Bordeaux’s 2008 vintage has not had an easy ride. Unlike the hosannas and high prices that glorified vintages such as 2000, 2005 and 2009, 2008 has crept along in the shadows. Now the wines are finally bottled and on the market. Will anyone take them home?
Wine Spectator has just reviewed more than 400 of the region’s wines from 2008—reds, dry whites and Sauternes—in blind tastings during a two-week visit to Bordeaux. We found much to like in terms of character and quality. We give the Left Bank an overall vintage rating of 87 points on Wine Spectator’s 100-point scale. The Right Bank scores 88 points.
The wines are fresh, focused and balanced. They offer juicy red and black fruit flavors with lively acidity. Though not powerful, long-lived wines, the best have enough structure to carry them for a decade or more. Perhaps most appealing, they clearly show the character of their appellations. However, they suffer in comparison with the run of vintages since 2005. Château Haut-Brion’s technical director, Jean-Philippe Delmas, placed 2008 ahead of only 2007 quality-wise in the series of wines from 2005 to 2009.
The generally solid quality testifies to the skills of the region’s vignerons. The 2008 growing season was a challenging one, with a cold spring and a damp summer. But as often happens in this Atlantic region, warm, sunny weather returned for the harvest, and the best growers, and the best sites, brought in ripe, balanced grapes.
“We were rather pessimistic about the vintage until the middle of August,” Anthony Barton, owner of Léoville Barton and Langoa Barton, told Wine Spectator in late 2008, for our post-harvest vintage analysis. “After that, the end of the season was excellent, and we are surprised by the quality of the wine we have in the cellar. We just hope there are still people out there with money to buy it!”
The second blow to the vintage came in spring 2009, when the wines were offered as futures, amidst the gathering storm of the world-wide economic crisis. Many estates reduced their en primeur prices by 40 to 50 percent from their prices for 2007, which was acknowledged to be a weaker vintage.
For example, Château Angélus, a prestigious St.-Emilion estate, was among the first to offer its 2008 to the Bordeaux wine trade: 50 euros a bottle, "as a sign of good faith to customers," according to owner Hubert de Boüard de Laforest. The offer represented a drop of almost 40 percent compared to the previous vintage’s price.
Despite the reductions, however, many consumers, especially in the United States, elected not to buy, preferring to wait until the wines were bottled and released.
Now the 2008s are making their way to wine shops and restaurants around the world. Lesser estates are already available, but the top wines will reach the market by early spring 2011.
Full reviews of the top-scoring wines in our tastings, including those of all five first-growths, will appear in the Dec. 15, 2010, edition of the Wine Spectator Insider, available only to members of WineSpectator.com. Additional reviews of the region’s best dry whites and dessert wines from Sauternes and Barsac will follow soon after.
A complete list of all wines tasted and a comprehensive analysis of the vintage, with a special emphasis on values, will be published this spring in Wine Spectator magazine.
Sips & Tips | Wine & Healthy Living
Video Theater | Collecting & Auctions