and a long, long cherry, medium vanilla, and mineral after taste. Don’t touch it for another four or five years. 94 points, non-blind.

2000 CHÂTEAU HAUT-BRION Pessac-Léognan: This is really coming on as well. It’s so refined and balanced yet powerful and racy. Lots of tobacco, berry, and chocolate on the nose. But you have to dig down a bit to find it all. Still closed. Sexy and subtle. Full, racy and velvety with a long harmonious finish. Gorgeous. 96. Give it another five or six years. 96 points, non-blind.

2000 CHÂTEAU AUSONE St.-Emilion: Man. This hasn’t changed a bit, with a powerful structure yet a silky, beautiful texture. Aromas of coffee, blackberry and mineral. Full-bodied, with velvety tannins and a big, powerful, ultra-rich palate. Best after 2012. 97 points, non-blind.

2000 CHÂTEAU MARGAUX Margaux: This is massive. Amazing. Every time I taste this I am blown away. It shows fabulous aromas of crushed blackberries, spices, sweet tobacco, cedar and Indian spices that follow through to a full body, with layers of powerful yet polished tannins and a long finish. It’s still a perfect wine. Best after 2017. 100 points, non-blind.

2000 CHÂTEAU LAFITE ROTHSCHILD Pauillac: What a nose! Super-complex aromas of spices, tobacco, cigar box, cedar, mint and crushed berries with just a hint of black truffles. The palate is full and very velvety-textured from the ripe, polished tannins. Very, very long. Best after 2012. 100 points, non-blind.

2000 CHÂTEAU MOUTON-ROTHSCHILD Pauillac: This is soft and very pretty. It already seems approachable, but will improve with lots of age. It's spicy, fruit and minerally on the nose. Full body, with a soft texture and a silky finish. This was never a classic quality Mouton, but very, very pretty. Best after 2010. 93 points, non-blind.

The big question for everyone is whether the 2005s are going to be better than the 2000s. There is a lot of reputation and money riding on that question. Unfortunately, I can’t tell you but you will know very soon when my tasting report comes out in a few weeks. There are close to 900 tasting notes of the 2005s, including all the first growths and other trophy wines from Le Pin to Pétrus to Ausone.

I can say – and I am not trying to be difficult – yes and no, depending on the estate. I must say that I have a slight preference for the 2005s from the Right Bank over those from the Left Bank. And I really love Pomerols in 2005. Margaux is an excellent appellation as well. But I can’t tell you more at the moment.

