Log In / Join Now

Tasting 2005s in America

Posted: Jan 22, 2008 1:29pm ET

I went to the Union des Grands Crus de Bordeaux tasting on Friday in Santa Monica, Calif. And I was excited to see how the 2005 Bordeaux would be showing a month after I tasted them in Bordeaux in December for a massive report in the magazine. Of course, I wasn’t going to be tasting anything even nearly close to 900 wines I tasted over a two-week period in blind tastings in the region.

I just wanted to taste a couple dozen wines and get an impression of what was going on. Moreover, a standup tasting with dozens of young wines and hundreds or people is hardly the right environment to make a final judgment about a particular wine. So I picked out a few of the wines I remembered as favorites in my December tasting and gave them a look.

Two of the best wines in the room were La Conseillante and Léoville-Barton. Check out the videos.

They had the ripe and creamy tannins of the vintage, as well as the beautiful, complex fruit. And they were fresh and lively from the beautiful acidity underneath. They were classy wines ... very, very classy.

Some of the wines were slightly warm, so they tasted a little disjointed. Moreover, they had been jet freighted from France just a few weeks before, which some wine producers said added to their slightly dazed character. Nonetheless, I thought the wines showed their fabulous quality, whether from Pomerol or Pauillac.

This said, the wines were a little more closed than I remember them being in Bordeaux, which is normal for a great vintage. They start closing down about six to eight months after bottling and come back about five years. For instance, many of the top 2000s are now doing that. They are coming out of their hibernation. Check out my 2000 first growth dinner blog from last week.

As I said, the wines in the SanMo tastings showed a little less fruit, and the tannins were more obvious than my tastings in Bordeaux. I think the wines would have been better served decanted to give them a little air. For example, I remarked on the video on Barton that the wine was like a monster in a cage. It had loads of fruit but the tannins were holding it back on Friday. Still, it was clearly a great wine.

These wines really do have a lot of tannins. Oh yes. The top wines are packed to the cork with them but they are enveloped in a rich and flamboyant fruit with bright and fresh acidity underneath. The 2005s are built for aging, but they are still beautiful young. When you taste them now, it’s sort of like looking at a beautiful son or daughter when they are toddlers and knowing that they are going to grow up into handsome adults. How satisfying!

Some of my favorites in Friday’s tasting included: Gazin, (best in years!), Conseillante (best since the 1950s?), Larcis-Ducasse (best ever?), Canon-La-Gaffelière (decadent), Rauzan Segla (best ever), Figeac (1982 again), Pavie Macquin (best ever), Léoville-Barton (2003 again but finer), Haut-Bailly (best ever?) and Pontet Canet (best ever).

It was exciting to taste the 2005s again, especially on American soil. But it’s interesting to think about all the pleasure they are going to give people around the world, and for a very long time.

Whoever bought some 2005s is going to be totally satisfied.

