In France’s most famous wine region, Bordeaux, some people are touting the 2009 vintage as the mother of great modern vintages. Though the young wines are still aging in the château cellars, the year already has been compared to the classic modern vintages of 2005, 1990, 1989 and 1982. Some people go further back to such legendary years as 1961, 1945, 1929 and even 1899.
I can’t yet tell you how much is hype and how much is real. But I believe the vintage is a great one, from my limited tastings and discussions on the vintage last December in Bordeaux. I will certainly be able to tell you more following a three-week trip to the area beginning March 22.
Each day, I will be tasting barrel samples of the young wines and interviewing Bordeaux’s top winemakers, then filing tasting notes, blogs, videos and other reports. We will all soon know just how great the 2009 vintage is for red, white and sweet wines of the region. Can 2009 be any better than 2005, 2003 and 2000—three classic vintages? Already, the Right Bank earned a vintage rating of 99 points for 2005 and the Left Bank earned 99 points for 2000.
Yet, some wine producers I respect highly are saying the vintage is their best ever. “I have never seen anything like it in my career,” said Christian Moueix, whose family owns or manages some of the most prestigious estates in Bordeaux’s Right Bank, including Pétrus, La Fleur-Pétrus, and Trotanoy. Moueix personally has been making wine in Pomerol and St.-Emilion since 1971.
“The wines are rich and powerful, yet smooth and refined at the same time, and the acidity is very good,” said Jean-Charles Cazes, whose family owns such top châteaus as Lynch-Bages and Les Ormes-de-Pez. His father, well-known vintner Jean-Michel Cazes, compares 2009 to the great 1982 vintage.
Many estates thought that 2009 would be an early harvest because of the warm summer, Cazes said, but in his area, they picked their grapes during the third week of September, which is fairly normal. The clear, warm weather during the harvest allowed them to slowly pick their grapes, choosing just the right moment of ripeness. He said the grapes were near perfect at harvest.
Determining just how perfectly Cazes and the rest of the top names in Bordeaux were able to change their grapes into wine is my mission for the next three weeks. Stay tuned ….
April 9, 2010
2009 Bordeaux Prices and My Favorite Wines
One estate has released its wine as futures so far, and its prices are 14 percent higher than for the 2008. But Château Petit Bocq is too little-known to be a trendsetter, and the big names are likely to go much higher, considering the high quality of the 2009s. Regardless, I compiled a list of the top 12 red wines I would buy, if price were no object.
April 5, 2010
It seems everyone wants to know about prices for 2009 Bordeaux, but they haven't been released yet, and I'd like to bring the conversation back to the vintage's exceptional quality. I love the way the wines have such opulent fruit backed by powerful tannins. Yet the tannins are round and polished with the top wines. In addition, the reds are fresh and vibrant. A lot of people make comparisons to 1982, which I have to agree with to some extent but, honestly, I think they are better.
April 2, 2010
More Thoughts on 2009
I was chatting with Patrick Maroteaux, the head of St.-Julien's classified-growth Château Branaire-Ducru, about 2009 Bordeaux pricing. While I think there will be hundreds of good value wines from the 2009 vintage, the top names, including the first-growths, will have no need to lower prices despite the global economic downturn.
March 31, 2010
The Demand Appears to Be There for 2009 Bordeaux
I watched as about 1,000 people showed up for the 2009 Pessac-Léognan tasting at Château Smith-Haut-Lafitte today. Despite the global economy and overabundance of quality wine in the marketplace, no one looks worried in Bordeaux about the current market for his or her new top wines. You won't believe what one wine merchant told me to expect when the 2009 futures go on sale.
March 30, 2010
Clarity of Fruit
Today I visited with Stéphane Derenoncourt, who consults for wineries around the world, and is a master in Bordeaux. I blind-tasted more than 50 of his 2009 Bordeauxs, from Margaux, Pessac-Léognan, St.-Emilion and more, and his winemaking style works beautifully with this amazing vintage. I found some potential classics among his lineup.