Jamieson F Chua
Philippines —  January 16, 2008 10:54pm ET
Man, I LOVE YOUR YOUR JOB! Do you have by any chance an opening for glass licker position in these wine dinners?
Jeffrey Alle Cassetta
Ada, MI —  January 17, 2008 10:23am ET
James, I had the 2000 Margaux last month (along with 81,82,83,85,88,89,95,and 96) and was surprised by amount of vanilla that came through in the nose. It was a very dominant characteristic, I'm surprised that your TN doesn't mention its presence?Ciao,Jeff
James Suckling
 —  January 17, 2008 10:29am ET
No. I didn't notice a dominance of wood on the nose. Perhaps your wine was not decanted as long or yours had not been stored properly. Mine came from the chateau's cellar that night. Was yours tasted in the states?
Tyler Mcafee
Houston, TX —  January 17, 2008 11:14am ET
James, 2005 is widely regarded as a vintage for the cellar. Do you think your preference for the Right Bank has anything to do with those wines being mroe approachable at such an early stage, or do you think that this preference will hold out over the long term as well?
James Suckling
 —  January 17, 2008 11:43am ET
It wasn't because they are more approachable. It was because they were fabulous quality. I think it will be a legendary Pomerol vintage like 1947, 1950, 1959, 1982, 1989...
James Suckling
 —  January 17, 2008 11:53am ET
Jeffrey. You got my thinking over my coffee. I think we are talking about the same thing in our tasting notes. When I use "Indian spices," I am talking about lots of new oak and better oak usage than simple vanilla. If I remember correctly, the 2000 Margaux spent 24 months in 100 percent new wood before bottling. So that's a lot of new wood but it will blend in with bottle age. I love that wine.
Sandy Fitzgerald
Centennial, CO —  January 17, 2008 12:44pm ET
Thanks for the great update on the 2000's. Mine are resting peacefully in the cellar and will for awhile. Now we are talking wine. It's funny how different taste affect people. One of the CA'ers on JL's blog was ranting and raving over having to wait 10-12+ years for a wine to hit its stride. He thought it was outrageous. Patience is a virtue, if only he realized.
James Suckling
 —  January 17, 2008 12:52pm ET
I saw that. But look at the faces of the winemakers in the video. They looked pretty happy drinking the 2000s the other night in Bordeaux. Patience is virtue, but you can also be a little impatient and try a few 2000s now, if you get the urge!
Peter Vangsness
Springfield, MA —  January 17, 2008 2:48pm ET
James,I have a single bottle of the 2000 Leoville Las Cases. Although you didn't taste it with this grouping, you did give it 100 pts. upon release.Any guesses as to when it will be at its peak?
Jon Burdick
January 17, 2008 3:13pm ET
Thanks for you post James. I think to consumers it really doesn't matter too much on whether there's some blanket announcement how 2000 and 2005 compare, although it is certainly fun and interesting to know your thoughts here.I have a chance to attend the UGC (non-trade) tasting of 2005s in San Francisco this weekend, so am quite looking forward to that. I'm glad to hear that it won't be a tannin-fest. Perhaps I'll look for a few more Pomerols......
James Suckling
 —  January 17, 2008 3:15pm ET
Lucky you. I tasted it at Las Cases a couple of days before the first growth dinner. It is amazing. Here is my note:

2000 Leoville-Las Cases: Black in color. I am amazed how youthful and gorgeous it is. Superb aromas of blackberries, meat, fresh mushrooms, licorice, and spices. Mind blowing nose. Full body, with a massive palate, layered with ripe tannins and exotic fruit yet turns to earth and spices from nutmeg to cloves. Incredibly fruity. Still perfect wine. This needs so much more time. Take a look at it in 2013.
Katherine Brown
North Carolina —  January 17, 2008 4:30pm ET
No Latour? The only first growth 2000 I have! Darn.
Hap Phinney
New York, NY —  January 17, 2008 6:01pm ET
James,For those of us in the wine-as-an-investment world do you think that if the general consensus is that 2005 is a better year than 2000 it will greatly affect long-term values of 2000 100 point first growths?
Jeffrey Alle Cassetta
Ada, MI —  January 17, 2008 8:02pm ET
James, I think that we're talking about the same thing with your "Indian spices" and "my vanilla". I associate the "vanilla" with copious amounts of a certain type wood treatment. It's just that I've been following (drinking them young and checking-in every few years) Margaux since the '81 vintage and I can't recall a prior vintage with this much "wood treatment". How many years do you think it will take for it to completely integrate into the wine? I haven't had one of my '03's yet, does it (and the '05) have a similar style/treatment? Based on your early reports, I'm really looking forward to the UDG this coming MondayThanks, Jeff
James Suckling
 —  January 17, 2008 8:12pm ET
Each wine is different but I would say 10 years or so. The 2003 was aged slightly less time in wood. But Margaux uses 100 percent new wood every vintage.
Jim Nuffield
Toronto —  January 17, 2008 11:11pm ET
James, any plans for a 2000 retrospective in WS? Maybe in 2010?
James Suckling
 —  January 18, 2008 2:33am ET
Of course. That's a given Jim. Don't worry.
Paul Wick
Portola Valley, CA —  February 20, 2008 12:13pm ET
I just tried two "cheapie" 2000 Bordeaux in the past month - Clos Badon and Margalaine. Both were huge disappointments - the Clos Badon was harsh - no refined Bordeaux style elements at all. And the Clos Margalaine tasted watered down - no oomph whatsoever - neither wine would have scored better than a 75 at our house. And we love Bordeaux - we're hardly California cab bigots. We had better luck with the 2000 Rouget, from Pomerol, which has a silky, smooth taste.

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