Jon Bernardoni
Illinois —  January 22, 2008 6:33pm ET
I had a great time in Chicago yesterday. I'm so glad I have some Leoville Barton coming. Thanks for the notes. The Lascombes showed very well in my opinion as well.
Jonathon Wagner
San Francisco, CA —  January 22, 2008 7:27pm ET
I was at the SF UGC tasting. It's been fun to read everyone's commentary on the various forums. Many have been in agreement accross the Board (ie: Angelus). Other opinions vary quite dramatically between tasters. What was your impression of Lascombes? For me, it was the best they've ever produced and a great Margaux wine. Others have thought it to be "over-oaked". Thoughts?....
James Suckling
 —  January 22, 2008 7:31pm ET
Jonathon. Ditto for me. It is the best Lascombes ever. And, yes, it has a lot of wood but that will "melt" into the wine with time. Promise.
William Andreotti
Aurora, IL —  January 22, 2008 11:24pm ET
James, my girlfriend bought me a bottle of 05 Rauzan Segla (and 5 others) as futures, so I can't wait to see your score for the wines! Also interested to see how much older I need to be before it's worth opening...
J J Gallagher
Near Napa, Ca —  January 23, 2008 12:05am ET
Thanks for the videos, James. I went on Sat in SF and loved it. I had no idea that Mme Barton was the woman pouring the Barton, which was my personal fav of the night. It was the only wine I went back twice for. Can't wait for your next article!
Jon Burdick
January 23, 2008 11:33am ET
At SF, I loved the Margaux, Pomerol, Pauillac, Graves and St. Estephe. Each showed such distinct appellation character! While Angelus was definitely WOTN for me, Pape Clement, Rauzan Segla, Brane Cantenac...were not far behind. Many of the St. Emilions seemed to not be showing all their fruit, so were sweet and thick, sometimes oaky, and a couple of the St. Juliens also were awkward IMO. There's no shortage of great wines in 2005!!James - when does your report come out?
Tyler Mcafee
Houston, TX —  January 23, 2008 2:17pm ET
The Bordeaux issue is always the March 31 issue. The only question is whether or not the tasting notes will hit the website before the magazine comes out or not.
James Suckling
 —  January 23, 2008 2:30pm ET
The notes have been saved for that issue. NO SNEAK PREVIEWS FOR YOU!!
Jean-luc Achikian
Genva/Switzerland —  January 23, 2008 3:36pm ET
James, what about Trolong Mondot ? so far the best I have tasted from the right bank!
James Suckling
 —  January 23, 2008 3:37pm ET
Loved it! Best ever from there. But there are others I liked even more...
California —  January 23, 2008 3:47pm ET
I was amazed at the wines at the SF UGC. For us, highlights were Leoville Barton, Pape Clement, Pontet Canet and Canon la Gaffeliere. The Figeac and Langoa Barton also showed nicely. So did the de Fargues and Suduiraut stickies.I was a little disappointed by the Angelus, but maybe the 2x or more price compared to the other wines I was tasting.
Jordan Horoschak
Houston, TX —  January 23, 2008 7:01pm ET
James, I¿m greatly looking forward to your new notes on the 2005 Bordeaux. However, I have an important suggestion for te website. Whenever someone looks at barrel tastings online, it shows the rating as ¿BT¿ in the list of wines that appear in a search. This is terribly inconvenient, as users can¿t sort by barrel tasting ratings, and we have to click on each individual wine to see the BT score. Can we fix this so that when you type ¿2005 Bordeaux¿ in the search for wine ratings, we get a resulting list that can more readily used? This has been a big pet peeve of mine for some time, and I am sure that upon review, WS will quickly realize how unintentionally awkward the current system is for users. What do you think??
James Suckling
 —  January 23, 2008 7:14pm ET
Do you mean like this:

Dana Nigro
New York, NY —  January 23, 2008 7:35pm ET

There's a way to see the barrel tasting scores for a full list of wines, without having to click through to the page for each wine. Toward the top of the search results page, click on the "Full Notes" view option. That will show you the full list, with the tasting note and accompanying barrel score, under each wine name.

We realize that you still can't sort this way, but that has to do with how the tasting department tracks barrel scores in its database, and is not something the website can easily adjust right now. If we can change that in the future, we will certainly fix it.

Or as James points out, you can always consult his full Bordeaux barrel tasting reports, which has a list of top-scoring red Bordeaux sorted by score.

Dana Nigro
Managing editor, WineSpectator.com
Niall Cosgrove
Ireland —  January 24, 2008 5:31am ET
Hi, I dont know if you can answer me at this point or not but I was going to buy either 2005 Las Cases or 2005 Palmer, which would you pick or should I look elsewhere ? I want something very special to keep for my daughter born in 2005.
Jordan Horoschak
Houston, TX —  January 24, 2008 10:46am ET
Thank you, James and Dana, for your responses! Yes, I found the barrel tasting report last night, which was helpful, and the "full notes" option is more helpful. That will all work for now. (And, aside from my one suggestion, I do love your work, website and magazine!)
James Suckling
 —  January 24, 2008 11:19am ET
Niall. I like Las Cases better in 2005...
William Keene
North Carolina —  January 28, 2008 7:40am ET