March 29, 2010
Still One of the Most Exciting Wine Regions
I think that for value and style, Bordeaux is still one of the most exciting wine regions in the world. Despite that 2009 may not match 2005 for overall quality, 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 "best ever" in many of their tasting notes.
March 26, 2010
Letting the Wine Be Itself
I've been continuing my tastings on the Right Bank, and despite the obvious excellence of 2009 in Bordeaux, some wineries overextracted the tannins during the maceration and fermentation, resulting in dry tannins on the finish. This was not the case, however, at Lafleur, La Conseillante and Vieux-Château-Certan, which all made impressive reds.
March 25, 2010
Not Really Lost in the Translation
I tasted some amazing 2009s today on Bordeaux's Right Bank, and many more that were excellent. The vintage may not have been as easy as some make it out to be, but the 2009 Bordeauxs from Cheval-Blanc, Ausone and Pétrus will all be exceptional wines.
March 24, 2010
Good Energy, Good News
I have tasted all the first growths' 2009 barrel samples, and I can say that some have made truly amazing wines, notably châteaus Latour and Mouton-Rothschild.
March 23, 2010
First Impressions on 2009 Bordeaux
I am just getting my first impressions of the highly anticipated 2009 vintage in Bordeaux. It may not prove to be as great as 2005 in terms of across-the-board quality, but I have already found some undeniably great wines. Today I drove up the Médoc to taste at some of the famous châteaus, including Cos-d'Estournel, Ducru-Beaucaillou, Giscours, Latour, Léoville-Las-Cases, Léoville-Barton, Malescot-St.-Exupery, Margaux, Palmer, Pichon-Longueville-Baron and Rauzan-Ségla.
March 22, 2010
Older and Wiser
As I am about to arrive in Bordeaux, I can't wait to start tasting the 2009 barrel samples. The Bordelais are comparing the vintage to the legendary 1982.
Wine Spectator’s James Suckling visits Bordeaux each spring to taste the new vintage from barrel to determine the quality and character of the young wines, in order to inform wine lovers who may be considering buying them en primeur, or as futures. While spending a few weeks in the region, Suckling visits numerous châteaus, interviews many vintners and evaluates hundreds of wines, some at the châteaus and most in blind tastings organized by Wine Spectator at independent locations.
As these are unfinished wines, they are scored in four-point ranges (eg. 89-92 points) to indicate that the ratings are still preliminary. When the wines are released in bottle, they will be reviewed with their peers in blind tastings and given a final score.
Jordan Horoschak — Houston, TX — March 19, 2010 6:08pm ET
Karl Mark — Geneva, IL. — March 19, 2010 7:37pm ET
Chris Carrad — New Zealand — March 19, 2010 7:56pm ET
Matt Scott — Honolulu HI — March 19, 2010 8:09pm ET
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Christopher Brookhouser — Wichita Kansas, United States — March 20, 2010 12:18pm ET
Doug Daniell — Ontario/Canada — March 20, 2010 1:54pm ET
Johnny Espinoza Esquivel — Wine World — March 20, 2010 5:05pm ET
Matthew Letson — Wilmington, NC — March 20, 2010 9:14pm ET
Bradley Wright — Cincinnati, OH — March 21, 2010 9:44am ET
James Suckling — — March 21, 2010 10:42am ET
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Jean Pierre Beauchemin — Quebec City, Québec, Canada — March 21, 2010 6:56pm ET
Dan Smetana — ottawa canada — March 21, 2010 8:57pm ET
Percy Yung — Hong Kong — March 22, 2010 3:26am ET
David A Zajac — Akron, OH — March 22, 2010 4:14pm ET
Marc Dubrow — southampton, n.y. usa — March 23, 2010 5:43pm ET
Martin Diehr — Jacksonville, FL USA — March 29, 2010 8:55pm ET
Tone Kelly — Webster NY — April 5, 2010 9:09am ET
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Dr John Rempel — Winnipeg, Canada — April 20, 2010 1:53am ET
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