While everybody is wondering about the price for 2009 Bordeaux, since no prices have been released yet, we can talk more about them later. I'd like to return to the debate on quality.
The fact we know is that 2009 is an excellent vintage for most of the top names of Bordeaux. I am not convinced that it is better than 2005 or 2000. Nor am I convinced that 1998 for Pomerol or St.-Emilion is not better for those regions than in 2009. But Bordeaux's newest vintage in barrel is exciting. And it is potentially classic quality by Wine Spectator's rating system.
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.
The 2009s have the same juicy fruit and rich, round tannins as the 1982, but the wines are obviously better made—everything from picking half the amount of grapes as were harvested in 1982 to working in a cleaner, more precise way with vinifications and barrel maturation. Today, it's a new world with the top names of Bordeaux.
Some people seem concerned that alcohols are too high with many of the top wines, but I don't see this. Maybe I am used to higher alcohol levels, from tasting the top wines of Italy? Or perhaps I am getting used to drinking high-octane wines from my home state when I am hanging out in Los Angeles? In any case, relatively high alcohol—up to just under 14 percent for Left Bank and pushing that for Right Bank—is normal for many of the top vintages of Bordeaux. Of course, they are not like some New World wines that probably could not be labeled as table wine in Europe because their alcohol levels are so high.
Just think of such legends as 1959, 1947, 1945 and 1929. Some of the best wines from those years are pretty high in alcohol. One of the greatest wines of that era, 1947 Cheval-Blanc, is 14.2 percent in alcohol, not to mention just over a gram of volatile acidity. So I am not afraid of alcohol levels on the top 2009s.
Moreover, I am not scared of what some have described as overextracted wines. I think this impression of slightly overly tannic young reds was more of a question of the wines taking on a lot of the new wood the first few months in barrel. It didn't help that the low-pressure weather system moved into Bordeaux over the past two weeks, making the wines tighter and harder than usual when tasted.
In any case, if I add up what I have tasted over the past two weeks—about 550 samples roughly—I come up with one hell of a vintage for reds. Yes, it is one of four excellent years in the first decade of the new millennium. But what is wrong with that? It has happened before: 1945, 1947, 1948 and 1949, or 1952, 1953, 1955 and 1959, or even more recently, 1982, 1985, 1988 and 1989.
Just a quick word on Sauternes: It's an excellent year, but I don't think it is better or at the same level as 2001 or 2003, two fabulous years in two completely different styles. The Yquem 2009 is mindblowing though, with the rest following a good distance behind. My notes on the 2009 Sauternes will be posted later this week.
Anyway, decades of more than a couple of top vintages are something that is part of the history of Bordeaux. And if you love the wines of the region, you should be happy with the arrival of 2009. We can all decide what we are, or are not going to buy once the prices come out. And if you aren't sure even then, you can buy them in bottle instead of as futures, or en primeur. It's all good my friends. Be happy.