I do not own a lot of Bordeaux - I am more of a Rhone guy - but after reading all your coverage of the 2005 wines, I am going to have to pick up some bottles. I know I am late to the game, but if you are correct, it shouldn't be a problem finding some values. I am really intrigued by the Puyguerad you mentioned a couple of months ago in your blog. I am also interested in the Rouget you tasted during your dinner with Gordon. If I splurge a little, I am going to have to grab some Pontet-Canet and Lascombes. They sound terrific. Thanks for all the great coverage. I can't wait to try some of the wines.
Niall Cosgrove
Ireland —  January 28, 2008 3:14pm ET
Thanks James, really enjoy your blog
Miguel Lecuona
Austin, TX —  February 4, 2008 12:23pm ET
I attended the '05 Vintage tasting held in NYC -- the Bordelaise really get around! They set up in LA, SF, CHI, Toronto, and NYC in the span of a week. Additional standouts apart from those mentioned above: Kirwan, Brane-Cantanac, Marquis de Terme, Lagrange, Baron P-L, Lynch-Bages. LOVED a final sip of La Tour Blanche Sauternes. For those who grew it, Petit Verdot was a strong part of the successful harvest.

A few notes from the chateau comments:
Kirwan: "exceptional vintage", very enthusiastic. 55% CS, 4% CF, 30% M, and 10% PV, which is "essential for Kirwan, adding lovely color, round tannins and spiciness". Also noted that PV is a "late-ripening grape makes it hard to work with", so they were happy to see it come through this vintage.
Angelus: Jean-Bernaud Grenie (sp?) said this was their best since 1990 and he thought even better, with a peak perhaps in 15-18 years. Whereas the 2004 by contrast showed "good ripeness", easy fruitiness and would be quite enjoyable in a mere 2-3 years' time.
Figeac said their 2005 was "Best since 1989... drink in 2015". It sure was dark in the glass -- 1/3 each Merlot, CF, and CS. By contrast they thought their 2000 was "richer, but not as balanced", and needed longer time, also drink 2015.
Beauregard (Pomerol) , Mr. Vincent P - "perfect weather may-aug, mid-sept harvest. Ripe but with high acidity, ripe tannins. Best since 1998, drink 2012-2030." He thought their 25% Cab Franc added great elegance this year.
Gazin said they avoided over-mature, over-extracted tannins... 85% merlot, 10% CS, 5% CF; complexity & balance.
Durfort-Vivens (Margaux) -- 65% CS; 30% M; 5% CF. By contrast, said their 2003 is "already very nice", decant 1 hour, not tannic, an "Atypical short maturation". Whereas 2000 "still needs time, decant 4 hours, will reach maturation in 2-3 years... a classic typical claret".
Jimmy Hwang
Atlanta , GA —  February 16, 2008 3:26pm ET
James, I'm curious how you would evaluate the 2005 vintage for ALL of France as compared to the 1945 vintage. I'm I way off base or will 2005 stand the test of time as many of the 1945's did?-Marshall Parker Wine Consultant
John Ripperger
Westfield, NJ —  February 21, 2008 5:08pm ET
James, I just received my 2005 Bordeaux issue of Wine Spectator and I noticed there was no review of 2005 Pavie. Is there a reason for this?
James Suckling
 —  February 21, 2008 5:11pm ET
It was in barrel when I was tasting in Bordeaux in December. I will taste it from bottle in March.

Would you like to comment? Want to join or start a discussion?

Become a WineSpectator.com member and you can!
To protect the quality of our conversations, only members may submit comments. Member benefits include access to more than 315,000 reviews in our Wine Ratings Search; a first look at ratings in our Insider, Advance and Tasting Highlights; Value Wines; the Personal Wine List/My Cellar tool, hundreds of wine-friendly recipes and more.

WineRatings+ app: Download now for 340,000+ ratings.